Lebanon’s collapse is like the Titanic’s sinking, only without the music — Le Drian

Le Drian’s remarks set a pessimistic tone ahead of the third visit by President Emmanuel Macron to Beirut since the port explosion. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 13 December 2020

Lebanon’s collapse is like the Titanic’s sinking, only without the music — Le Drian

  • Le Drian’s remarks set a pessimistic tone ahead of the third visit by President Emmanuel Macron to Beirut since the port explosion

PARIS: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Lebanon’s political and economic collapse was like the sinking of the Titanic, only without the music.
“Lebanon is the Titanic without the orchestra,” Le Drian told the daily Le Figaro in an interview published on Sunday. “The Lebanese are in complete denial as they sink, and there isn’t even the music.”
Le Drian’s remarks set a pessimistic tone a little over a week before President Emmanuel Macron makes his third visit to Beirut since a massive port blast destroyed swathes of the city and killed 200 people in August.
Macron is losing patience with Lebanon’s politicians as rival politicians mired in turf battles stand in the way of sweeping reforms that donors say are imperative for badly-needed financial aid to be released.
It is believed the Titanic’s orchestra kept playing for as long as it could as the liner went down in the Atlantic Ocean in 1912, trying to help keep passengers calm amid impending doom. All the musicians perished.


10 dead, hundreds hospitalized after toxic gas leak at Jordan’s Aqaba port

Updated 27 June 2022

10 dead, hundreds hospitalized after toxic gas leak at Jordan’s Aqaba port

  • Specialized teams are dealing with leak after tank filled with toxic gas fell during transportation
  • Local authorities call on Aqaba citizens to close, seal doors and windows, and avoid going out

AMMAN: At least 10 people have died and more than 250 were being treated in hospital after a toxic gas leak from a storage tank in Jordan's Aqaba port, according to government spokesman Faisal Al-Shaboul.

Specialized teams were dealing with the leak after a tank filled with toxic gas fell during its transportation, leading to a leak at the site, Petra said, citing the spokesperson of the Public Security Directorate.

Video carried by state-run media showed a crane hoisting a large tanker from a truck and then dropping it on the deck of a ship, causing an explosion of yellow smoke and sending dock workers racing away.

The area was immediately evacuated, according to Aqaba Governor Mohammad Al-Radayaa, who said the situation “had been controlled.”

Local authorities also called on Aqaba citizens to close and seal doors and windows and to avoid going out.

The Director of Aqaba Health Department, Dr. Jamal Obeidat, announced the city's hospitals are full after they reached the maximum capacity in addition to opening a field hospital to receive injuries.

Obeidat added that cases of gas suffocation are referred to health centers, noting that the health condition of the injured is between medium and critical.

Chest diseases consultant, Dr. Mhammed Al-Tarawneh, said the gas leaked from the tank, believed to be chlorine, is a very toxic substance, which may significantly affect the surrounding areas.

Al-Tarawneh added that contact with this gas leads to irritation of the mucous membranes and the occurrence of a red rash in the flesh, in addition to pneumonia, pointing out that the gas entering the mouth also leads to burning in the esophagus and the occurrence of cases of diarrhea, headaches, impairment, and loss of consciousness.

The Minister of State for Information Affairs, Al-Shaboul, said that Prime Minister Dr. Bishr Al-Khasawneh instructed the formation of an investigation team, headed by the interior minister, into the accident and explosion.


12 dead, hundreds hospitalized after toxic gas leak at Jordan’s Aqaba port

Updated 28 June 2022

12 dead, hundreds hospitalized after toxic gas leak at Jordan’s Aqaba port

  • Canister with 25 tons of chlorine plunges from crane
  • Workers flee for lives from deadly clouds

AMMAN: At least 12 people died and more than 250 were injured on Monday when a tank of toxic chlorine gas plunged from a crane and exploded at Aqaba port in Jordan.

Eight of the casualties were Jordanian, with the other four coming from other nations.

The force of the blast sent a truck rolling down the harborside, while clouds of yellow gas billowed overhead and dock workers ran for their lives.

Nearby areas were evacuated and residents told to close and seal doors and windows and to avoid going out.

