Jordan votes for UN resolution calling for US to end Cuban embargo

Jordan votes for UN resolution calling for US to end Cuban embargo
The US embargo was imposed in 1960 following the Cuban revolution which swept Fidel Castro into power. (AFP)
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Updated 04 November 2022

Jordan votes for UN resolution calling for US to end Cuban embargo

Jordan votes for UN resolution calling for US to end Cuban embargo
  • Thursday’s 185-2 vote was similar to previous years

DUBAI: Jordan has voted in favor of a UN General Assembly draft resolution calling for an end to the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the US on Cuba.

The global body on Thursday overwhelmingly condemned the American government’s continued refusal to lift the embargo for the 30th year, with 185 member-countries supporting the UN resolution. The US and Israel voted against the draft resolution, while both Brazil and Ukraine abstained.

Thursday’s 185-2 vote was similar to previous years. The General Assembly’s vote in November 2019 was 187-3, with the US, Israel and Brazil voting “no” and Colombia and Ukraine abstaining.

General Assembly resolutions are usually not legally binding and are unenforceable, but they reflect global opinion and the recent UN vote gave Cuba a chance to highlight continued US efforts to isolate the country.

The embargo was imposed in 1960 following the Cuban revolution which swept Fidel Castro into power, who subsequently nationalized all properties belonging to US citizens and corporations.

During the first 14 months of the Biden administration, the damage to the Cuban economy was estimated at $6.35 billion, equivalent to more than $15 million a day, Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez has said.


Palestinians denounce unprovoked killing of woman in Jenin

Palestinians denounce unprovoked killing of woman in Jenin
Updated 38 min 31 sec ago

Palestinians denounce unprovoked killing of woman in Jenin

Palestinians denounce unprovoked killing of woman in Jenin
  • Majida Obaid, 61, was in her home when Israeli soldiers shot her

RAMALLAH: The killing of a Palestinian woman, along with eight men, by Israeli soldiers during Thursday’s attack on Jenin has been widely condemned.

Majida Obaid, 61, was inside her house and posed no danger to the attacking force, Palestinian sources in Jenin told Arab News.

The killing has left people in the city, as well as her family, in a deep state of shock.

Her daughter, Kifaya Obaid, 26, a government employee, told Arab News that around 9 a.m. after her mother had finished prayers, she heard heavy gunfire in the area directly opposite their house.

“She opened a window to find out what was going on. And I was surprised that after less than a minute that she was hit with a bullet in her neck. She fell off the chair on the ground bleeding.”

Kifaya started screaming and tried to close the bleeding wound with her hands. Volunteer paramedics came in to provide first aid, but the Israeli forces began shooting at them. They pulled Majida out of the room to avoid being hit again.

Majida, a mother of five daughters and a son, lived in Jenin with two of her daughters, Kifaya and Shireen.

Kifaya described her mother as a simple, religious person who always prayed to God to die a martyr. She was fasting when she was killed, Kifaya said.

“This is the first time the Israeli soldiers targeted my house and my family with such brutality; they were shooting at every moving target,” Kifaya said.

“A house without the mother’s presence would be difficult to live in, but I am proud that I became a martyr’s daughter,” Kifaya said.

As soon as her death was confirmed, her father, 58-year-old Omar Obaid, who works in a factory in Israel, returned home to attend his wife’s funeral.

One of their married daughters lives in Beersheba, southern Israel, and another in Jordan. The funeral was delayed until the family members arrived.

Kifaya said she could still not understand why Israeli soldiers would target her mother while she was inside her house, adding she was unsure whether there would be a fair investigation into the killing.

“I do not trust their investigations because no one is held accountable. The example of what happened to Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh confirms my belief,” she said.

Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American journalist who worked as a reporter for Al Jazeera for 25 years, was killed by an Israeli soldier on May 11, 2022, while reporting on an Israeli raid in Jenin.

