ATHENS: Police in northern Greece have seized dozens of packages of cocaine stashed in containers laden with bananas that had been shipped from Latin America, they said on Saturday.
Police seized two suspect containers at the port of Piraeus and, after taking them to the port of Thessaloniki, found 100 “bricks” of concealed cocaine, weighing 161 kilos.
The drugs, which would have been distributed across Greece and other European countries, are estimated to be worth about €3.2 million, police said.
The consignment was found as part of an investigation Greece launched last month with North Macedonia authorities and the US anti-drug agency, following the seizure of about 100 kilos of cocaine also hidden in banana containers at a warehouse in Thessaloniki. Some 14 people have been arrested in that case.
What to do with 1.1 million bullets seized from Iran? US ships them to Ukraine
The bullets were seized last December from a vessel used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to arm Houthis in Yemen
A United Nations arms embargo has prohibited weapons transfers to the Houthis since 2014, but Iran was found to be flouting the ban
Updated 58 min 59 sec ago
WASHINGTON: Russia has long turned to Iranian-made drones to attack Ukraine. Now Ukrainian forces will be using bullets seized from Iran against Russia troops.
A US Navy ship seized the 1.1 million rounds off of a vessel that was being used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to arm Houthi rebels in Yemen’s civil war in violation of a UN Security Council resolution.
Those 7.62 mm rounds have now been transferred to Ukraine, US Central Command said Wednesday. The much-needed ammunition has been sent at a time when continued US financial support for Kyiv’s fight to defend itself remains in question.
The 7.62 mm ammunition is the standard round for Soviet-era Kalashnikov assault rifles and their many derivatives. Ukraine, as a former Soviet republic, still relies on the Kalashnikov for many of its units.
“With this weapons transfer, the Justice Department’s forfeiture actions against one authoritarian regime are now directly supporting the Ukrainian people’s fight against another authoritarian regime. We will continue to use every legal authority at our disposal to support Ukraine in their fight for freedom, democracy, and the rule of law,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
The US Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet and its allies have intercepted numerous ships believed to be transporting weapons and ammunition from Iran to Yemen in support of the Iranian-backed Houthis. This is the first time that the seized weaponry has been handed over to Ukraine, Central Command spokeswoman Capt. Abigail Hammock said.
This shipment was seized by Central Command naval forces in December off of a vessel the command described as a “stateless dhow,” a traditional wooden sailing ship, that was being used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to arm the Houthis.
A fragile cease-fire is in place in Yemen after the almost decadelong war, but Iran has continued to supply the Houthis with lethal aid, Lt. Gen. Alexus G. Grynkewich, head of US Air Forces Central, told reporters on Wednesday. He said this was a major threat to Yemen finding a durable peace.
US Central Command said the US “obtained ownership of these munitions on July 20, 2023, through the Department of Justice’s civil forfeiture claims against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”
A United Nations arms embargo has prohibited weapons transfers to the Houthis since 2014. Iran insists it adheres to the ban, even as it has long been transferring rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, missiles and other weaponry to the Houthis via the sea.
Independent experts, Western nations and UN experts have traced components seized aboard detained vessels back to Iran.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
Even though the shipment of more than 1 million rounds of small arms ammunition is substantial, it pales in comparison with the amount that the US has already sent to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022, much of which has already been used in the intense ground battle.
The US has provided more than 300 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenades as part of the almost $44 billion in military aid it has sent to help Ukraine.
Further US funding for Ukraine’s war was not included in a stopgap measure that prevented a government shutdown last weekend. With the ouster of Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, it was unclear whether the future leader will be able to generate enough support from the party’s hard-liners, who have opposed sending more money to Ukraine.
Biden urges Republicans to stop their infighting, fears US chaos could hit Ukraine aid
Among the contenders for ousted US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is hard-right Republican Jim Jordan, who has been notably skeptical on funding Ukraine
A last-gasp deal in Congress to avoid a US government shutdown at the weekend contained no fresh funding for Ukraine
Updated 05 October 2023
WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden admitted Wednesday he was worried that political turmoil in Washington could threaten US aid to Ukraine, urging Republicans to stop their infighting and back “critically important” assistance for Kyiv.
