Algerian president, 75, self isolates as pandemic spreads

Algeria’s 75-year-old President Abdelmadjid Tebboune is self isolating because some officials in “upper ranks of the government” are sick with COVID-19. (File/AFP)
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Updated 24 October 2020

Algerian president, 75, self isolates as pandemic spreads

  • Tebboune is self isolating because some officials in “upper ranks of the government” are sick with COVID-19
  • “I assure you, my brothers and sisters, that I am well and healthy and that I continue my work,” he said

ALGIERS: Algeria’s 75-year-old President Abdelmadjid Tebboune is self isolating because some officials in “upper ranks of the government” are sick with COVID-19, he said in a Tweet on Saturday.
Tebboune took office in December in an election that came amidst months of mass protests which forced his predecessor Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power after 20 years.
“I assure you, my brothers and sisters, that I am well and healthy and that I continue my work,” he said, saying his decision was taken on the advice of medical staff.
The global pandemic struck Algeria’s economy as it faced long-term challenges posed by the decline of the oil and gas revenues that finance its historically lavish state spending.
So far, Algeria has officially confirmed more than 55,000 cases of the coronavirus with nearly 2,000 deaths.
Though the pandemic forced an end to the weekly mass protest marches through Algiers and other cities that lasted for more than a year, the political challenges remain.
Tebboune has pushed for changes to Algeria’s referendum to limit presidential terms while expanding the powers of the parliament and judiciary.
However, many people in the leaderless protest movement believe their core goals of replacing the old ruling elite and forcing the army to stay out of politics remain unmet.
Algerians will vote in a referendum on the new constitution on Nov. 1, with Tebboune and the country’s powerful army generals seeking a high turnout in order to turn a page on the protests.

UN must reform to remain relevant, says Lebanon’s former ambassador

Updated 54 min 59 sec ago

UN must reform to remain relevant, says Lebanon’s former ambassador

CHICAGO: Lebanon’s former United Nations Ambassador Amal Mudallali said there is growing pressure to reform the 78-year-old international body in order to force its five founding members to share power with the rest of the world and keep the organization relevant.

The UN was founded in 1945 and consists of two major bodies: the UN Security Council, which includes five founding members with the power to veto any action or proposal; and the General Assembly, which has grown from 51 members to 193 today, and can adopt resolutions with moral authority, but no enforcement.

Mudallali acknowledged that although the UN has had some successes, failure to reform combined with growing inequity between nations of the “global north” and “global south” has resulted in a rise in competing but narrowly focused international coalitions such as BRICS, which was founded in 2010, but in recent years has become much more influential.

“If you look at the last 78 years, the world averted a big war, a third world war. And I think a lot of it has a lot to do with the fact that all these big powers and small powers and all these countries sit together there and work on trying to find solutions, and that is very important. It avoided a nuclear war. It created a big, huge system of development, helping poor countries around the world everywhere,” Mudallali said during the taping of “The Ray Hanania Radio Show” on Wednesday (Sept. 20, 2023).

“The problem is that the system that was created after the Second World War has not been reformed. It has been so static. There has been no change, no reform. Because the big powers who are now, and they gave themselves more power by creating the Security Council and they have veto power. They are the ones who control whether there is any change or not. The big powers are the ones who can do it.”

Mudallali added: “There is a new movement in the United Nations and the General Assembly to challenge the veto because the veto is preventing the Security Council from any decisions that are very important, and central to peace and security, especially when you need it when you have like the war in Ukraine. The Security Council has been gridlocked and there has been no resolution on Ukraine.”

Failure to reform has resulted in many nations contesting the old power structure that the UN of 1945 represented compared with the changing world balance today, with the rise of small groups of independent member-nation organizations, such as BRICS and the G20.

“But today, as we talk, it is really an interesting General Assembly because it comes on the heels of the BRICS meeting in South Africa. It comes after the G20 meeting, where the global south is rising. Their voice is rising. There is a new narrative now. They are telling the north, as people say, that things are not going to go on as business as usual,” Mudallali said.

