US to Iran: Grant inspectors access to workshop or face action at UN nuclear watchdog

A resolution criticizing Iran at the IAEA Board of Governors could kill hopes of resuming indirect talks between Iran and the United States. (Reuters)
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Updated 27 September 2021

US to Iran: Grant inspectors access to workshop or face action at UN nuclear watchdog

  • Workshop at the TESA Karaj complex makes components for centrifuges, machines that enrich uranium

VIENNA: Iran must stop denying the UN nuclear watchdog access to a workshop making centrifuge parts as agreed two weeks ago or face diplomatic retaliation at the agency’s Board of Governors within days, the United States said on Monday.
The workshop at the TESA Karaj complex makes components for centrifuges, machines that enrich uranium, and was hit by apparent sabotage in June in which one of four International Atomic Energy Agency cameras there was destroyed. Iran removed them and the destroyed camera’s footage is missing.
TESA Karaj was one of several sites to which Iran agreed to grant IAEA inspectors access to service IAEA monitoring equipment and replace memory cards just as they were due to fill up with data such as camera footage. The Sept. 12 accord helped avoid a diplomatic escalation between Iran and the West.
“We are deeply troubled by Iran’s refusal to provide the IAEA with the needed access to service its monitoring equipment, as was agreed in the September 12 Joint Statement between the IAEA and Iran,” a US statement to the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors on Monday said.
It was responding to an IAEA report to member states on Sunday that said Iran had granted access to sites as agreed on Sept. 12 but not to the workshop, where IAEA inspectors were denied access on Sunday. They had planned to check if the workshop was ready to operate and re-install cameras if it was.
Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, said overnight on Twitter that before the deal with the IAEA, Iran indicated that monitoring equipment at Karaj was “not included for servicing” because of ongoing investigations and Sunday’s report “goes beyond the agreed terms of the JS (Joint Statement).”
The European Union told the IAEA board that Iran’s failure to grant the IAEA access to the workshop was “a worrying development, contrary to the Joint Statement reached on 12 September 2021.”
A resolution criticizing Iran at the Board of Governors could kill hopes of resuming indirect talks between Iran and the United States to bring both sides back into compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Iran usually bristles at such resolutions and its news hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi has said Iran is prepared to return to the negotiating table but not under Western “pressure.” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on Friday Iran would return to the talks “very soon.”
“We call on Iran to provide the IAEA with needed access without further delay,” the US statement said. “If Iran fails to do so, we will be closely consulting with other board members in the coming days on an appropriate response.”
The European Union also called on Iran to grant access “without any further delay.”


Hashemite kingdom’s Expo 2020 Dubai provides an authentic Jordanian experience

Updated 03 December 2021

Hashemite kingdom’s Expo 2020 Dubai provides an authentic Jordanian experience

  • Pavilion tells the story of the Hashemite kingdom from both the cultural and economic standpoints
  • Jordan has been hosting events designed to promote trade, cultural understanding and stimulate tourism

DUBAI There are two main types of pavilions at Expo 2020 Dubai: “Self-build” pavilions that were funded by the participating nations themselves, and those that either received financial assistance from, or were fully built by, the expo.

Despite an unassuming exterior, Jordan’s pavilion — which sits within an expo-built structure at the heart of the Mobility District — is a must-see.

This standard style of fitted pavilion has been transformed into a unique space filled with varying textures and experiences. The resultant atmosphere is inviting, stylish and sensory.

As soon as they enter the reception area, visitors are welcomed to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. A relief display outlines the country’s territory and highlights the significance of its position between Turkey to the north and Saudi Arabia to the south.

Jordan’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai captures the sights and sounds of the country through interactive, multimedia exhibits. (Supplied)

From there, visitors walk down a winding wooden path called the Siq, with every step on their journey accompanied by multimedia effects and sounds. In Jordan, the Siq is the pathway through rock canyons that marks the entrance to the Nabataean city of Petra, which was built 2,500 years ago.

