UK’s new leader slams Putin, hails queen in debut UN speech

British PM Liz Truss slams Russian President Vladimir Putin for “doubling down” after he earlier mobilized reservists in a clear sign he is in no rush to end the conflict in Ukraine. (AFP)
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Updated 22 September 2022

UK’s new leader slams Putin, hails queen in debut UN speech

  • Truss called the war in Ukraine a battle for “our values and the security of the whole world”
  • She accused the Russian leader of “desperately trying to justify his catastrophic failures”

UNITED NATIONS, United States: British Prime Minister Liz Truss on Wednesday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of making “saber-rattling threats” to cover his failed invasion of Ukraine, as she told the United Nations that its founding principles were fracturing because of aggression by authoritarian states.
In her debut speech to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday night, Truss called the war in Ukraine a battle for “our values and the security of the whole world,” and extolled the late Queen Elizabeth II as a symbol of everything the UN stands for.
Responding to a statement from Putin that he was mobilizing reservists and would use everything at his disposal to protect Russia — an apparent reference to his nuclear arsenal — Truss accused the Russian leader of “desperately trying to justify his catastrophic failures.”
“He is doubling down by sending even more reservists to a terrible fate,” she said. “He is desperately trying to claim the mantle of democracy for a regime without human rights or freedoms. And he is making yet more bogus claims and saber-rattling threats.”
“This will not work. The international alliance is strong — Ukraine is strong,” said Truss, who addressed the UN on the same day Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to the global gathering by video.
In a speech outlining her view of foreign policy in a world turned upside down by Russia’s invasion, Truss spoke of the queen, whose funeral on Monday was attended by many of the world leaders now gathered at the United Nations.
She said the queen “symbolized the postwar values on which this organization was founded.” She said the monarch, who died this month after 70 years on the throne, “transcended difference and healed division.”
Truss referred to a speech to the UN by the queen in 1957, in which Elizabeth said “the peoples of the world expect the United Nations to persevere in its efforts” to end conflict and crisis.
Truss said the monarch had “warned that it was vital not only to have strong ideals but also to have the political will to deliver on them. Now we must show that will.”
In her first international speech since becoming prime minister two weeks ago, Truss hailed the founding principles of the United Nations, while calling for new international alliances to circumvent the influence of authoritarian regimes.
She said “geopolitics is entering a new era” in which “authoritarian states are undermining stability and security around the world.” That was a direct shot at Russia — and also at China, whose growing clout among developing nations is a major concern for the United States and its allies.
Truss said the world’s democratic powers must woo developing nations with “strategic ties based on mutual benefit and trust” rather than “exerting influence through debt, aggression, and taking control of critical infrastructure and minerals.”
She also called for a toughening of the West’s response to Russia’s invasion. She urged sanctions on Russia and said “the G-7 and our like-minded partners should act as an economic NATO,” supporting countries targeted by “the economic aggression of authoritarian regimes.”
She urged nations to find alternatives to Russian oil and gas and protect supply chains for everything from food to minerals. “The free world needs this economic strength and resilience to push back against authoritarian aggression and win this new era of strategic competition,” she said.
Truss said post-Brexit Britain was “building new partnerships around the world,” citing its role in NATO and the Joint Expeditionary Force military group of northern European nations, whose importance has increased since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
She also pointed to deepening ties with “fellow democracies like India, Indonesia and South Africa” and trade ambitions with Indo-Pacific and Gulf states, a sign that Britain, now outside the European Union, sees the rest of the world — and especially Asia — as a political and economic priority.
The speech amounts to a bold statement of the new prime minister’s world view. But Truss is likely to draw criticism for linking the global fight for freedom and democracy to her own plans to change Britain’s economy.
Saying that “our commitment to hope and progress must begin at home,” Truss said demonstrating the strength of democracy “begins with growth and building a British economy that rewards enterprise and attracts investment.” To Truss, a Conservative free marketeer, that means cutting individual and corporate taxes and slashing regulations for business.
Opponents say tax cuts reward the rich more than the poor and will do little to ease a cost-of-living crisis, fueled largely by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that has pushed UK inflation to 10 percent, a level not seen in four decades.
Despite the economic shockwaves, Truss said Britain’s commitment to defending Ukraine “is total.”
“This,” she said, “is a decisive moment in our history, in the history of this organization, and in the history of freedom.”


Germany to seek EU sanctions on Iran over protests crackdown: foreign minister

Updated 7 sec ago

Germany to seek EU sanctions on Iran over protests crackdown: foreign minister

BERLIN: German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Thursday said she was pushing for EU sanctions on Iran over the Islamic republic’s lethal crackdown on protests sparked by the death of a young woman in police custody.
“Within the framework of the EU, I am doing everything I can to get sanctions under way against those in Iran who are beating women to death and shooting demonstrators in the name of religion,” Baerbock wrote on Twitter.