“We need reform and this time our life depends on it. Because the international world order that we set up in 1945 and that served the world beautifully for the last 78 years and advanced economies, social issues and prevented wars, but now is not working. Because it has to be more equitable. It has to represent the diversity, that the world has changed. Because the volume of the world economy and the power is shifting. There is a shift in dynamics from the north to the south. There is a shift in the dynamics of power, not only the economic power but the political power. People are contesting the order.”

Over the years, the world has seen the rising influence of new limited member-nation coalitions, such as BRICS and the G20, seen as competing with the UN, which is supposed to represent the interests of all nations on all issues.

Groups such as BRICS, founded in 2010 by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, have grown significantly since the start of the Ukraine war. BRICS has raised some concerns about its intent, to “contest the international order” or “undermine the domination of certain countries” such as the US, Mudalalli said.

“If BRICS’ only objective is to change the order, it means like if it is international competition with the US only, this is not going to be good for anybody. But if they are doing it because they really want to reform the system and they want to have a better way, a diversified way of doing business with everybody, I think that would be good,” said Mudallali, now a respected international affairs analyst.

“And, then, maybe you can see, hopefully you can see a constructive role they can play in the international economy and this. But it really not good for the world if it is seen or it is perceived as only a competition between the US and China, and the world is being divided now into groups. If you weaken the UN, and if you weaken the state institutions that you put there to bring peace and security and economic prosperity and stuff like that and to get the world to work together, and you go and work outside it, this is very dangerous and this is no good for world peace.”

Many “global south” nations are wondering if the UN can be inclusive to address their needs, Mudallali said, noting that the UN plan to advance 17 Sustainable Development Goals is halfway through its 10-year timeframe and has achieved only 12 to 15 percent of its stated goals.

“As long as these countries, what you call them the global south, the rest of the world — not the Security Council and the big powers — see that they have no stake at the UN, and they see there is no movement to be inclusive and be representative of the world as it is today, you are going to see a very divided world order,” Mudallali said.

“You are going to have a splintering of different groups, people shopping for different alliances and things like that, because the central forum for bringing them together, to work together, is being weakened if it is not being reformed.”

The dramatic growth of debt among countries of the global south is of immediate concern, Mudallali said.

But it was discouraging that the leader of only one of the Security Council’s founding members, the US, addressed the UN General Assembly this week, with the leaders of Russia, France, the UK and China absent.

Mudallali made her comments during an appearance on “The Ray Hanania Radio Show,” which is broadcast every Wednesday in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 Radio and in Washington D.C. on WDMV AM 700 radio on the US Arab Radio Network. 

You can listen to the radio show’s podcast by visiting

China’s Xi meets Syria’s Assad, declares new ‘strategic partnership’

Updated 22 September 2023

China’s Xi meets Syria’s Assad, declares new ‘strategic partnership’

  • Bashar Assad will attend the opening ceremony of the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou
  • Xi and Assad met in the eastern Chinese city

HANGZHOU: Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks with Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad on Friday, and said the two leaders would unveil a new “strategic partnership.”
Assad is on his first official trip to China in almost two decades as he seeks financial support to rebuild his devastated country, as well as rehabilitation for his regime from years of isolation over Syria’s civil war.
He will attend the opening ceremony of the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou on Saturday.
Xi and Assad met in the eastern Chinese city on Friday afternoon, state media said.
“Today, we will jointly announce the establishment of the China-Syria strategic partnership, which will become an important milestone in the history of bilateral relations,” Xi told Assad, according to a readout from state broadcaster CCTV.
“Faced with an international situation full of instability and uncertainty, China is willing to continue to work together with Syria, firmly support each other, promote friendly cooperation, and jointly defend international fairness and justice,” he added.
Relations between the two countries “have withstood the test of international changes,” Xi said.
“And the friendship between the two countries has been strengthened over time,” he added.
The leaders were each flanked by nine aides at a large rectangular wooden table, a CCTV video clip showed, as two flags from each country were set in front of a Chinese painting in the meeting room.
China is one of only a handful of countries outside the Middle East that Assad has visited since the 2011 start of a civil war that has killed more than half a million people, displaced millions more, and battered Syria’s infrastructure and industry.
China’s foreign ministry has said his visit will take ties to a “new level.”
“China and Syria have a traditional and deep friendship,” foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a regular briefing.
“We believe that President Bashar Assad’s visit will further deepen mutual political trust and cooperation in various fields between the two countries,” she added.
Assad’s visit is his first to China since 2004.
Analysts expect Assad’s visit to China will focus, in part, on funds for reconstruction.
It also comes as China’s influence in the Middle East grows.
This year Beijing brokered a deal that saw longtime regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Damascus-backer Iran agree to restore ties and reopen their respective embassies.
The detente was followed by Syria’s return to the Arab fold at a summit in Saudi Arabia in May, ending more than a decade of regional isolation.