The Siq at Expo 2020 Dubai is a 30-meter, wooden sided path that leads to the pavilion’s main exhibition stage. Here, visitors are invited to enjoy a one-of-a-kind, authentic Jordanian experience that will stimulate all of their senses.

At the end of the pathway, they are greeted by a series of tassel curtains that they must walk through to enter a room bustling with light and sound. It is alive with images of Jordanian landmarks and attractions, including Wadi Rum, The Dead Sea, archaeological sites and lush green landscapes.

In a matter of minutes, visitors can get a taste of the finest experiences Jordan offers, from the lowest land-based point on Earth, on the shores of the Dead Sea, to the highest viewpoints across the country.

For a more immersive experience, they can put on a headset and explore the country in virtual reality.

Visitors are encouraged to explore the exhibition space at their leisure and fully engage with the displays. Every element includes an interactive or sensory element. The highlight is an audio-visual journey that introduces the country’s treasures, past and present.

A PAVILION FOR EVERY NATION

Expo 2020 Dubai is the first World Expo to adopt a “One Nation, One Pavilion” approach, which means each of the 192 participating countries has its own pavilion.

This gives them the chance to showcase their national identities, stories, innovations and future strategies in dedicated spaces assigned to one of three key, themed districts devoted to a particular concept: Sustainability, Mobility or Opportunity. This gives visitors a chance to fully experience the beauty and culture of every participating nation.

To make the “One Nation, One Pavilion” goal a reality, host country the UAE set up an assistance fund to support the participation of countries that otherwise might not have been able to justify the cost.

Countries that received assistance were carefully selected based on criteria such as level of development, income and geography, with smaller landlocked countries and island nations given special consideration.

As a result Expo 2020 Dubai features two main types of pavilions: “Self-build” structures that were fully funded by the participating nations themselves, and those fully or partly funded by the expo.

Self-build pavilions vary in size, are spread across the expo site, and are accessible from the main concourses. They are large and diverse, featuring unique facades adorned with national symbols and branding. The largest of these pavilions belong to the UAE, China and India.

The structures built by, or with assistance from, the expo are more similar in external appearance, and surrounded by courtyards or exhibition spaces. The eligible developing countries were provided with a fully fitted pavilion of their own, complete with internal finishing, fittings and basic furnishings, situated at the heart of one of the themed zones to ensure high visibility.

Illuminated fields are projected onto the floor, and when stepped on they change shape and trigger the sounds of traditional Jordanian song and musical instruments, including the oud, nai and tabla.

The role of an expo pavilion, whatever its shape, size or design, is to tell the story of the country it represents from the cultural and economic standpoints.

While some of the interactive displays that help to do this in Jordan’s pavilion are fun and immersive, others provide more specialized, technical information on a range of business topics, including the country’s economy, its agenda for entrepreneurship and policies for female empowerment.

Despite an unassuming exterior, Jordan’s pavilion — which sits within an expo-built structure at the heart of the Mobility District — is a must-see.

Jordan links the content of its pavilion to Expo 2020’s wider, future-focused theme with a display dedicated to the launch of the first Jordanian satellite, CubeSat, which is one of the smallest of its kind.

The innovative design is the product of a cooperative program that partners engineering students at Jordanian universities with experts from NASA, under the supervision of Jordan’s Crown Prince Foundation. It is the first Jordanian venture in the space industry and was of particular interest during Expo 2020’s space-themed week.

Throughout the expo, Jordan will be hosting events designed to promote trade and cultural understanding and to stimulate inbound tourism. On Nov. 12, for instance, the country marked its National Day with a show at the expo featuring traditional music, a military band and other live performances.

Jordan’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai includes a gift shop offering authentic artisan products from the Hashemite kingdom. (Supplied)

After experiencing all that the pavilion has to offer, visitors can browse a gift shop showcasing a wide range of beautiful and unique Jordanian products, including handbags, olive oil and beauty products derived from the minerals of the Dead Sea.

