Archive for November, 2013
November 27, 2013
PARIS (AP) — Fireworks erupted in Dubai after the tiny Gulf emirate won the right to host the 2020 World Expo, becoming the first Middle Eastern city to organize the event in its more than 150-year history.
Dubai bested competing bids from Izmir, Turkey; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Yekaterinburg, Russia, after three rounds of voting by delegates of the 168-nation Bureau International des Expositions in Paris.
In line with its reputation for over-the-top glitz, Dubai lit the world’s tallest tower with glimmering lights. The skies around the Burj Khalifa, which towers at 2,717 feet, erupted with fireworks. The logo of its bid for the 2020 expo was plastered on police cars, convenience store bags, storefronts, taxis, receipts, government buildings and even on a flag on Mount Kilimanjaro.
A spending spree was already underway even before officials announced the host city. Dubai estimates a successful Expo 2020 bid will generate $23 billion between 2015 and 2021, or 24 percent of the city’s gross domestic product. They say total financing for the 6-month-long event will cost $8.4 billion.
In a statement after the vote, Dubai ruler and U.A.E. vice president Sheikh Mohammed bin Rahid promised to “astonish the world” in 2020. “Dubai Expo2020 will breathe new life into the ancient role of the Middle East as a melting pot for cultures and creativity,” he said.
Delegates voted behind closed doors over three rounds to choose the winner, with Sao Paolo and Izmir eliminated in the second round. Sao Paulo had proposed a renewable energy tower to convert solar energy into the electricity needed for the event and a new economic, tourism and education hub with hotels, schools, and shopping malls.
Izmir, an Aegean coastal city formerly known as Smyrna, had pushed global health and environmental issues for its bid and had chosen award-winning architect Zaha Hadid to design the park for the exposition.
Russia treated its bid to hold the expo as a state priority not unlike its bids to host the Winter Games and the World Cup. Organizers of the pitch for the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg were planning to build 103 pavilions for the expo and accommodation for exhibition participants, later to be converted into a residential area.
The announcement comes just days before the Dec. 2 U.A.E. national day, which celebrates the young nation’s 42 years of unity and independence from the British Protectorate. The official Twitter account for Dubai’s world expo bid wrote after the announcement that the win “will help unlock the vast potential of this region” and that it is the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East.
“The UAE is proud to have been selected to host #Expo2020 in #Dubai under the theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’,” said Dubai authorities on their official expo bid account. While the World’s Fair no longer holds the popularity of other global events like the Olympics or World Cup, it remains a chance for millions from around the world to discuss and see the business of the future.
Last year Yeosu, South Korea, hosted the 2012 world expo. The next one is scheduled to take place in Milan in 2015.
Associated Press reporter Aya Batrawy in Dubai contributed to this report.
By Justin Salhani
Nov. 25, 2013
Nov. 23 (UPI) –Dubai’s municipality announced last week that it would erect an icon to be called the ‘frame’.
Hussain Nasser Lootah, Director General of Dubai Municipality, said: “We have opened tenders and will be giving the assignment to the apt contractor according to our plan.”
“We expect it will be a bridge between the past and future of Dubai and may become a name attached to Dubai like Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab,” he said.
The frame will be a large frame-like structure, similar to St. Louis’ arc but square, that frames old Dubai through one end and new Dubai through the other. The ground floor will be home to a gallery of Dubai’s history.
Source: United Press International (UPI).
DUBAI – Heavy rains and flooding forced the annual airshow in Dubai to close early on its last day Thursday while schools in the desert Gulf state were ordered shut.
“The Dubai Airshow is closed for now, we advise people to refrain from traveling to the site,” organizers said in an emailed statement.
Participants and visitors to the airshow that kicked off on Sunday posted on social networks pictures and videos of flooded exhibition halls.
No announcements of new deals had been expected Thursday as most manufacturers had on Wednesday given final figures of contracts sealed during the event.