Omar Obeid told Arab News that the “despicable Israeli occupation does not discriminate between a woman or a child.”

He added: “What do we expect from these haters? Majida was sitting in her house when bullets were fired at her directly, killing her. She did not resist and did not shoot at the army to be targeted in such a horrible manner.

“We do not trust their investigations. They were shooting randomly, and no army in the world shoots randomly like these killers.

“I never expected that this would happen. My life will be difficult and harsh after her death, and I will miss her a lot.”

Majida is the first woman to be killed in Jenin this year. Last year, the total death toll in the city as a result of clashes with Israel reached 59, including 34 civilians.

 


Lebanon ‘following in Venezuela’s footsteps’

A customer wearing gloves holds Lebanese pounds at a currency exchange store in Beirut. (REUTERS)
A customer wearing gloves holds Lebanese pounds at a currency exchange store in Beirut. (REUTERS)
Updated 46 min 13 sec ago

Lebanon ‘following in Venezuela’s footsteps’

A customer wearing gloves holds Lebanese pounds at a currency exchange store in Beirut. (REUTERS)
  • Economist Jassem Ajaka told Arab News: “We are following in the footsteps of Venezuela. The central bank’s intervention to stop the local currency from depreciating this fast will not work as long as there is no government action”

BEIRUT: In less than 24 hours, Lebanon’s currency dropped in value by over 10,000 Lebanese pounds, with the exchange rate nearing 70,000 to the dollar — a plunge that comes at a time when Lebanese were dreading the exchange rate reaching 50,000 to the dollar.

Economist Jassem Ajaka told Arab News: “We are following in the footsteps of Venezuela. The central bank’s intervention to stop the local currency from depreciating this fast will not work as long as there is no government action.”

Ajaka said he believed that the problem lay in the Lebanese structure, lack of confidence in politics and judges, and the conflict with the international community over Lebanon’s failure to pay its debts.

To avoid losses, commercial and service institutions priced their products based on a much higher exchange rate, in anticipation of further devaluation. Such action significantly decreased citizens’ purchasing power.

The price of a 20-liter canister of fuel jumped by 147,000 Lebanese pounds within 24 hours, reaching 1,147,000 LBP ($19 based on the exchange rate of 60,000 LBP/USD), which is equivalent to the salary of a public sector employee.

The unstable exchange rate pushed the owners of grocery stores to either close for the day or stop selling certain products.

More protesters took to the streets in rural Lebanese areas on Friday, blocking roads with burning tires. The Baalbek International Road was completely cut off in protest against the economic situation. Protesters also blocked Al-Minya International Road in northern Lebanon in both directions, in protest against the deteriorating living conditions.

The Ministry of Economy issued a decision raising the price of a big bundle of Arab bread to 29,000 LBP (48 cents).

With prices soaring, some taxi drivers opted to stay in one region to avoid wasting fuel in traffic jams, constantly changing their fares depending on the exchange rate.

For the first time ever, the pharmacists’ syndicate in Lebanon called on its members to close their pharmacies in protest against the current situation.

“Pharmaceutical suppliers and warehouse owners completely stopped delivering medicines nearly a week ago. The syndicate of pharmaceutical importers will only deliver medicines now based on a daily issued price list, similar to gas stations,” the syndicate said in a statement.

Joe Salloum, head of the syndicate, said: “The price differences between the Ministry of Health index and the exchange rate on the black market are among the reasons that almost led to the sector completely collapsing.”

Robert, a pharmacist in Beirut, said that he sold a medicine based on the exchange rate of 50,000 LBP/USD, according to the Ministry of Health index, but the exchange rate on the black market later reached 61,000 LBP/USD, which means he can no longer buy the same medicine without incurring losses.

“Whatever I sell, I can no longer buy. Suppliers are barely delivering drugs and the exchange rate is always changing. Meanwhile, the list of missing medicines keeps getting longer,” he added.