Artisans are on hand to explain the cultural significance of the products, including face masks adorned with the national colors, bracelets made from local turquoise and other natural stones, and tea trays painted and decorated in traditional styles.

A message at the entrance to the pavilion states: “Whatever appeals to you, no doubt you’ll find it in Jordan. This hospitable land was, and still is today, a destination to many who call it home. Its people are known for their generosity and hospitality, making Jordan a visitors’ haven.”

Jordanians who have visited the pavilion told Arab News it lived up to their expectations, capturing not just the sights and sounds but also the spirit of their home country. Visitors are, indeed, likely to find something that appeals to them, they added.


Experts warn upcoming Libyan elections unlikely to heal rifts

Updated 03 December 2021

Experts warn upcoming Libyan elections unlikely to heal rifts

  • Armed groups have reportedly already strongarmed voters at polling stations and the full list of candidates has still not been finalized

LONDON: The political situation in Libya will remain unstable whether or not planned elections go ahead later this month, experts have warned, pointing to legal, political, and security failings that endanger stability in the near future.

In an event hosted Thursday by London think-tank Chatham House and attended by Arab News, a panel of speakers outlined their grim predictions for the future of Libya’s political roadmap.

Wolfram Lacher, senior associate at the German Institute for International Affairs, warned that the political situation is even worse than in the lead-up to the 2014 election, which ultimately saw the eruption of conflict between Tripoli and Benghazi-based parties.

“The current situation is immensely more problematic than it was in 2014. It’s not comparable at all,” said Lacher.

Parliamentary and presidential elections are planned for Dec. 24 for the first time since the cessation of hostilities in a civil war between the Government of National Unity’s Tripoli-based forces, the Government of National Accordand Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army, based in Benghazi.

Lacher explained that the years of division that ensued during that civil war have led to a more divided country than in pre-2014.

The creation of rival administrations, Lacher said, “essentially led to the whole constitutional architecture of Libya breaking down. There is no basis anymore than anyone agrees on.”

He continued: “We’ve had two civil wars in Libya since (2014) that have inflicted deep rifts on the social fabric. The militias have grown incredibly powerful since 2014, and much more politically involved.”

But Lacher warned that the legal process convened to run this month’s elections actually threatens to enflame these divisions, not heal them — as the election was intended to do.

Libyan authorities are currently embroiled in a dispute over the legal basis upon which certain candidates, such as former Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, could run. Some candidates have argued that Dbeibeh should be barred from running for President because he did not comply with laws that force officials to resign a minimum of three months before an election takes place.

But these ostensibly legal technical issues — that appear administrative in nature — have an important role in deciding the outcome of the vote itself, as well as the political reality and intra-Libyan dynamics in the days following the vote.

Experts warned that militias and armed factions could refuse to accept the vote if it does not go their way, and use legal issues, such as certain candidates being allowed to run, as grounds to delegitimize the entire process. It is not clear what would happen if losing candidates choose to do this.

Zahraa Langhi, member of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, told participants that both the LNA and GNA are currently benefitting from a political stalemate in Libya, and so they have no true interest in seeing a free and fair election carried out.

“The current political stalemate, the political fragmentation — all these forces are benefitting from it,” Langhi said, explaining that any delay in the election could “reward” those who spoil the election’s integrity.

She also said that interim governments, convened as part of international multilateral measures, “failed miserably” to rectify Libya’s political fragmentation — despite that objective being a “major, basic milestone in the roadmap to creating national unity.”

Langhi lamented a failure by the UN to engage effectively with actors on the ground in Libya.

“The (UN) special envoy is leaving (his post) in a couple of days, leaving the whole process without oversight.”

She said that the UN has left the issue of vetting candidates — fundamentally important to a safe and secure election — to Libya’s judiciary, which she believes has “failed to address the issue.”

Now Libyans are left with a series of candidates that Langhi said do not provide any real choice for Libyans, the most prominent of which are former Prime Minister Dbeibeh, former warlord Haftar, and possibly even Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi — son of late dictator Muammar Qaddafi. “This cannot continue,” she said.

