Egypt authorizes Sputnik, AstraZeneca virus jabs

A health worker prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19. (AFP/File)
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Updated 26 February 2021

Egypt authorizes Sputnik, AstraZeneca virus jabs

  • Yassin said the Egyptian authorities had approved four vaccines and are currently evaluating the remaining inoculations

CAIRO: Egypt has approved the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine and the AstraZeneca and Oxford University vaccine.
The Egyptian Drug Authority said it had granted an emergency license to use the two vaccines imported from South Korea.
The authority indicated that it had previously granted a permit to use the Chinese vaccine Sinopharma and AstraZeneca, produced in India.
Mahmoud Yassin, head of the authority’s Central Administration for Biological and Innovative Products, confirmed that it issued an emergency license to use the Sputnik V and AstraZeneca inoculations after they went through the necessary evaluation processes in accordance with international and local laws to ensure the safety, quality and effectiveness of the vaccine.
Yassin said the Egyptian authorities had approved four vaccines and are currently evaluating the remaining inoculations.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund indicated the importance of registering Sputnik V in Egypt, especially as it has the largest population in the Middle East.
Head of the fund, Kirill Dmitriev, stressed that the decision of the Egyptian Drug Authority reflects the effectiveness and safety of the Russian vaccine, adding that more countries are expected to register the vaccine in the coming weeks, which has received recognition as one of the best COVID-19 vaccines globally.
So far, the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine is being used in the vaccination campaign, with Egypt receiving 400,000 doses.
The Russian Embassy in Cairo said that it expects to produce the Russian Sputnik V vaccine in Egypt, after the medical authorities in Cairo agreed to use it.
The embassy added that it hopes to expand the boundaries of the mutually beneficial healthcare partnership, and localize the production of Russian medicines against COVID-19 in Egypt.
 


Twenty killed in road accident in Egypt

Updated 14 April 2021

Twenty killed in road accident in Egypt

  • The bus from Cairo collided with a truck loaded with cement in the province of Assiut
  • Reckless driving and the poor condition of roads are responsible for many crashes in Egypt

CAIRO: Twenty people were killed and three injured in an accident involving a bus and a truck on a desert highway in Upper Egypt late on Tuesday, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

The bus from Cairo collided with a truck loaded with cement, which was stopping due to a malfunction, in the province of Assiut, about 370 km south of the capital, the provincial governor's office said in a statement.

The bus was burned out within minutes, and the bodies and the injured were removed from it with difficulty, it added.

Thirty-six ambulances rushed to the scene, the health ministry said.

Reckless driving and the poor condition of roads are responsible for many crashes in Egypt. Dozens have been killed in a recent spate of rail and road crashes.

Eighteen people were killed in March when a truck collided with a minibus in Giza province, about 80 km south of Cairo. At least 20 people were killed and nearly 200 people wounded injured when two trains collided near Tahta, about 440 km south of Cairo.


Biden administration proceeding with $23 billion weapon sales to UAE

Updated 14 April 2021

Biden administration proceeding with $23 billion weapon sales to UAE

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden’s administration has told Congress it is proceeding with more than $23 billion in weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates, including advanced F-35 aircraft, armed drones and other equipment, congressional aides said on Tuesday.
A State Department spokesperson said the administration would move forward with the proposed sales to the UAE, “even as we continue reviewing details and consulting with Emirati officials” related to the use of the weapons.
The Democratic president’s administration had paused the deals agreed to by former Republican President Donald Trump in order to review them.


Biden administration proceeding with $23 billion weapon sales to UAE

Updated 14 April 2021

Biden administration proceeding with $23 billion weapon sales to UAE

  • A legislative effort to stop the sales failed in December

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden’s administration has told Congress it is proceeding with more than $23 billion in weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates, including advanced F-35 aircraft, armed drones and other equipment, congressional aides said on Tuesday.

A State Department spokesperson said the administration would move forward with the proposed sales to the UAE, “even as we continue reviewing details and consulting with Emirati officials” related to the use of the weapons.

The Democratic president’s administration had paused the deals agreed to by former Republican President Donald Trump in order to review them. The sales to the Gulf nation were finalized right before Trump left office.

The Trump administration told Congress in November it had approved the US sale to the UAE as a side deal to the Abraham Accords, a US-brokered agreement in September in which the UAE agreed to normalize relations with Israel.

In the last months of the Trump administration, Israel reached deals with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco as part of the accords.

The $23.37 billion package contained products from General Atomics, Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Technologies Corp, including 50 F-35 Lighting II aircraft, up to 18 MQ-9B Unmanned Aerial Systems and a package of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.

A legislative effort to stop the sales failed in December, as Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress backed his plans.

The Trump administration then finalized the massive sale to the UAE on Jan. 20, about an hour before Biden was sworn in as president.

The Biden administration announced the review in late January and the UAE said then it had anticipated the review and welcomed joint efforts to de-escalate tensions and for renewed regional dialogue.

The State Department spokesperson said on Tuesday the estimated delivery dates on the UAE sales, if implemented, were for after 2025 or later.