Last week, the hospitals’ syndicate resorted to adopting a procedure that requires patients registered with the National Fund of Social Security to pay for the required medicines, because the state is unable to cover their costs for hospitals due to the unstable exchange rate.

Antoine Yammine, head of the syndicate of owners and investors of domestic gas cylinder filling plants, warned on Friday of the forced closure of plants due to the insane devaluation of the Lebanese pound, as the price of a domestic gas cylinder exceeded 730,000 LBP, about $12 (based on the exchange rate of 60,000 LBP/USD).

Yammine said: “Yesterday, the price list was priced according to the exchange rate of 60,600 LBP/USD, but it jumped to 64,000 LBP/USD on the back market today, which means that yesterday’s sales were all losses. Our capital is eroding by the day. The authorities must put an end to this farce.”

Meanwhile, parliamentary blocs are yet to agree on the election of a new Lebanese president.

Opposition MPs met on Friday after they had participated in Thursday’s protests of the families of the victims of the port explosion in front of the Ministry of Justice after Public Prosecutor Judge Ghassan Oueidat released all those that Judge Tarek Bitar had had arrested.

The MPs issued a statement, saying: “We support the demand for holding Judge Oueidat accountable for the flagrant violations he has committed,” expressing their rejection of removing Judge Bitar and assigning another judge to handle the probe.

They also warned against the dangers created by the presidential vacuum. They reiterated their call and commitment to the provisions of the constitution, which stipulate that parliament is an electoral body that convenes regularly until a president is elected.

Judge Bitar is expected to proceed with his investigations, despite all the judicial objections to the legal study that he referred to in order to resume his work after a 13-month hiatus.

Next week’s interrogation sessions are scheduled to begin on Feb. 6 with MP Ghazi Zeaiter and former minister Mohad Al-Machnouk.

Members of the Supreme Judicial Council and its head Judge Suhail Abboud are still at odds over the fate of Bitar, who is in charge of the probe into the Beirut Port explosion.

 


Algeria, Jordan parliament speakers discuss cooperation

Algeria, Jordan parliament speakers discuss cooperation
Updated 53 min 38 sec ago

Algeria, Jordan parliament speakers discuss cooperation

Algeria, Jordan parliament speakers discuss cooperation
  • Jordanian official said MPs must overcome legislative obstacles to boost cooperation between the two countries

AMMAN: Jordan’s lower house speaker Ahmed Safadi and Algeria’s lower assembly speaker Ibrahim Boghali met in Algeria to discuss enhancing cooperation.
Safadi said: “We are proud of the level of strong relations between the two countries, which culminated in a summit that brought together King Abdullah II and his brother President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, last month in Algiers.”
He noted the importance of building on the summit recommendations and that MPs must overcome legislative obstacles to further cooperation, Jordan’s News Agency reported on Friday.
Boghali said Algeria supported the Hashemite Custodianship of Islamic and Christian holy sites in occupied Jerusalem. He said issues discussed in the summit between Tebboune and King Abdullah demonstrated the importance of the Palestinian cause for both countries.


US charges three in Iran-backed effort to assassinate journalist

US charges three in Iran-backed effort to assassinate journalist
Updated 27 January 2023

US charges three in Iran-backed effort to assassinate journalist

US charges three in Iran-backed effort to assassinate journalist
  • Rafat Amirov, Polad Omarov and Khalid Mehdiyev were charged with murder-for-hire and money laundering