Biden added that he would soon be giving a major speech on the need to support Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion after the chaos in Washington alarmed US allies.
“It does worry me,” Biden told reporters when asked whether the ousting of Republican House speaker Kevin McCarthy by hard-liners in his own party could derail more funds for Ukraine’s war effort.
“But I know there are a majority of members of the House and Senate of both parties who have said that they support funding Ukraine.”
A last-gasp deal in Congress to avoid a US government shutdown at the weekend contained no fresh funding for Ukraine, and hopes for a quick solution have been further complicated by McCarthy’s exit on Tuesday.
The contenders to replace him hold a range of views but among them is hard-right Republican Jim Jordan, who has been notably skeptical on funding Ukraine.
The timing is critical, with the White House warning that aid could run out within months just as Ukraine tries to push forward its slow-moving offensive against Russia before winter sets in.
Biden indicated there was “another means by which we may be able to find funding” without congressional approval, but would not give further details.
The president will get a briefing on Ukraine from his national security team on Thursday, the first to feature the new top US military officer, General Charles “CQ” Brown, the White House added.
The president’s comments reflected a change of tone, as Biden had told allies in a call on Tuesday that he was “confident” of getting fresh aid passed, according to the White House.
The US president said he would now make the case for the importance of helping Ukraine as it battles the full-scale invasion launched by Russia in February 2022.
“I’m going to be announcing very shortly a major speech I’m going to make on this issue, and why it’s critically important for the United States and our allies that we keep our commitment,” Biden said.
Biden declined to say when he would make the speech.
Russia has said that the questions over the future of US aid reflect growing fatigue in the West over its support for Ukraine.
But the White House insisted that there were no cracks in the alliance when Biden spoke to the leaders of key European allies and others on Tuesday.
“None of them brought up that they were concerned,” Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.
“They have their own domestic political issues that they have to deal with as well.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was among those who spoke with Biden, said on Wednesday he was “convinced” of continued US support for Ukraine.
The United States is by far the biggest supporter of Kyiv, committing more than $43 billion in military assistance to Kyiv so far, while Congress has approved a total of $113 billion in aid including humanitarian help.
Without new aid being approved, the funding could run out in a “couple of months,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.
In a statement Wednesday, the US military said it had given Ukraine’s armed forces more than 1 million rounds of seized Iranian ammunition.
But the White House’s Jean-Pierre said she “wouldn’t connect” this with concerns over the future of US aid.
Nobel chemistry winners are announced early in rare slip-up
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said it was investigating
“We don’t know what happened,” the academy’s secretary-general, Hans Ellengren, told AP
Updated 04 October 2023
STOCKHOLM: The most prestigious and secretive prize in science ran headfirst into the digital era Wednesday when Swedish media got an emailed press release revealing the winners of the Nobel Prize in chemistry and the news prematurely went public.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said it was investigating.
About four hours before the official announcement was planned Wednesday, several Swedish media received a press release from the academy revealing that U.S.-based scientists Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus and Alexei Ekimov had won the 2023 chemistry prize for their work on quantum dots.
The Associated Press did not receive the press release in advance and decided not to publish the names until confirmed by the academy, but many Swedish media organizations did. Many were suspicious of the email at first. They published the information, however, since the academy didn’t write it off as false, merely insisting that the final decision on a winner had not yet been taken.
“We don’t know what happened,” the academy’s secretary-general, Hans Ellengren, told The Associated Press. “This is very unfortunate, and we regret very much that that this happened. Exactly what happened I can’t tell, because we don’t know ourselves.”
The five-member Nobel Prize committees spend months whittling down lists of nominations before the full academy makes its official decision on the day of the award, announcing Nobel winners at a scheduled news conference.
Wednesday's premature press release reinforced suspicions that the final decision is just a formality, since material including background information on the winners must be prepared in advance.
More importantly, it showed the difficulty of keeping anything secret for long in the age when virtually everything is online.
“It is an important principle that the prize winners are the first to find out, and that everyone else finds out afterward at the same time,” the former head of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Göran Hansson, told news agency TT. “But in the electronic era the leaks can occur in different ways than in the newspaper era.”