But Otman Gajiji, former chairman of the Libyan High National Election Commission, cast doubt on the possibility that Libyans will manage to vote freely and fairly at all.

Not only do Libyans not have enough time to familiarize themselves with the dozens of candidates currently in the running for election, he said, but a series of attacks on polling stations are a grim omen for voting day.

“There are new unofficial reports that four polling stations were attacked by armed groups in Aziziya, and one was in Tripoli — all voter cards, or most of the voter cards, were taken by these armed groups. For me that is a very bad sign,” Gajiji said.

He added: “We are 22 days, three weeks, ahead of the elections. Such events are not a good indicator for the near future, or for the future of the elections.”


Opposition factions disagree on alliances needed for change in Lebanon

Updated 02 December 2021

Opposition factions disagree on alliances needed for change in Lebanon

  • Professional syndicates elections fail to inspire political shifts

BEIRUT: Elections held by professional syndicates in Lebanon over the past few weeks have not ended in tangible change.

The results of polls for the Lebanese bar associations, the Order of Pharmacists of Lebanon, and the Lebanese Press Editors’ Syndicate returned expected candidates, while the elections of the Lebanese Dental Association were suspended after a fight broke out between members.

Hezbollah members, meanwhile, entered the vote counting hall and proceeded to destroy ballot boxes.

However, the elections of the Order of Engineers and Architects saw the only official breach for the opposition candidates.

The last of these elections were those of the Press Editors’ Syndicate, which was held on Wednesday and saw an unprecedented voter turnout exceeding 73 percent. Twenty-seven candidates contested 12 seats on the syndicate’s council.

Joseph Kosseifi, the re-elected head of the syndicate, told Arab News that “journalists are part of this Lebanese society, but the syndicate is not politicized. It is the least politicized of the liberal professions syndicates. It is normal for journalists to have political tendencies, however, the work of the syndicate is related to the profession.”

Many of the candidates had called for change. May Abi Akl, who scored the second largest number of votes among the candidates who lost, was one of them. She noted that her decision to run for election “aimed at bringing about change within the Press Editors’ Syndicate and preventing the election of a closed list that only represents itself. Our objective was to introduce new blood into the syndicate and we were able to stir up the still water.”

As the results were announced on Wednesday night, the opposition candidates chanted “down with the rule of the ruling class.” However, Kosseifi said: “Whoever wants real change has to be a partner within the public assemblies and this is not happening. All the revolution on the streets was able to achieve is make people protest and scream. Apart from that, they failed to achieve a qualitative breach.”

Activist Dr. Ziad Abdel Samad said that “the elections of the liberal professions syndicates gave indications regarding the alignment of the ruling parties. Their performance was not good, even among themselves. We saw the Shiite duo, the Amal Movement and Hezbollah, working alone, while the Future Movement-Progressive Socialist Party alliance was somewhere else. On the other hand, the weakness of the ruling parties was not matched by a unified opposition.

“There are two opinions within the opposition. Some say that holding on to pure opposition will not achieve anything and that it sometimes needs an alliance with the opposing political forces to bring down the symbols of the ruling class. For example, an alliance between the opposition forces and the Kataeb Party could make a difference in regards to removing the representatives of the Free Patriotic Movement. However, others stress the importance of unifying all of the forces that are not part of the ruling class to be able to confront it,” Abdel Samad explained.

Electoral expert Zeina El-Helou told Arab News: “The political forces, no matter how opposed to the ruling class, want to build an alliance with me in order to take from me, not to give me. There are fundamental differences between the forces of the revolution and the opposing political forces. We do not agree on any political objective. How can we be their allies? They tell us to be their allies now and oppose them in Parliament. Does that mean that we are replacing one party of the ruling class with another party? We do not want to fight battles in Parliament. We want the Parliament to work. We want to make changes.”