Iran's Quds force chief in Syria to oversee joint drill

Updated 22 September 2023

Iran's Quds force chief in Syria to oversee joint drill

  • Sudan plunged into conflict in April when long-simmering tensions escalated between the military, led by Gen. Burhan, and the rival Rapid Support Forces

TEHRAN: The head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, Esmail Qaani, has visited Syria to oversee a joint military drill, media outlets in the Islamic republic said.
Qaani, appointed Quds Force commander after a US drone strike on Baghdad killed its revered leader Qasem Soleimani in 2020, met senior Syrian officials in Damascus, Tasnim news agency reported late Thursday.
They held discussions on ways to “confront the military and security challenges facing Syria” and supervised a joint Iran-Syria military exercise, Tasnim said.
Qaani also praised Syria and Iran's “brotherly relations” said Iran “will stand by the Syrian people and leadership in facing its challenges”, the news agency added.
The Quds Force is the foreign operations arm of Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The United States placed it on its list of “foreign terrorist organisations” in 2019, but Iran insists its activities abroad are an example of regional cooperation aimed at shoring up stability and blocking Western interference.
Iran has been a major ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, providing him economic, political, and military support during Syria’s more than 12-year civil war.
Tehran's support helped Damascus claw back most of the territory it lost at the start of the conflict and positioned Iran in a leading role as Assad seeks to focus on reconstruction.
Militias affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards have a heavy presence across Syria but Tehran denies sending forces to fight in Syria, saying it only has military advisers in the war-ravaged country.
The Syrian conflict has claimed more than 500,000 lives, displaced millions and ravaged the country’s infrastructure and industry.
In May, Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi embarked on a landmark visit to Syria, where he called on “resistance forces” to come together to confront Tehran's arch-enemy Israel.
Since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes against Syrian positions as well as Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces, allies of Damascus and arch-foes of Israel.
Israel rarely comments on the strikes on a case-by-case basis, but says it seeks to prevent Iran from establishing a foothold on its doorstep.

Palestine must not be marginalized on international agenda, UN Permanent Observer Riyad Mansour tells Arab News

Updated 22 September 2023

Palestine must not be marginalized on international agenda, UN Permanent Observer Riyad Mansour tells Arab News

  • Amid violence in the West Bank, Mansour says Palestinians are turning to international courts to seek justice
  • Mansour says the international community is not yet bold enough to implement resolutions on Palestine

NEW YORK CITY: Riyad Mansour, Palestine’s permanent observer to the UN, outlined the key priorities and challenges facing the Palestinian cause in a wide-ranging interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the ongoing 78th session of the UN General Assembly. 

Mansour discussed Palestine’s efforts to update UN resolutions, navigate the International Court of Justice, address the crisis facing the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, and contend with escalating violence. 

He said “a ton of work” remains to be done, all geared toward having a political horizon and putting an end to Palestinian suffering at the hands of “those who keep telling us: ‘You just have to wait and wait and wait.’”

Mansour told Arab News: “The Palestinian people are fed up and frustrated and angry that they’ve been waiting for way too long, and the situation is moving from bad to worse.