Until just under a decade ago, the academy sent a courier to AP and other news agencies carrying an envelope with the names of the winners. The courier would be connected to the academy by phone and wait for a cue to hand over the envelope at the moment the prize committee started reading the names of the winners.
The academy stopped the practice since the awards were being announced simultaneously on the digital platforms of the Nobel Prizes.
It is not the first time the names of winners slip out before the Nobel announcements. The literature prize, in a particular, was plagued by leaks in recent decades. And in 2010, Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet published the name of the medicine winner in advance.
TV4, public broadcaster SVT and news agency TT were among the Swedish media who received the news release by email at 7:31 a.m., just over four hours ahead of the scheduled prize announcement at 11:45 a.m.
Ellengren, the academy’s secretary-general, said it would not comment on the exact process of nominating and awarding Nobel Prize laureates.
"The actual decision is not made until the academy meets the very same day as we announce the prize,” he said.
For the official press release to be published in advance is extremely rare, said Fredrick Malmberg, head of news at Swedish television station TV4.
“I have worked since 1995 at TV4 and I cannot remember anything like this before,” he said. “It is incredible."
Italy ‘deeply committed’ to stronger ties with Saudi Arabia, Gulf region, Deputy PM Antonio Tajani tells Arab News
Tajani describes Saudi Arabia as “a key player” in a geostrategically and economically significant region
Lauds Kingdom’s green transition and envisions Gulf region as renewable energy powerhouse for Europe
Updated 05 October 2023
ROME: Italy is “deeply committed” to strengthening its relations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, according to Antonio Tajani, the country’s deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation.
In an interview with Arab News on the eve of his visit to Saudi Arabia, Tajani offered an expansive and promising perspective of both current and future relations between Italy and the Kingdom.
“The significance of this (Gulf) region on the global stage, in geostrategic and economic terms, can hardly be overstated,” he said.
“Saudi Arabia is a key player, and my visit to Riyadh is meant to reaffirm the strong ties that bind our two countries.”
He was referring to a relationship that has blossomed in recent years not only in the economic and commercial sectors but also at the geopolitical and cultural levels.
Ties between the two countries were first established in February 1932, which were cemented after the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by a trade treaty signed on Sept. 22 the same year.
“Our objective is to strengthen our relationship even further,” Tajani said. “Italy’s approach is based on dialogue and consensus building across the board, with no hidden agenda. We can therefore play a role in fostering strategic partnership based on mutual understanding and capable of producing positive outcomes to the benefit of the countries involved, in the interest of international stability.”
According to data from the Observatory of Economic Complexity, Italy exported over $4 billion in goods to Saudi Arabia, mainly machine parts and medicaments, in 2021. The same year, Saudi exports to Italy — primarily crude and refined petroleum — reached $5.86 billion. In 2022, the volume of trade between Italy and Saudi Arabia reached 11.5 billion euros ($12.04 billion).
Italy and Saudi Arabia are also seeking to diversify their trade ties, particularly as both the Kingdom and the EU are moving away from fossil fuels as part of a transition to “green energy” and economic diversification.
Tajani described the Arab Gulf region as a potential renewable energy powerhouse of strategic importance for both Italy and Europe, maintaining over time its relevance as a key supplier in this domain.
In this regard, he pointed out that the EU plans to import clean electricity and hydrogen under the REPowerEU plan, which aims to end the bloc’s reliance on Russia’s gas supplies by 2030.
“We commend the great efforts undertaken (by the Gulf countries), particularly by Saudi Arabia, in the green transition by investing in solar and wind power and in refocusing fossil fuels for hydrogen production,” Tajani said.
“I am sure that this strategy will guarantee you amazing returns in the long run.”
Elaborating on the issue, he said: “For example, the green hydrogen produced at NEOM (smart city in Saudi Arabia) can indeed feed the European market by transiting through the Italian network.
“In addition, Italy is already acting as a supplier of knowledge and technology for the Kingdom’s journey towards net zero, as many Italian companies are engaged in a number of energy projects with Saudi energy stakeholders, starting from Saudi Aramco and ACWA Power.”