As the turbulent weather swept across Gulf states, the United Arab Emirates ministry of education ordered public and private schools shut to ensure “students’ safety,” according to a statement carried by the official WAM news agency.
Local media reported several accidents that brought traffic to a near-halt in several areas of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Local media had reported Sunday that one man was killed when floods swept through a valley in the northern Ras al-Khaimah emirate.
Flash floods sparked by torrential rain have hit other Gulf neighbors, some of which normally experience such low precipitation that religious leaders often organize special prayers for rain.
In Saudi Arabia, seven people were killed in three days of rain, the kingdom’s civil defense authority said on Wednesday, adding that five others were missing.
Meanwhile in Kuwait, civil defense authorities announced two people were killed as the amount of rainfall reached 100 millimeters (3.9 inches) in two days — Monday and Tuesday — equal to the average annual rainfall in the emirate.
Heavy rains have also been reported in Oman, Qatar and Bahrain.
Source: Middle East Online.
Sunday 29 September 2013
DUBAI: The UAE has recalled its ambassador from Tunisia to protest calls by the Tunisian president for the liberation of Egypt’s deposed head of state, reports said Saturday.
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki had called on the UAE-backed new rulers in Cairo to free Muhammad Mursi, in a speech this week at the UN General Assembly.
The UAE, where dozens of Brotherhood supporters have been jailed for plotting to overthrow the regime, had welcomed Mursi’s overthrow and, following his ouster, pledged financial aid to Egypt’s new rulers.
Source: Arab News.
Saturday, 07 September 2013
An informed source in Palestine has claimed that former Fatah leader Mohamed Dahlan, who is currently a senior government adviser in the UAE, has visited Turkey and met opposition groups. The close aide to Dahlan said that the visit was planned by UAE Crown Prince Shaikh Mohamed bin Zayed and that the ex-Fatah official entered Turkey using a false passport.
It is claimed that Dahlan met young Turkish and Kurdish activists who oppose the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan with the aim of establishing a Tamarod-style opposition movement in Turkey. The ultimate intention, it is believed, is to complete the overthrow of Islamist movements in the region by toppling Hamas in Gaza and Erdogan’s government in Turkey. The UAE backed the military coup which overthrew the Islamist government of Dr Mohamed Morsi in Egypt.
Turkey has opposed the coup since the beginning in a stance which has angered Gulf States, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The government in Ankara is being targeted to be overthrown.
The UAE canceled investment projects worth $12 billion in Turkey as a result of Erdogan’s opposition to the coup in Egypt. According to media source Asrar Arabia, it is not unusual for UAE government actions to lead to business losses for companies in the emirates.
Dahlan is a former prominent official in the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the secularist Fatah movement. As a result of his internal conflict with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as his failure to undermine the Hamas government in Gaza, he was dismissed from the authority and Fatah and now lives in the UAE.
Source: Middle East Monitor.
November 25, 2013
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Qatar is the latest Gulf Arab state to welcome the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, calling it a step toward greater stability in the region.
The Gulf’s main political power, Saudi Arabia, has previously expressed unease about U.S. outreach to Iran. The dialogue helped pushed along efforts by Washington and others to strike a deal with Iran seeking to ease Western concerns that Tehran could move toward nuclear weapons.
Saudi officials have withheld public comment on the first-step deal signed on Sunday in Geneva, but smaller Gulf partners have backed the accord. Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday that the deal is an “important step toward safeguarding peace and stability in the region.”
Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have issued similar statements.
JEDDAH: MD AL-SULAMI
Tuesday 19 November 2013
At least 15 people have died and eight others are reported missing in flash floods caused by heavy rains in Riyadh and other parts of the Kingdom in the last 24 hours.
The Civil Defense Department said Monday that it had received more than 7,000 calls for help from different regions following rains. “We have rescued over 800 stranded people, while 450 vehicles have been pulled out from flooded areas,” it said in a statement. The department has urged the public to be cautious following weather forecasts for more rains in the next three days.
