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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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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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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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Libya’s state oil firm may evacuate Zawiya refinery due to fighting nearby

BEIRUT: Widespread anger at Lebanese banking restrictions boiled over on Saturday when dozens of protesters stormed a Beirut branch following its refusal to deliver employees’ salaries in US dollars. The protest group, made up mainly of Communist Party members, occupied the BLC bank’s Hamra branch and staged a sit-in over what they described as “the false…

Libya’s state oil firm may evacuate Zawiya refinery due to fighting nearby

BEIRUT: Widespread anger at Lebanese banking restrictions boiled over on Saturday when dozens of protesters stormed a Beirut branch following its refusal to deliver employees’ salaries in US dollars.

The protest group, made up mainly of Communist Party members, occupied the BLC bank’s Hamra branch and staged a sit-in over what they described as “the false practices of the banks.”

Lebanon’s banks have imposed weekly limits on withdrawals of US dollars amid a shortage in liquidity as the country grapples with its worst economic and financial crisis in more than three decades.

The restrictions have added to mounting anger over job layoffs, salary cuts and rapidly rising prices.

The Communist Party later issued a statement saying that the sit-in resulted in “all customers receiving their money and deposits, which confirms the false practices of the banks, as the administration claimed that the dollar was not available inside the branch, which turned out to be untrue.”

On Thursday, protesters staged a sit-in outside the central bank and the Lebanese Banks’ Association building in protest against the banks’ policies amid unprecedented capital controls.

Banks’ strict controls on releasing hard currency have added to the liquidity crisis on top of an economic downturn. 

Meanwhile, attempts to form a national salvation government stalled after a number of Sunni political figures refused to accept ministerial positions in the leadership. The Future Movement, the largest Sunni parliamentary bloc, is boycotting attempts to establish a new government.

Nasser Yassin, acting director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, told Arab News that he had rejected a request to take up a ministerial position.

Yassin described the portfolio as a “suicide mission.” 

“I am not enthusiastic in the current circumstances,” he said.

Yassin said the offer of a ministerial position “has nothing to do with the representation of the movement, but rather because I am a Sunni figure, in light of other people refusing to participate in the government.”

He said: “The parties that have held power for decades lack any idea of justice and human rights. Nothing will change unless these politicians are removed from power and replaced by a new academic generation armed with new concepts that prevent them from using power to enrich themselves and exert influence.”

“What applies to politicians applies to banks as well since the private good has priority over the public good,” Yassin added.

Leader of the Lebanese Forces party, Samir Geagea, told a party meeting that the immediate solution would be “to form a government whose members are all independent technocrats because the economic wheel cannot be relaunched with the same forces present in authority.”

Muhammad Al-Hajjar, a member of the Future parliamentary bloc, said that although the incoming government appears to be technocrat, “in reality it is political.”

“I fear it will not gain the trust of the people and the international community, which monitors what is happening in Lebanon,” he said.

 

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