Public Security Department spokesman Amer Sartawy said “specialists and the hazardous substances team in the civil defense” were dealing with the incident.

Prime Minister Bishr Khasawneh and Interior Minister Mazen Al-Faraya immediately headed to the scene, visited a hospital where some of the injured were being treated, and formed an investigation team into the incident.

The accident happened when a tank filled with 25 tons of chlorine gas being exported to Djibouti fell while being transported. Video footage showed showed a crane hoisting the tank from a truck, and then the tank falling on to the deck of a ship and exploding.

The injured were transported to two state hospitals, one private facility and a field hospital.

Aqaba health director Jamal Obeidat said hospitals in the area were full and could not receive more cases. “The injured people are in medium to critical condition,” he said.

Aqaba port is the Jordan’s only marine terminal and a key transit point for much of its imports and exports. Its beaches are also a major tourist attraction, and were evacuated after Monday’s incident.

Dr. Mhammed Al-Tarawneh, a chest diseases consultant, said chlorine gas was extremely toxic, and the leakcould significantly affect areas surrounding the explosion.

He said contact with this gas could cause irritation of the mucous membranes and a red skin rash. Inhaling the gas could cause pneumonia, burning in the esophagus, diarrhea, headaches, vision impairment, and loss of consciousness.

Saudi Arabia extended its condolences to the families of the victims, the Saudi Press Agency said early Tuesday, citing a foreign ministry statement.

The Kingdom wished the injured a speedy recovery and hoped for Jordan security, peace and stability.

The US offered its condolences to the families of the victims of the blast. “We stand ready to support the government of Jordan as it responds to this tragedy,” US Ambassador Henry Wooster said. “I urge all US citizens in Aqaba to follow all public health guidance.”

The secretary-general of the GCC, Dr. Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf, also expressed his condolences. “The GCC stands with the government and the Jordanian people in these difficult moments,” he said.


Sudan to recall ambassador to Ethiopia after alleged executions

Updated 27 June 2022

Sudan to recall ambassador to Ethiopia after alleged executions

KHARTOUM: Sudan said Monday it will recall its ambassador to Addis Ababa for “consultations” following accusations that the Ethiopian army executed seven captured Sudanese soldiers and a civilian.
“In an act that contravenes all laws and customs of war and international humanitarian law, the Ethiopian army executed seven Sudanese soldiers and a citizen who were their captives,” the Sudanese armed forces said late Sunday.
The army said “this treacherous act will not pass,” vowing to respond to “this cowardly behavior.”
Tensions have risen in recent years, sparking sporadic armed clashes, over the Al-Fashaqa border strip which is close to Ethiopia’s troubled Tigray region.
There was no immediate response from Ethiopia.
A Sudanese military official who requested anonymity told AFP the soldiers were taken into captivity from a border area close to the Al-Fashaqa region.
On Monday, Sudan’s foreign ministry said it “will immediately recall its ambassador to Ethiopia for consultations” and submit a complaint with the UN Security Council.
“The Ethiopian ambassador to Khartoum will also be summoned to inform him of Sudan’s condemnation of this inhumane behavior,” the ministry said.
Relations between Khartoum and Addis Ababa have soured over Al-Fashaqa, a fertile strip long cultivated by Ethiopian farmers but claimed by Sudan, sparking sporadic deadly clashes between the Sudanese and Ethiopian sides.
Tensions were heightened further after fighting erupted in Tigray in November 2020, sending tens of thousands of refugees fleeing into Sudan.
Khartoum and Addis Ababa have since been locked in a tense war of words, trading accusations of violence and territorial violations.
The border dispute feeds into wider tensions in the region, including over Ethiopia’s controversial Blue Nile dam.
Sudan and Egypt, both downstream countries, have been opposed to the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and pushed for an agreement over the filling of its reservoir and the operation of the dam.
In February, Khartoum and Cairo slammed Addis Ababa for unilaterally deciding to start power generation at the dam.

