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Israeli and Palestinian forces exchange fire in West Bank

TEHRAN: Lebanese businessman Nizar Zakka left Iran, where he was detained since 2015, and flew to Beirut with Lebanon’s security chief on Tuesday, a Lebanese official told Reuters. Lebanon’s head of general security Abbas Ibrahim told Reuters on Monday that the detainee, who has US residency, would be freed by Iran and that the two…

Israeli and Palestinian forces exchange fire in West Bank

TEHRAN: Lebanese businessman Nizar Zakka left Iran, where he was detained since 2015, and flew to Beirut with Lebanon’s security chief on Tuesday, a Lebanese official told Reuters.

Lebanon’s head of general security Abbas Ibrahim told Reuters on Monday that the detainee, who has US residency, would be freed by Iran and that the two would return to Lebanon.

Iran’s judiciary has earlier approved the conditional release of Zakka, who was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2016 on charges of spying for Washington, its news agency reported Tuesday.

“The relevant court has agreed to Nizar Zakka’s conditional release and he will be handed over to Lebanese authorities,” Mizan Online quoted judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili as saying.

“According to the law, those who are sentenced to up to 10 years in jail, if they have served at least one third of their sentence and shown good behavior” can be released conditionally.

According to Esmaili, Lebanese President Michel Aoun requested Zakka’s release “in writing” and Iran’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah said it would be “expedient.”

“This is an absolutely judicial procedure and no political issue has been involved,” Esmaili was quoted by Tasnim news agency as saying.

A resident of the United States in his 50s, Zakka was arrested in September 2015 during a visit to Iran, where he was convicted the following July.

At the time of his arrest, Iranian state television said he was accused of “deep ties to the military and intelligence services of the United States.”

It broadcast photographs of a man in military uniform it said was of Zakka at a US base.

At the end of 2017, Iranian appeal courts upheld his 10-year jail sentence, as well as those of an American and two Iranian-Americans accused of “collaboration” with the United States.

Iran and the United States broke diplomatic ties in 1980, in the aftermath of the Islamic revolution. Relations have deteriorated sharply since US President Donald Trump took office in January 2017.

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Middle East News

Britain says war with Iran would strengthen militants

BRUSSELS: The EU’s diplomatic chief on Tuesday condemned Turkish “interference” in Libya after Ankara sent troops to support the UN-backed Tripoli government, warning this complicates the crisis in the oil-rich state.After emergency talks on the situation with the foreign ministers of France, Britain, Germany and Italy, Josep Borrell said the Turkish intervention was “something that we…

Britain says war with Iran would strengthen militants

BRUSSELS: The EU’s diplomatic chief on Tuesday condemned Turkish “interference” in Libya after Ankara sent troops to support the UN-backed Tripoli government, warning this complicates the crisis in the oil-rich state.After emergency talks on the situation with the foreign ministers of France, Britain, Germany and Italy, Josep Borrell said the Turkish intervention was “something that we reject and which increases our worries about the situation in Libya”.

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Middle East News

US warns ships in Middle East waterways of possible Iran action

LONDON: Britain on Tuesday called for calm after the United States killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani and said a war with Iran would only benefit Islamist militants across the Middle East.“What we’re looking to do is to de-escalate the tensions with Iran and make sure in relation to Iraq that we don’t lose the…

US warns ships in Middle East waterways of possible Iran action

LONDON: Britain on Tuesday called for calm after the United States killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani and said a war with Iran would only benefit Islamist militants across the Middle East.“What we’re looking to do is to de-escalate the tensions with Iran and make sure in relation to Iraq that we don’t lose the hard-won gains that we secured against Daesh,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday said the US killing of Soleimani was state terrorism, and that Iran would ‘respond proportionately.’“We are concerned that if we see a full-blown war it would be very damaging and actually the terrorists, in particular Daesh, would be the only winners,” the British foreign secretary said.“We’re working with our US partners, our EU partners, that is why I’m travelling out to Brussels today, to make sure we send a very clear and consistent message on the need for de-escalation and to find a diplomatic route though.”

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Arab League reaffirms rejection of foreign interference, calls for Libya solution

CAIRO: Egypt’s recent decision to transport ancient Pharaonic artifacts to a traffic circle in the congested heart of Cairo has fueled fresh controversy over the government’s handling of its archaeological heritage.Cairo has some of the worst air pollution in the world, according to recent studies. Archaeologists and heritage experts fear vehicle exhaust will damage the…

Arab League reaffirms rejection of foreign interference, calls for Libya solution

CAIRO: Egypt’s recent decision to transport ancient Pharaonic artifacts to a traffic circle in the congested heart of Cairo has fueled fresh controversy over the government’s handling of its archaeological heritage.Cairo has some of the worst air pollution in the world, according to recent studies. Archaeologists and heritage experts fear vehicle exhaust will damage the four ram-headed sphinxes and an obelisk, currently en route to their new home in Tahrir Square.Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has weighed in to say that similar obelisks are displayed in Western cities, according to a statement late Monday.But Dr. Monica Hanna, a heritage expert, said Egyptian artifacts in cities like London, Paris and New York are themselves endangered by being outdoors.“The sphinxes are made of sandstone, they are part of the dry environment in Luxor, when they would be moved to Tahrir Square with all the pollution, they will deteriorate as a result of the reactions with the carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the air,” Hanna told The Associated Press.She and a member of parliament are part of a lawsuit to block the artifacts’ move, filed recently by a local rights group.Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the government “will do everything” to protect the artifacts.Tahrir Square was the epicenter of Egypt’s so-called Arab Spring uprising in 2011. The square also contains the Egyptian Museum.The decision to move the artifacts as part of a larger renovation of Tahrir Square was taken without debate in parliament. The controversy only surfaced after archaeologists objected.Since coming to power in 2013, El-Sisi has touted a number of megaprojects aimed at rebuilding and expanding infrastructure. Those include an expansion of the Suez Canal and a new Egyptian museum near the Giza Pyramids.A centerpiece of the new museum is a towering statue of Ramses II. It once stood in a busy square near Cairo’s main railway station, but was removed in the 1990s due to preservation concerns.Waziri, the antiquities chief, said the four sphinxes are not part of the famed avenue of sphinxes in the city of Luxor. They were among several located behind the first edifice of the temple of Karnak.The obelisk was recently moved to Cairo from the San el-Haggar archaeological site in the Nile Delta, the ministry said.But Hanna, the heritage expert, stressed that the obelisks in Western capitals had been moved during the colonial era. “We really had no say in their shipment.”

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