Yemen army advances in Shabwa as coalition pounds Houthi targets

Updated 02 December 2021

Yemen army advances in Shabwa as coalition pounds Houthi targets

  • The Yemeni army troops have mounted many attacks on the Houthis in Bayhan, Ousylan and Ain since September

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen government forces liberated a large swathe of land in the southern province of Shabwa after heavy clashes with the Iran-backed Houthis as the Arab coalition struck more militia sites across Yemen.

Backed by air cover from the Arab coalition, government troops pushed deeper into Houthi-controlled Bayhan and Ousylan districts, expelling militia fighters from wide areas and taking control of a strategic road that connects the two districts, a military official told Arab News on Thursday.

The official said that at least 60 Houthis were killed in the fighting and government troops are pressing ahead with their attacks on the Houthis in the two districts.

The Yemeni army troops have mounted many attacks on the Houthis in Bayhan, Ousylan and Ain since September, when the Houthis seized control of the three districts and rolled into government-controlled areas in the neighboring Marib province.

In addition, government forces pushed to cut off key supply routes to the Houthis south of Marib, thereby alleviating the militia’s pressure on the central city of Marib.

At least 35 Houthis were killed in heavy fighting with government troops west and south of Marib city amid intensifying airstrikes by the Arab coalition warplanes, the military source said.

The heaviest battles occurred in Al-Amud and Abu Resh, where government forces repelled Houthi attacks. Less intensive fighting broke out in Mashjah and Al-Kasara, west of Marib, and the Houthis were forced to retreat after failing to make headway.

The Arab coalition announced on Thursday that it carried out precision airstrikes on targets in Sanaa, Saada and Marib that killed more than 45 Houthis.

The coalition said that early on Thursday its warplanes struck major weapon and supply warehouses and two sites under construction for military use in Sanaa and destroyed workshops for assembling drone and ballistic missiles in Saada, the Houthi heartland.

Hundreds of Houthi fighters have been killed in Marib province since last month when the Arab coalition intensified its air raids, paving the way for government forces on the ground to push back Houthi attacks.

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Libya court reinstates Qaddafi presidential bid amid election chaos

Updated 02 December 2021

Libya court reinstates Qaddafi presidential bid amid election chaos

  • Saif al-Islam Gaddafi's appeal against disqualification for the Dec. 24 vote was delayed for days as fighters blocked off the court
  • The elections commission said armed men had stormed five election centres in western Libya, stealing ballot cards

TRIPOLI: A Libyan court ruled on Thursday that the late leader Muammar Qaddafi’s son could run for president, his lawyer said, as arguments intensified over the conduct of an election aimed at ending a decade of turmoil.
Seif Al-Islam Qaddafi’s appeal against disqualification for the Dec. 24 vote was delayed for days as fighters blocked off the court, one of several incidents that may foreshadow wider election unrest.
In another incident on Thursday, the elections commission said armed men had stormed five election centers in western Libya, stealing ballot cards.
Analysts fear a contested vote, or one with clear violations, could derail a peace process that this year led to the formation of a unity government in an effort to bridge the rift between warring eastern and western factions.
A final list of candidates for the election has not yet been released amid a chaotic appeals process after the election commission initially disqualified 25 of the 98 who registered to run for president.
Qaddafi, who was sentenced to death by a Tripoli court in absentia in 2015 for warcrimes committed during the failed battle to save his father’s 40-year rule from a NATO-backed uprising, is one of several divisive candidates in the race.
He is a figurehead for Libyans still loyal to the former government of his father, whose toppling and death in 2011 heralded a decade of strife. After his lawyer announced the decision, his supporters celebrated in the streets across Sebha, witnesses said.
However, many other Libyans, including in the armed groups that hold the balance of power across swathes of the country, view his presence on the ballot as unacceptable after the bloody struggle to oust his father.
The blockade of the Sebha court this week by fighters allied to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar indicated the potential chaos that the planned election could unleash with armed groups backing or opposing rival candidates.
Haftar, whose Libyan National Army (LNA) controls much of eastern and southern Libya, is himself a candidate for the election. The LNA said the units allied to it had been protecting the court rather than blocking it.