Col. Saeed Sarhan, the department’s spokesman in Makkah, said the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment has forecast the formation of thunderclouds over the southern Makkah region, Qunfuda and Al-Laith, as well as Makkah and Taif.
Deaths resulting from rain-related accidents were reported across the Kingdom, sources said.
Civil Defense officers found the body of a missing Filipino worker in the Northern Border Province on Monday. He was reported missing after his truck fell in deep waters on a damaged road. Three workers including two Filipinos and an Arab who were traveling with him, survived.
“They suffered minor injuries and were taken to hospital for treatment,” said Maj. Abdul Rahman Al-Ahmari, deputy spokesman of Civil Defense in the region. Flash floods had washed away the entire road surface and the ground had also caved in before the truck attempted to cross it, eyewitnesses said. The Civil Defense received a report of four missing workers on Monday morning, he said. “There were light to heavy rains in many parts of the Makkah region, including Meesan and Adham,” Sarhan said, adding that his department had not received any emergency calls for help during rains.
The Civil Defense said efforts were under way to find the eight missing people who were washed away in flash floods. The department rescued 121 citizens and residents in Riyadh on Monday, including eight families.
Source: Arab News.
NEW YORK – Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador Abdallah al-Muallimi to the United Nations demanded a permanent seat for Arabs at the Security Council, saying the UN body has failed tackle Middle East issues.
Muallimi criticized the Security Council as “crippled” by the veto power, which only five countries hold. He said a “just international representation” is needed.
Saudi Arabia rejected last month to take a traditional Arab seat in the Security Council in protest at the body’s failure to end the Syria war and act on other Middle East issues.
The Security Council is dominated by its five permanent members – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – which have veto power over its decisions.
To ensure diversity, the council’s 10 elected members are made up of three from Africa, two from Asia-Pacific, one from Eastern Europe, two from the Latin American and Caribbean group, and two from the Western European and others group. Five are chosen each year to serve two-year terms.
Arab states are split between the Asia-Pacific and African regional blocs and there is an unofficial deal that at least one Arab nation is always represented on the Security Council.
Saudi Arabia was the Arab candidate from the Asia-Pacific bloc. Kuwait had put its hand up to be the next Arab candidate from the group and to run for the 2018-2019 term on the Security Council, which has led some diplomats to speculate that the Gulf U.S. ally could be a capable replacement.
Arab countries have been trying to persuade Saudi Arabia to take up the Security Council seat.
“Kuwait forms part of the efforts currently being carried out to convince Saudi Arabia to reverse its decision,” Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Khaled al-Jarrallah told state news agency KUNA on Thursday.
Muallimi called on Friday for “profound and comprehensive” reform of the UN Security Council that includes expanding its membership and “abandoning the veto system or restricting its use.”
“The Security Council has failed to address the situation in the Palestinian and Arab occupied territories, an issue under consideration by the council for more than six decades,” Al-Muallimi told a General Assembly debate on Security Council reform.
“The Syrian crisis continues, with a regime bent on suppressing the will of its people by brutal force, killing and displacing millions of people under the watch and sight of a council paralyzed by the abuse of the veto system,” he said.
Syrian ally Russia, backed by China, has vetoed three council resolutions since October 2011 that would have condemned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and threatened it with sanctions.
Saudi Arabia has warned of a shift away from the United States in part over what it sees as Washington’s failure to take action against Assad and its policies on Iran.
US Secretary of State John Kerry met King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Monday and praised the US alliance with Saudi Arabia as strategic and enduring, but strains in the nearly 70-year-old relationship were apparent.
Source: Middle East Online.
24th of November 2013, Sunday
By Simon Sturdee and Nicolas Revise
Geneva (AFP) – World leaders hailed Sunday a “historic” nuclear deal with Iran as a triumph for diplomacy, but cautioned the hard work was just starting to keep Tehran from building a bomb.
Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program for the next six months in exchange for limited sanctions relief, in a preliminary accord meant to lay the foundations for a comprehensive agreement later this year.