NEW YORK: US prosecutors have charged three members of an Eastern European criminal organization which has ties to Iran’s government with conspiring to assassinate a journalist and activist who is a US citizen, Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Friday.
Rafat Amirov, Polad Omarov and Khalid Mehdiyev were charged with murder-for-hire and money laundering for their role in the thwarted Tehran-backed plot, the Department of Justice said in a statement.
“The victim publicized (the) Iranian government’s human rights abuses, discriminatory treatment of women, suppression of democratic participation and expression and use of arbitrary imprisonment, torture and execution,” Garland said.
Garland did not name the alleged victim, but Mehdiyev was arrested last year in New York for having a rifle outside the Brooklyn home of journalist Masih Alinejad, a longtime critic of Iran’s head-covering laws who has promoted videos of women violating those laws on social media.
Mehdiyev pleaded not guilty to one count of possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number. He is being held at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center pending trial.
Iran’s mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
US prosecutors in 2021 charged four Iranians alleged to be intelligence operatives for Tehran with plotting to kidnap a New York-based journalist and activist. While the target of the plot was not named, Reuters confirmed she was Alinejad.
Amirov was arrested on Thursday and will have a pretrial hearing in federal court in Manhattan later on Friday. Omarov was arrested in the Czech Republic earlier this month, and the US is seeking his extradition.
The US in 2011 arrested one man it said was linked to an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington at the time at a restaurant he frequented in the capital.
Washington accuses Tehran of backing terrorism and pursuing nuclear arms, charges Iran denies.


Protests against Qur’an burning held across the Middle East

Protests against Qur’an burning held across the Middle East
Updated 27 January 2023

Protests against Qur’an burning held across the Middle East

Protests against Qur’an burning held across the Middle East
  • The protests in countries including Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon ended with people dispersing peacefully
  • Swedish officials have stressed that freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Swedish Constitution

BEIRUT: Protests were held Friday in several predominantly Muslim countries to denounce the recent desecration of Islam’s holy book by far-right activists in Sweden and the Netherlands.
The protests in countries including Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon ended with people dispersing peacefully. In Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad, police officers stopped some demonstrators trying to march toward the Swedish Embassy.
About 12,000 Islamists from the Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan party rallied in Lahore, the capital of the eastern Punjab province to denounce the desecration of the Qur’an in the two European countries. In his speech to the demonstrators, Saad Rizvi, the head of the TLP, asked the government to lodge a strong protest with Sweden and the Netherlands so that such incidents don’t happen again.
Similar rallies were also held in the southern city of Karachi and in the northwest.
Friday’s rallies dispersed peacefully. However, Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan in recent years has held violent rallies over the publication of caricatures of Islam’s prophet in France and elsewhere in the world.
In the Iranian capital of Tehran, hundreds of people marched after Friday prayers during which they burned a Swedish flag.
In Beirut, about 200 angry protesters burned the flags of Sweden and the Netherlands outside the blue-domed Mohammed Al-Amin mosque at Beirut’s central Martyrs Square.
Earlier this month, Rasmus Paludan, a far-right activist from Denmark, received permission from police to stage a protest outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm where he burned the Qur’an.
Days later, Edwin Wagensveld, Dutch leader of the far-right Pegida movement in the Netherlands, tore pages out of a copy of the Qur’an near the Dutch Parliament and stomped on them.
The moves angered millions of Muslims around the world and triggered protests.
On Friday, Paludan, who holds both Danish and Swedish citizenship, told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that he would replicate the protest in front of the Turkish Embassy in Copenhagen every Friday until Sweden is admitted into NATO.
Turkiye’s state-run Anadolu Agency said the Danish ambassador was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry where Turkish officials “strongly condemned the permission given to this provocative act which clearly constitutes a hate crime.”
Swedish officials have stressed that freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Swedish Constitution and gives people extensive rights to express their views publicly, though incitement to violence or hate speech isn’t allowed. Demonstrators must apply to police for a permit for a public gathering. Police can deny such permits only on exceptional grounds, such as risks to public safety.
Iraq’s powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr asked in comments released Friday whether freedom of speech means offending other people’s beliefs. He asked why “doesn’t the burning of the gays’ rainbow flag represent freedom of expression.”
The cleric added that burning the Qur’an “will bring divine anger.”
Hundreds of his supporters gathered outside a mosque in Baghdad waving copies of the Qur’an.