'Stand for each other': Afghan women rally in support of antigovernment protests in Iran

Updated 29 September 2022

'Stand for each other': Afghan women rally in support of antigovernment protests in Iran

  • Protesters gathered in front of Iranian embassy in Kabul chanting, 'women, life, freedom'
  • The protest was soon dispersed by Taliban security forces who fired into the air

KABUL: Afghan women rallied in front of the Iranian embassy in Kabul on Thursday, joining global protests over the death of a young woman in the custody of Iran’s morality police.

Mahsa Amini, 22, was detained in Tehran on Sept. 12 for failing to cover her hair modestly enough. Women who were arrested along with Amini have said she was beaten inside a police van. Three days later she died in hospital after falling into a coma.

Public anger over her death has prompted days of rage and street protests across Iran, in what has been the largest manifestation of dissent against the Iranian government in over a decade.

Protests have also spilled to other countries.

A group of about 25 women who gathered in front of the Iranian embassy in Kabul carried placards that read: “Beautiful Mahsa, your blood is our way and inspiration,” as they chanted “women, life, freedom” — the phrase that has been used by demonstrators in Iran.

A 24-year-old university student who participated in the protest told Arab News she had attended the rally in solidarity with the women of Iran.

“Women in Iran and we are facing the same oppression. We wanted to show that we can amplify the voices of our sisters in Iran while highlighting our own concerns for freedom and dignity,” she said, on condition of anonymity.

“The widespread protests in Iran supported by men and women also inspired us to continue our fight for the rights of Afghan women in Afghanistan. Afghan women have been brave enough to defy the Taliban’s restrictive attitude. We will not be silenced and we will rise again.”

The rights of Afghan women have been limited since the Taliban took control of the country after US-led forces withdrew from Afghanistan in August last year.

Although they had previously promised a softer version of the harsh rule during their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001, women have already been ordered to wear face cover in public, banned from making long-distance journeys alone, and prevented from working in most sectors outside of health and education.

Since September last year, permission from the Ministry of Justice is required to organize a protest. Slogans used during rallies must also be approved by authorities.

Soon after Thursday’s rally in front of the Iranian embassy began, it was dispersed by Taliban security forces, who fired into the air.

For Afghan women’s rights activist like Muzhgan Noori, the protest was a “fine example of sisterhood and solidarity among women sharing the same pain and concerns.”

“Afghan women have protested whenever they felt the need for it, and they should be able to do so now. The government must support and protect them instead of frightening them,” she told Arab News.

“I hope women continue to stand for each other.”


Pakistani court acquits ex-PM’s daughter in corruption case

Updated 29 September 2022

Pakistani court acquits ex-PM’s daughter in corruption case

  • Maryam Nawaz is the vice president of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League
  • The court also acquitted her husband, Mohammad Sadar

ISLAMABAD: A court in Pakistan’s capital city on Thursday acquitted the daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after she was sentenced to seven years in prison over charges connected with the purchase of luxury apartments in London.
Maryam Nawaz, the vice president of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, said outside the Islamabad High court that she is “thankful to God that justice has been done.” The luxury apartments at issue are owned by her brothers.
The court also acquitted her husband, Mohammad Sadar, who had been sentenced to one year in jail on charges of giving false information to investigators in 2018.
Sharif, who had also been sentenced to 10 years in jail in the same case, has been living in self-imposed exile in London since 2019 after authorities released him on bail so that he could travel abroad to seek medical treatment.


US vice president Kamala Harris caps Asia trip with stop at DMZ dividing Koreas

Updated 29 September 2022

US vice president Kamala Harris caps Asia trip with stop at DMZ dividing Koreas

  • The visit comes on the heels of North Korea’s latest missile launches
  • At the DMZ, Harris went to the top of a ridge, near guard towers and security cameras