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Cyberattack forces Iran steel company to halt production

The company’s website appeared to be out of service. (File/AFP)
Updated 27 June 2022

Cyberattack forces Iran steel company to halt production

  • The state-owned Khuzestan Steel Company said in a statement that experts had determined the firm was unable to continue operations “due to technical problems and will be closed until further notice” following “cyberattacks”

DUBAI: One of Iran’s biggest steel companies said on Monday it was forced to halt production after being hit by a cyberattack, apparently marking one of the biggest such assaults on the country’s strategic industrial sector in recent memory.
The state-owned Khuzestan Steel Company said in a statement that experts had determined the firm was unable to continue operations “due to technical problems and will be closed until further notice” following “cyberattacks.” The company’s website appeared to be out of service.
A local news channel, Jamaran, reported that the attack failed to cause any structural damage to the steel mill since the factory happened to be non-operational at the time due to an electricity outage.
The company did not blame any specific group for the assault, which constitutes just the latest example of an attack targeting the country’s services in recent weeks. Iran has previously accused the United States and Israel for cyberattacks that have targeted and crippled the country’s infrastructure.
Khuzestan Steel Company, based in Ahvaz in southwestern Iran, has a monopoly on steel production in Iran along with two other major state-owned firms. Founded before Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, the company for decades afterward had some production lines supplied by German, Italian and Japanese companies.


Iran, US to resume indirect nuclear talks in Qatar this week: State Department

“The ball is in Washington’s court now,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said. (File/AFP)
Updated 27 June 2022

Iran, US to resume indirect nuclear talks in Qatar this week: State Department

  • The statement comes amid expectations that talks to save the pact will resume soon after the top EU diplomat’s trip to the Islamic Republic

DUBAI: Iran and the US plan to resume indirect talks this week in Qatar, in a fresh bid to revive the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, a US State Department spokesperson said on Monday.

The talks will be separate from broader EU-mediated negotiations in Vienna between Iran and major powers, the bloc’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said Saturday in Tehran.
The nuclear deal has been hanging by a thread since 2018, when then US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it and began reimposing harsh economic sanctions on America’s arch enemy.
US President Joe Biden’s administration has sought to return to the agreement, saying it would be the best path ahead with the Islamic republic, although it has voiced growing pessimism in recent weeks.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Monday the talks would focus on the lifting of US sanctions and be held “in a Arabian Gulf country in the coming days, later this week.”
Iran’s Tasnim news agency, quoting an unnamed foreign ministry source, reported separately that Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri would visit Qatar on Tuesday for “negotiations on lifting sanctions,” and that the US-Iranian indirect talks would be held there.
In Washington, a State Department spokesperson confirmed that the talks would take place this week in the Gulf.
“We are grateful to our EU partners, who continue to convey messages and are working to advance these negotiations,” the spokesperson said.
“We are prepared to immediately conclude and implement the deal we negotiated in Vienna for mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA,” he said, referring to the deal’s formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“But for that, Iran needs to decide to drop their additional demands that go beyond the JCPOA.”
Qatar has sought a role as a diplomatic hub, earlier helping arrange talks between Washington and the Taliban before the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Khatibzadeh voiced hope for “positive results” from the talks.
“What we will do in the coming days does not concern the nuclear dimension but existing differences (and) the lifting of sanctions,” Khatibzadeh said.
“If Washington comes with answers, then we can do the work quickly... The ball is in Washington’s court.”
Talks to revive the nuclear deal began in Vienna in April last year but hit a snag in March this year amid differences between Tehran and Washington, notably over a demand by Iran that its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps be removed from a US terror list.
During the Vienna talks, Iran also repeatedly called for US guarantees that there will be no repeat of Trump’s pullout.
The Biden administration says that ending Trump’s blacklisting of the Revolutionary Guards — a step sure to outrage much of Congress — falls out of the purview of talks to restore the nuclear accord.
In a step to address concerns raised when Trump made the move in 2019, the Biden administration said last week that Iranians who were previously forced to serve in the Revolutionary Guards would not be denied entry into the US.

Meanwhile, reports on Monday said Iran had launched a solid-fueled rocket into space, but there was no clarification if the test was successful compared to its previous efforts.

State media in Iran aired footage of the launch, although it was unclear when or where the rocket was launched.