The deal was reached in marathon talks in Geneva that ended Sunday before dawn after long tractions between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.
Tehran’s arch-foe Israel slammed the deal as a “historic mistake” that left open the capability for the Islamic republic to develop a nuclear arsenal.
But the six powers involved hailed it as a key first step that for now warded off the prospect of military escalation — a geopolitical breakthrough that would have been unthinkable only months ago.
“Today, the United States together with our close allies and partners took an important first step toward a comprehensive solution that addresses our concerns with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program,” US President Barack Obama said in Washington.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the deal “could turn out to be the beginnings of a historic agreement” for the Middle East.
Tehran boasted at home that the accord recognized its “right” to enrich uranium — which it says is for peaceful purposes — but Western leaders said the deal made no such reference.
Under the deal, Tehran will limit uranium enrichment — the area that raises most suspicions over Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons drive — to low levels that can only be used for civilian energy purposes.
It will neutralize its stockpile of uranium enriched to higher 20-percent purity — very close to weapons-grade — within six months, US Secretary of State John Kerry said in Geneva after clinching the deal.
Iran will not add to its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, nor install more centrifuges or commission the Arak heavy-water reactor, which could produce plutonium fissile material.
UN atomic inspectors will also have additional, “unprecedented” access, Kerry said, including daily site inspections at the two enrichment facilities of Fordo and Natanz.
In exchange, the Islamic republic will receive some $7 billion (5.2 billion euros) in sanctions relief and the powers promised to impose no new embargo measures for six months if Tehran sticks to the accord.
But the vast raft of international sanctions that have badly hobbled the Iranian economy remain untouched.
The interim sanctions relief was “limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible,” the White House said, stressing that “the vast bulk of our sanctions, including the oil, finance, and banking sanctions architecture” will stay in place.
Right to uranium enrichment?
Hassan Rouhani, whose election as Iran’s president in June raised hopes of a thaw with the West, insisted “Iran’s right to uranium enrichment on its soil was accepted in this nuclear deal by world powers”.
But Kerry was adamant: “This first step does not say that Iran has the right of enrichment, no matter what interpretative comments are made.”
British Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC that only a final, comprehensive accord — if reached — would grant Iran a “right” to peaceful nuclear energy.
“The (interim deal) document does not resolve the argument about whether there is such a thing as the right to enrich,” Hague told the BBC.
Russia said it was a win-win deal, while Iran’s other ally China said the document would support stability in the Middle East.
But President Vladimir Putin also echoed Obama’s note of caution: tougher battles surely lie ahead.
“A breakthrough step has been made, but only the first on a long and difficult path.”
France called Sunday’s deal “an important step in the right direction.”
The next six months will see Iran and the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany negotiating the more comprehensive deal.
Joel Rubin, director of policy for the foundation Ploughshares Fund, warned the hardest work may still lie ahead.
“This is going to challenge all of the feelings, and conceptions and ideologies and emotions that have been pent up in the US, in the West and in Israel and elsewhere for decades. It’s going to be a very, very hard task,” he said.
Sanctions have ‘begun to crack’
The deal was reached at the third round of talks between the P5+1 and Iran since Rouhani replaced the more hawkish Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in August.
Much of the groundwork was apparently made in secret US-Iran bilateral meetings over past months, according to a report by the Al-Monitor news website.
Iranians, many of whom see the nuclear program as a source of national pride, are impatient to see a lifting of sanctions that have more than halved Iran’s vital oil exports since mid-2012.
“The structure of the sanctions against Iran has begun to crack,” Rouhani claimed after the signing Sunday.
Supreme leader Ali Ayatollah Khamenei, who last week described Israel as a doomed “rabid dog”, hailed the deal as an “achievement”.
For ordinary Iranians, news of the breakthrough was a moment of unbridled joy, with expectations that lives made miserable by sanctions would get better.
