Riyadh, Paris concerned over Tehran’s ‘hegemonic intentions’ and designs to disturb regional peace

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian attend a news conference in Riyadh on Thursday. (Reuters)
Updated 17 November 2017

Riyadh, Paris concerned over Tehran’s ‘hegemonic intentions’ and designs to disturb regional peace

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir said on Thursday the kingdom’s actions in the Middle East were a response to what he called Iranian aggression, and hinted at future action against Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
“(The Iranians) are the ones who are acting in an aggressive manner. We are reacting to that aggression and saying: ‘Enough is enough. We’re not going to let you do this anymore’,” Jubeir told Reuters in an interview.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, in a joint press conference with Al-Jubeir in Riyadh on Thursday, echoed Saudi Arabia’s concerns, saying France is worried about Iran’s “hegemonic” intentions in the Middle East. “I’m thinking specifically about Iran’s ballistic program,” he said. “We need to work in order to stop the spread of nuclear activities.”
Al-Jubeir said Saudi Arabia was consulting its allies about what leverage to use against Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah — an Iranian ally — to end its dominance in the small Mediterranean nation and intervention in other countries.
“We will make the decision when the time comes,” he said, declining to detail what options were under consideration.
Saudi Arabia accused Lebanon last week of declaring war against it because of acts by Hezbollah, which is both a militant and political organization represented in Lebanon’s parliament and government.
Jubeir said Hezbollah, which he described as a subsidiary of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard “doing Iran’s bidding,” must disarm for Lebanon to stabilize.
“Wherever we see a problem, we see Hezbollah act as an arm or agent of Iran and this has to come to an end,” he said.
Jubeir said Iran had harbored terrorists, assassinated diplomats and interfered in other countries’ affairs — charges Tehran denies.
“If you want us to deal with you as a good neighbor, act like one. But if you continue to act in an aggressive manner, we will push back,” he said.
Saudi’s top diplomat said reigning in Hezbollah was the priority and the “facade” that the group needed to hold on to its weapons should be exposed.
“If they are to support the resistance, what are they doing in Syria fighting on behalf of the regime alongside the Iranian militias?” he said, referring to President Bashar Assad, who is battling rebels backed in part by Saudi Arabia.
“If they are there to protect Lebanon, what are they doing in Yemen?“
Saudi Arabia is backing Yemen’s internationally recognized government against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in a 2-1/2 year-old war. 
Jubeir accused the Houthis, who control much of the country’s north, of besieging civilian areas and preventing supplies from coming in or out.
A military coalition led by the kingdom has enforced a near-blockade on Yemen, which aid agencies say has contributed to unleashing famine and disease on the already impoverished country.
It closed all air, land and sea access on Nov. 6 following the interception of a missile fired toward Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia has since said that aid can go through “liberated ports” but not Houthi-controlled Hodeidah, the conduit for the vast bulk of imports into Yemen.
Jubeir said the ports of Aden, Mokha and Midi along with Aden airport had resumed operations.
 


World leaders call for courage as virus death toll nears 70,000

Updated 06 April 2020

World leaders call for courage as virus death toll nears 70,000

  • Be strong, Pope Francis says
  • US faces ‘Pearl Harbor moment’

JEDDAH: World leaders urged people on Sunday to show courage and strength in fighting the coronavirus pandemic as the global death toll approached 70,000 from more than 1.25 million cases of infection.

Pope Francis described the outbreak as a tragedy, Queen Elizabeth of the UK offered her personal thanks to frontline health workers, and Americans were warned that they faced the “hardest and the saddest week” of their lives.

Saudi Arabia reported five more deaths from the virus, bringing the total to 34. The number of confirmed cases rose by 206 to 2,385, the highest among Gulf Arab states.

The Foreign Ministry will register requests this week from Saudis abroad who want to return home, with priority given to the elderly, pregnant women and people in countries most affected by the pandemic. Those who return are subject to a 14-day quarantine, and about 11,000 hotel rooms have been set aside for them.

The Health Ministry warned that too many people were ignoring advice to stay at home. “Unfortunately, there is still more than 40 percent mobility in shopping and outdoor activities. This is a very alarming percentage,”ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly said.

“We are all in this boat together, and those who risk their own lives by going out for no urgent need are risking everybody else’s lives too.”

The six Gulf states have reported 6,757 cases of infection and 54 deaths from the coronavirus. The UAE, where 1,505 people have been infected and 10 have died, will increase its stockpile of strategic goods and waive residency visa fines for the rest of the year, said the prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

In Rome, on Palm Sunday, a Christian religious festival, Pope Francis celebrated mass by live stream with St.Peter’s Square empty of the usual huge crowds.

“Today, in the tragedy of a pandemic, in the face of the many false securities that have now crumbled, in the face of so many hopes betrayed, in the sense of abandonment that weighs upon our hearts, Jesus says to each one of us: ‘Courage, open your heart to my love’,” he said.

Queen Elizabeth gave a rare special address to the British people, only the fourth in her 68-year reign. She praised frontline health workers and more than 750,000 people who volunteered to help the state-run National Health Service.

“I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge, and those who come after us will say that the Britons of this generation were as strong as any,” she said.

In the US, as the death toll approached 10,000, US Surgeon General Jerome Adams said: “This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives … our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment.”