“Something has to happen and a process needs to start that will end this occupation as quickly as possible and allow the Palestinian people to enjoy the independence of their own state, (based) on the June 4, 1967, borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Mansour said the Palestinians were also appealing to the International Criminal Court to investigate possible crimes against humanity. (FILE/AFP)

Palestine’s top priority at this year’s General Assembly is to ensure UN resolutions related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are updated to reflect new realities and developments that have occurred over the past year. 

Mansour emphasized the importance of keeping the Palestinian issue on the international agenda, especially in light of what he called “the obsession with what is really happening in Ukraine.” 

He said: “In the atmosphere of Ukraine, (it is important) to remain relevant and (keep) your issue alive and on the table and to succeed in receiving more votes.”

He underscored the need to maintain and increase the number of votes in favor of Palestinian resolutions, as traditionally, Palestine has received overwhelming support from member states.

There are also efforts underway to push for the implementation of these resolutions, which as Mansour said, contain all the elements that would allow for a just and comprehensive solution to the conflict. 

“(When) there are sides that are shielding Israel from accountability and the consequences of getting away with not implementing (international) resolutions, then we look for additional ways of trying to maximize the pressure,” said Mansour. 

“One of these ways is seeking legal options.” 

The ICJ earlier this year had accepted a request from the UN for an advisory opinion on the legal consequences arising from the policies and practices of Israel in the occupied territories. 

The opinion could potentially lead to accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against the Palestinian people.

Mansour said the ICJ, the world’s top court, is a crucial avenue for pressuring the Israeli occupying authorities to comply with international law and UN resolutions. 

19-year-old Palestinian Qusai Jamal Maatan was shot by Israelis on Aug. 4. (FILE/AFP)

In August, the ICJ confirmed that 58 written statements from various countries have been filed in the court’s registry. 

Mansour said the Palestinians were also appealing to the International Criminal Court to investigate possible crimes against humanity.

“We are pushing the ICC to begin official investigations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against the Palestinian people,” he said, citing the “crime of settlement” and the “horrific aggression” of repeated incursions into Palestinian territory, such as in the Gaza Strip in 2014.  

Palestinians are also asking the ICC to “deal with the illegal policies and practices committed by Israel,” such as home demolition and annexation, Mansour said, referencing the proposed annexation of Area C, “which constitutes a significant portion of the land of the occupied West Bank.”

He added: “All these practices and policies (fall) under the title of annexation and Judaization of the occupied Palestinian territory. 

“And finally, as we (mentioned in) those questions that we asked (the ICJ), there was, during the last 20 years, (an) intensification of plans to put in place systems of discrimination. 

“We did not use the word of apartheid, but there is enough documentation and reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem, Al-Haq and others who have documented and argued in very sophisticated and convincing legal ways of the reality of apartheid that our people are living under.”

Lastly, Mansour said, Palestinians hope the court will determine what the legal consequences are for the Israeli occupation, “including the prolonged occupation itself, since occupations are supposed to be of a temporary nature and … many legal scholars consider it as being illegal because it moves from being temporary and to being annexation.”

The Israeli army demolished the house of Abdel Fatah Khroushah accused of an attack which killed two Israelis in the occupied West Bank at the end of February. (FILE/AFP)

Referring to the recent surge in violence, Mansour attributed the escalation to the Israeli government’s push for annexation and its implementation of plans in the occupied territories, particularly the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with extremist elements within the Israeli government advocating for the exclusion of Palestinians.

More than 200 Palestinians and nearly 30 Israelis have been killed so far this year in the occupied West Bank and Israel — a level of violence surpassing last year’s entire death toll and the highest number of fatalities since 2005, Tor Wennesland, the UN’s Middle East envoy, told the UN Security Council in August. 

Mansour said the current Israeli government is “in a hurry to expedite the process of annexation. They want to literally take most of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and make it exclusively for the Jewish settlers.”

He added: “They are pushing the Palestinian people to the wall, and people are taking issues into their (own) hands in order to protect themselves, to protect their families and to fight against this plan of annihilation.”