The government anticipated “a robust and sustained dialogue with the UAE” to ensure a stronger security partnership, the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“We will also continue to reinforce with the UAE and all recipients of US defense articles and services that US-origin defense equipment must be adequately secured and used in a manner that respects human rights and fully complies with the laws of armed conflict,” the statement said.

The Biden administration is also reviewing its policy for military sales to Saudi Arabia, including some Trump-era weapons deals, in light of the Saudi involvement in Yemen and other human rights concerns.

It has not released the results of that review. In February, US officials said the administration was considering canceling past deals that posed human rights concerns and limiting future sales to “defensive” weapons.


Lebanon’s president says new maritime claim needs government approval

Updated 13 April 2021

Lebanon’s president says new maritime claim needs government approval

  • Aoun's decision could significantly delay the process
  • Israeli Energy Minister said Monday Lebanon's expanded claim would derail talks

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s president said on Tuesday a draft decree expanding its maritime claims in a dispute with Israel must be approved by the caretaker government, rejecting a request to grant it swift presidential approval.
The dispute with Israel over the maritime boundary has held up hydrocarbon exploration in a potentially gas-rich area of the eastern Mediterranean.
The decree, approved by Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, defense minister and minister of public work on Monday, would add around 1,400 square km (540 square miles) to an exclusive economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean claimed by Lebanon.
Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s office said the decree should be approved by President Michel Aoun so that the new maritime coordinates setting out Lebanon’s claim could be submitted to the United Nations.
But the presidency said it should be approved by Diab’s full cabinet, even though the government resigned eight months ago following a devastating explosion in Beirut, because of the gravity of the issue.
The draft decree “needs a collective decision from the council of ministers..., even under a caretaker government, due to its importance and the consequences,” a statement from Aoun’s office said.
Aoun’s decision could significantly delay the process. Since the government resigned in August it has referred all issues for exceptional approval by the president, leaving them to get formal endorsement when a new government is finally agreed.
Negotiations were launched in October to try to resolve the dispute with Israel yet the talks, a culmination of three years of diplomacy by the United States, have since stalled.
Israel already pumps gas from offshore fields but Lebanon has yet to find commercial gas reserves in its own waters.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Monday Lebanon’s expanded claim would derail the talks rather than help work toward a common solution, warning that Israel would implement “parallel measures.”
Lebanon, in the throes of a deep financial meltdown that is threatening its stability, is desperate for cash as it faces the worst economic crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war. But political leaders have failed to bridge their differences and form a new government.


Iran says 60% uranium enrichment response to Israel’s ‘nuclear terrorism’

Updated 14 April 2021

Iran says 60% uranium enrichment response to Israel’s ‘nuclear terrorism’

  • New move casts a cloud over talks in Vienna aimed at reviving Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major power
  • Western intelligence services believe Iran had a clandestine nuclear weapons program that was suspended in 2003

TEHRAN/JEDDAH: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday Tehran’s decision to boost uranium enrichment to 60 percent was a response to Israel’s “nuclear terrorism,” three days after an attack on its Natanz nuclear facility.

“Enabling IR-6 (centrifuges) at Natanz today, or bringing enrichment to 60 percent: this is the response to your malice,” Rouhani said in televised remarks. “What you did was nuclear terrorism. What we do is legal.”

The new move casts a cloud over talks in Vienna aimed at reviving Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, after former US President Donald Trump abandoned it three years ago.

Enriching uranium to 60 percent from Iran’s current 20 percent would take the fissile material closer to the 90 percent required to make a nuclear bomb. Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi also said it would activate 1,000 advanced centrifuge machines at Natanz, which was crippled on Sunday by an explosion that knocked out its power supply. Israel’s Mossad spy agency is thought to have been behind the attack.

The blast at the underground Natanz plant was a “very bad gamble” that would boost Tehran’s leverage in the talks to salvage the nuclear deal, which resume on Thursday in Vienna, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said.

“I assure you that in the near future more advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges will be placed in the Natanz facility,” he said.

Opinion

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The Vienna talks began last week, when Iran and other signatories to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) held what they described as “constructive” discussions about salvaging the deal, which collapsed when Trump reimposed economic sanctions on Tehran and Iran began breaching its limits on uranium enrichment.

Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, has said he will ease sanctions when Iran returns to compliance with the deal. Iran insists sanctions must be lifted first. In addition, Israel and US allies in the Gulf oppose any revived agreement that does not address Iran’s ballistic missile program and its regional meddling through proxy militias in Yemen, Iraq and elsewhere.

The JCPOA had capped the level of purity to which Iran can enrich uranium hexafluoride, the feedstock for centrifuges, at 3.6 percent, far below the 90 percent needed for bomb-grade material.

Iran in recent months has raised enrichment to 20 percent purity, a level at which uranium is considered to be highly enriched and is a significant step toward weapons grade. Civilian nuclear power plants, which Iran claims are its only objective, only require enrichment to between 3 percent and 5 percent.

The biggest obstacle to producing nuclear weapons is accumulating sufficient quantities of fissile material, either 90 percent enriched uranium or plutonium, for the core of a bomb. Western intelligence services believe Iran had a clandestine nuclear weapons program that was suspended in 2003.