Their weakened money, the rial, strengthened Sunday after the deal, and a sense of relief flowed through Iranian streets and internet social networks.
“I am not opposed to the enrichment right. But I am entitled to other rights as well: the right to have a job, to see the development of my country,” wrote one Iranian internet user, Saghar.
Israel, though, virulently criticized the agreement, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu telling his cabinet that “what was achieved… in Geneva is not a historic agreement but rather a historic mistake”.
Many in Israel believe Iran’s only goal is to develop a nuclear arsenal with which to threaten their country, and want the Islamic republic’s nuclear facilities dismantled for good.
Kerry said the deal extends the “breakout” time needed by Iran to develop nuclear weapons and thus “will make our partners in the region safer. It will make our ally Israel safer.”
Many hardliners in the United States charged that Obama was being too soft on Iran.
Hawkish US lawmakers said they wanted to up the pressure on Iran to force it to go beyond the hard-won deal and start dismantling existing nuclear infrastructure.
One, Republican Senator Mark Kirk, said he would help craft new sanctions legislation “if Iran undermines this interim accord or if the dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is not underway by the end of this six-month period”.
By Fayez Nureldine – RIYADH
Hundreds of illegal migrants targeted in a Saudi nationwide crackdown turned themselves in on Sunday after security forces besieged a Riyadh neighborhood where riots had killed two people.
Men, women and children lined up carrying their belongings to board police buses transferring them to an assembly centre before their deportation, a week after a seven-month amnesty expired.
Police said they intervened on Saturday following riots in the poor Manfuhah neighborhood of the capital after foreigners attacked Saudis and other foreign expats with rocks and knives.
One Saudi and another person, whose nationality and identity remains unknown, were killed, said a police statement carried by the SPA state news agency.
Another 68 people — 28 Saudis and 40 foreigners — were injured and 561 were arrested.
The Manfuhah district of Riyadh is home to many illegal migrants, mostly from east Africa.
On Sunday, police laid siege to the district while units from the National Guard and Special Forces were sent in, a photojournalist said.
The Ethiopian government said on Saturday it was repatriating citizens who had failed to meet the deadline of a seven-month amnesty, citing reports that an Ethiopian had been killed by police.
“They were trying to get them in the camp before repatriation and in that process… an Ethiopian has been killed with a police bullet, but we are verifying it,” foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti said in Addis Ababa.
Saudi police said on Saturday illegal migrants in Manfuhah have been given the chance to come forward and that accommodation has been made available while their repatriation is arranged.
On Monday, the authorities began rounding up thousands of illegal foreign workers following the expiry of a final amnesty for them to formalize their status.
Those considered being illegal range from overstaying visitors and pilgrims seeking jobs to shop assistants and day laborers working for someone other than their sponsor.
Having an official sponsor is a legal requirement in Saudi Arabia and most other Gulf states.
Nearly a million migrants — Bangladeshis, Filipinos, Indians, Nepalese, Pakistanis and Yemenis among them — took advantage of the amnesty to leave.
Another roughly four million were able to find employers to sponsor them, but in so doing virtually emptied the market of cheap freelance labor.
Expatriates account for a full nine million of the oil-rich kingdom’s population of 27 million.
The lure of work, even in low-paid jobs as domestics or construction workers, has made the country a magnet for migrants from Asia as well as from poorer Arab states.
Despite its huge oil wealth, Saudi Arabia has a jobless rate of more than 12.5 percent among its native population, a figure the government has long sought to cut.
Saudi economists have insisted that the departure of illegal workers will benefit the largest Arab economy in the long run, but Saudis have already began to feel the pinch of a surging cost of labor because of a shortage of day workers.
Saudis and expatriates say that casual workers who used to queue in public squares for odd jobs have virtually disappeared since police began strictly enforcing tough labor laws.
The labor ministry said on Saturday it will continue to accept applications from undocumented foreigners seeking to legalize their status, but that they will be fined for the elapsed period since the amnesty ended on November 3.
Source: Middle East Online.