One of the main issues discussed at the UN this week is the new, emerging multipolar world order, where, as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres put it, “power is diffuse,” and more and more countries are having a say in international matters. 

Despite the challenges posed by the world’s changing geopolitical dynamics, Mansour stressed the need to maintain the focus on Palestine’s plight to ensure that it is not marginalized.

In Palestine’s message to world leaders at the 78th UN General Assembly session, Mansour highlighted the immediate priorities of ending aggression, achieving financial stability, and gaining international recognition for the State of Palestine. (FILE/AFP)

He highlighted his efforts to keep the Palestine question prominent at the UN, including frequent discussions in the Security Council and successful resolutions related to Palestine, such as the “historic” resolution acknowledging the Nakba, and Palestinians’ engagement with the ICJ. 

“Many people thought that the Palestine question would be (brushed) under the rug,” said Mansour. “It’s our duty to expose the double standards and not allow our question to be the victim of the new realities.” 

While Israel “does not want the UN (to) even mention the question of Palestine,” Mansour said he was “delighted that to a great extent the international community does not accept this kind of behavior.”

However, he lamented that the international community “is not yet bold enough to say that we’ve adopted resolutions and they need to be implemented.”

He said: “If you don’t implement them, there will be consequences because it is required from all member states (to) honor and respect (the) principles enshrined in the (UN) Charter and the resolutions adopted by the Security Council and the General Assembly.”

In Palestine’s message to world leaders at the 78th UN General Assembly session, Mansour highlighted the immediate priorities of ending aggression, achieving financial stability, and gaining international recognition for the State of Palestine. 

He also stressed the need to “actualize the global consensus on the two-state solution to become a reality,” and for a collective political process that would lead “in a relatively short period of time” to the end of the occupation.

Mideast peace only possible when Palestinians get full rights, Abbas tells UNGA

Updated 22 September 2023

Mideast peace only possible when Palestinians get full rights, Abbas tells UNGA

  • President urges states that have not yet recognized state of Palestine to do so immediately
  • Calls for peace conference that ‘may be last opportunity to salvage two-state solution’

LONDON: Those who think peace can prevail in the Middle East without the Palestinian people enjoying their full rights are mistaken, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday.
Addressing the UN General Assembly, he said Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory “violates the principles of international law and legitimacy while it races against time to change the historical, geographical and demographic reality on the ground, aimed at perpetuating the occupation and entrenching apartheid.”
Abbas said his country remains hopeful that the UN will be “able to implement its resolution demanding an end to the Israeli occupation of our territory and realizing the independence of the fully sovereign state of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on the borders of June 4, 1967.”
He added that Israel continues to attack his people, and its “army and its racist, terrorist settlers continue to intimidate and kill our people, to destroy homes and property to just steal our money and resources.”
Abbas said Israel “continues to assault our Islamic and Christian sacred sites … especially the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, which international legitimacy has recognized as an exclusive place of worship for Muslims alone.”
He added that Israel is digging tunnels under and around the mosque, threatening its full or partial collapse, “which would lead to an explosion with untold consequences.”
He urged the international community to assume its responsibilities in preserving the historic and legal status of Jerusalem and its holy sites.
He also requested an international peace conference in which all countries concerned with achieving peace in the Middle East would participate.
“I ask your esteemed organization and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to call for and undertake the necessary arrangements to convene this peace conference, which may be the last opportunity to salvage the two-state solution and to prevent the situation from deteriorating more seriously, and threatening the security and stability of our region and the entire world,” Abbas said.
He also urged states that have not yet recognized the state of Palestine to do so immediately. “I call for the state of Palestine to be admitted to full membership in the United Nations,” he said.
“There are two states that the entire world is talking about: Israel and Palestine. But only Israel is recognized. Why not Palestine?
“I can neither understand nor accept that some states …are reluctant to recognize the state of Palestine, which the UN has accepted as an observer state.
“These same states confirm every day that they support the two-state solution. But they recognize only one of these states, namely Israel. Why?”