PANMUNJOM, Korea: US Vice President Kamala Harris capped her four-day trip to Asia with a stop Thursday at the Demilitarized Zone dividing the Korean Peninsula as she emphasized US commitment to the security of its Asian allies in the face of an increasingly aggressive North Korea.
The visit comes on the heels of North Korea’s latest missile launches and amid fears that the country may conduct a nuclear test. Visiting the DMZ has become something of a ritual for American leaders hoping to show their resolve to stand firm against aggression.
North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday, while Harris was in Japan, and had fired one before she left Washington on Sunday. The launches contribute to a record level of missile testing this year that is intended to move Pyongyang closer to being acknowledged as a full-fledged nuclear power.
At the DMZ, Harris went to the top of a ridge, near guard towers and security cameras. She looked through bulky binoculars as a South Korean colonel pointed out military installations on the southern side. Then an American colonel pointed out some of the defenses along the military demarcation line, including fence topped with barbed wire and claymore mines. He said American soldiers regularly walk patrols along a path.
“It’s so close,” Harris said.
Her tour visit to the observation post came after she met US service members and some of their relatives at the Camp Bonifas Dining Facility, where she said she wanted them to know “how grateful and thankful we are.”
“I know it’s not always easy. Most of the time it’s not,” she said.
She asked a soldier from Florida on whether he checked in on his family after Hurricane Ian.
“Yeah, they’re up on a hill,” he said.
When another soldier stammered nervously while introducing himself, Harris said, “You know your name!”
“They’re going to give you such a hard time when this is over,” she joked.
Earlier, Harris met with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol at his office in Seoul where they condemned North Korea’s intensifying weapons tests and reaffirmed the US commitment to defend the South with a full range of its military capabilities in the event of war, Yoon’s office said.
They expressed concern over North Korea’s threats of nuclear conflict and pledged an unspecified stronger response to major North Korean provocations, including a nuclear test, which South Korean officials say could possibly take place in coming months.
Harris and Yoon were also expected to discuss expanding economic and technology partnerships and repairing recently strained ties between Seoul and Tokyo to strengthen their trilateral cooperation with Washington in the region.
Harris’ trip was organized so she could attend the state funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but her itinerary was dominated by security concerns, a reflection of fears about China’s growing power and North Korea’s ramped-up testing activity.
In every meeting, Harris tried to lay to rest any fears that the United States was wavering in its commitment to protect its allies, describing American partnerships with South Korea and Japan as the “linchpin” and “cornerstone” of its defense strategy in Asia.
Yoon, who took office earlier this year, had anchored his election campaign with vows to deepen Seoul’s economic and security partnership with Washington to navigate challenges posed by the North Korean threat and address potential supply chain risks caused by the pandemic, the US-China rivalry and Russia’s war on Ukraine. But the alliance has been marked by tension recently.
South Koreans have expressed a sense of betrayal over a new law signed by President Joe Biden that prevents electric cars built outside of North America from being eligible for US government subsidies, undermining the competitiveness of automakers like Seoul-based Hyundai.
There are indications North Korea may up its weapons demonstrations soon as it refines its missiles and delivery systems and attempts to pressure Washington to accept the North as a nuclear power. South Korean officials said last week that they detected signs North Korea was preparing to test a ballistic missile system designed to be fired from submarines.
The US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan was to train with South Korean and Japanese warships in waters near the Korean Peninsula on Friday in the countries’ first trilateral anti-submarine exercises since 2017 to counter North Korean submarine threats, South Korea’s navy said Thursday.
US and South Korean officials also say North Korea is possibly gearing up for its first nuclear test since 2017. That test could come after China holds its Communist Party convention the week of Oct. 16, but before the United States holds its midterm elections Nov. 8, according to South Korean lawmakers who attended a closed-door briefing from the National Intelligence Service.


Taliban fire into air to disperse women’s rally backing Iran protests

Updated 29 September 2022

Taliban fire into air to disperse women’s rally backing Iran protests

KABUL:  Taliban forces fired shots into the air on Thursday to disperse a women’s rally supporting protests in Iran over the death of a woman in the custody of morality police.
Deadly protests have erupted in neighboring Iran for the past two weeks, following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while detained by the Islamic republic’s morality police.
Chanting the same “Women, life, freedom” mantra used in Iran, about 25 Afghan women protested in front of Kabul’s Iranian embassy before being dispersed by Taliban forces firing in the air, an AFP correspondent reported.
Women protesters carried banners that read: “Iran has risen, now it’s our turn!” and “From Kabul to Iran, say no to dictatorship!“
Taliban forces swiftly snatched the banners and tore them in front of the protesters.
Defiant Afghan women’s rights activists have staged sporadic protests in Kabul and some other cities since the Taliban stormed back to power last August.
The protests, banned by the Taliban, contravene a slew of harsh restrictions imposed by the hard-line extremists on Afghan women.
The Taliban have forcefully dispersed women’s rallies in the past, warned journalists against covering them and detained activists helming organization efforts.
An organizer of Thursday’s protest, speaking anonymously, told AFP it was staged “to show our support and solidarity with the people of Iran and the women victims of the Taliban in Afghanistan.”
Since returning to power, the Taliban have banned secondary school education for girls and barred women from many government jobs.
Women have also been ordered to fully cover themselves in public, preferably with the all-encompassing burqa.
So far the Taliban have dismissed international calls to remove the curbs on women, especially the ban on secondary school education.
On Tuesday, a United Nations report denounced the “severe restrictions” and called for them to be reversed.
The international community has insisted that lifting controls on women’s rights is a key condition for recognizing the Taliban government, which no country has so far done.