On Sept. 4, ACWA Power signed deals with six Italian companies, including energy firm Eni, additives manufacturer Italmatch Chemicals, industrial solutions provider Industrie De Nora and waste management firm A2A. The agreements, finalized at the Saudi-Italian Investment Forum in Milan, cemented collaboration in the fields of green hydrogen, water desalination, and research into sustainable technologies.
The forum saw 21 cooperation agreements concluded in various sectors, from clean energy and healthcare to real estate and waste management. More than 1,000 companies attended the forum, which was a follow-up to the previous forum held in Riyadh last year.
“(Italy) is only in the top 20 as an investor in the Kingdom, and the value of our bilateral non-oil trade amounts to a mere $1.4 billion — which means we are far from reaching the full potential of our partnership,” Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih stated at this year’s forum.
Tajani said the Saudi-Italian Investment Forum was successful partly because “many Italian companies got to know the tangible opportunities available under Saudi Vision 2030, both in terms of upcoming tenders in the framework of megaprojects and giga-projects, and in terms of incentives for direct industrial investments.”
With more than 150 Italian companies currently holding foreign investment licenses in Saudi Arabia, there could be far greater economic cooperation on the horizon for the two countries.
Tajani said Italy can contribute to the megaprojects and giga-projects “because of its universally recognized know-how and expertise in sectors on which the Saudi authorities are focusing such as new mobility, new urban and architectural design, new residential areas and new touristic resorts.”
For good measure, he said: “We could collaborate with the Kingdom in getting the most from the nexus between tourism and historical heritage. We are already cooperating for the development of the AlUla and Diriyah UNESCO sites as well as Dumat Al-Jandal, where Italy has an important archeological mission for the last two decades.”
The Italian conservation institute Centro Conservazione e Restauro “La Venaria Reale” partnered with the Royal Commission for AlUla this year, which will see 12 Saudi professionals participating in workshops in northern Italy’s Turin and the Kingdom’s cultural heritage site at AlUla.
Last year, Italy was among the top five countries of origin for tourists to Saudi Arabia. The first half of 2022 witnessed around 1,500 Italians travel to the Kingdom.
Rome hosted the Saudi Village in late September this year, giving Italians a chance, in their own capital, to experience the Kingdom’s culture, heritage, cuisine and tourist attractions. Organized by the Saudi Embassy in Italy, the event was held in Villa Borghese, the historical park in the heart of Italy’s capital, with attractions for adults and children.
Several Italian and Saudi Arabia companies were represented at the event, as well as representatives from the Kingdom’s ministries of investment, sports, and education, Saudi Tourism Authority and Royal Commission for AlUla.
Italy is seeking Gulf and Saudi Arabia investments in the “Made in Italy” strategic fund, meant to boost critical supply chains. Referring to the fund, Tajani said it would be “a safe and profitable investment for Gulf sovereign funds, such as the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), considering also that it is in line with their long-term strategies.”
He added: “The fund will be soon in place, after the approval of the parliament, which is underway, and will become a key instrument of Italian industrial policy. Through direct or indirect private equity investments, the fund will boost key Italian companies with considerable growth and of strategic importance for the overall economy.”
Tajani also said that Italy has launched a series of travelling exhibitions to showcase its manufacturing and creative industries abroad, highlighting their links with the local territory and know-how.
“‘Made in Italy’ is not only the so-called three Fs, namely fashion, food, furniture. In fact, Italy is the second-largest manufacturing country in Europe, a leader in high-value-added sectors, such as mechanics, electronics and pharmaceutical,” Tajani said.
“It is the combination of tradition and innovation that makes Italy capable of producing products that are increasingly appreciated in international markets. Against this backdrop, we would like to expand our economic and commercial partnership with countries like Saudi Arabia, which appreciate the value of Italian know-how, craftsmanship and beauty.”
He cited Ferrari and Maserati as examples of two “very well known ‘Made in Italy’ brands chosen all over the world not for their quality, design and functionality but also for the rich and diversified cultural heritage they embody.”
While Italy is searching for strategic investment from Saudi Arabia, it is also looking beyond the Gulf for partners in economic cooperation, although there are challenges and rewards to being part of international economic blocs.
Italy has recently questioned its continuing role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, while agreeing to join the planned India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor, or IMEC, in mid-September.
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“During my recent trip to Beijing, I confirmed Italy’s interest to develop even further our cooperation on many fronts. At the same time, I told my Chinese counterparts that Italy did not benefit from being part of the Belt and Road Initiative,” he said.
Tajani’s view is that there are other bilateral frameworks that could help develop and strengthen Italy’s relationship with China.
Looking to the future, he said: “Our government is willing to create stronger ties with key partners in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, and India. Our decision to be part of the IMEC goes exactly in this direction.”
Italy is also seeking partners in the struggle against irregular migration, according to Tajani. “In July, we convened in Rome the International Conference on Development and Migration with key partners from Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Gulf,” he said.
“On that occasion, we launched the Rome Process to establish an inclusive and comprehensive dialogue to put in place wide-ranging cooperation to address the root causes of mass migration, fight against human trafficking and illegal immigration, govern legal migration flows, and support refugees and displaced persons.”
Tajani praised the participation of Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif, Saudi Arabia’s interior minister, for his participation in the summit. “We are grateful for your country’s valuable contribution to its success. Italy and Saudi Arabia share the same view on fighting against human trafficking and criminal networks active in this field,” Tajani said.
Nearly one year has elapsed since the formation of a new government, which has been marked by the rekindling of international diplomatic relations and the rebuilding of bonds with the Arab world. Tajani called the progress made under the current government “remarkable.”
“Our main objective was to strengthen our partnership with Washington, make our voice more relevant in the EU arena, and infuse new energies in our relationship with key players in the Mediterranean, the Gulf, and Africa,” he said.
The government has made strong efforts toward improving and widening its ties with Arab countries. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. Meloni also visited Libya’s capital Tripoli in January this year, and recently spoke to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the phone.
“Building upon the work we have done, we will keep creating new partnerships aimed at forging those alliances that are necessary to tackle the challenges of our times,” Tajani said.
Given Italy’s record of frequent government changes, did Tajani think the intense diplomatic activity will outlive the current government?
“I am confident that this government will arrive at the end of its five-year mandate. The majority in the parliament is strong and the Italian people trust us.”
Julia Ormond sues Harvey Weinstein saying he assaulted her; accuses CAA, Disney, Miramax of enabling
Ormond filed the case in state Supreme Court in Manhattan under the Adult Survivors Act
She accuses him of committing sexual battery against her in December 1995
Updated 04 October 2023
NEW YORK: Julia Ormond, who starred in films alongside the likes of Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford in the 1990s before her spotlight faded, filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexually assaulting her in 1995 and then hindering her career.
Ormond, who also accuses the Walt Disney Company, Miramax and her former agents of knowing Weinstein was a problem but doing nothing about it, filed the case in state Supreme Court in Manhattan under the Adult Survivors Act, a law passed last year that allows a temporary window for those who allege sexual assault to file past the state's normal deadlines.
In her suit, Ormond says she was a star on the rise when she met Weinstein in 1994. She says she kept in touch with him to discuss scripts and projects, and in 1995 entered into a production agreement with Miramax, where he was co-chairman. She accuses him of committing sexual battery against her in December 1995 after a business meeting, and then retaliating against her and negatively affecting her career after she confronted him weeks later.
The British actress says she told her U.S. agents at the time, Creative Artists Agency, but received no support and was advised not to take any legal action or other steps. She accuses CAA, Disney and Miramax, saying that they knew Weinstein presented a danger to women but did nothing to stop him or to help her.
Weinstein, 71, was convicted of rape and sexual assault in New York in 2020 and is in prison in the state. Last year, he also was convicted of another rape in Los Angeles. He has appealed both convictions.
Weinstein attorney Imran Ansari said his client “categorically denies the allegations made against him by Julia Ormond and he is prepared to vehemently defend himself.”
Emails seeking comment were sent to CAA, Disney and Miramax.