GCC declares Lebanon's Hezbollah a 'terrorist' group

Member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have classified Lebanese movement Hezbollah as a “terrorist” organisation, citing “hostile actions” by the armed group. 

GCC Secretary General Abdullatif al-Zayani said on Wednesday that the six Gulf monarchies undertook the move because “the [Hezbollah] militia recruited young people [of the Gulf] for terrorist acts,” which he said were threatening Arab security.

 Inside Story – Lebanon’s deepening crisis

Hezbollah, a Shia political organisation with an armed wing, fights in neighbouring Syria to support the government of President Bashar al-Assad. 

The Sunni-dominated GCC comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

In June, 2013, the council threatened to “take measures” against Hezbollah over the group’s involvement in Syria and alleged provocations in Bahrain, though the council did not formally label Hezbollah as a “terrorist” organisation at the time. 

At least one of the measures materialised last month when Saudi Arabia halted a $4bn programme funding French military supplies to Beirut.

Hezbollah is backed by Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Iran, with whom relations have worsened this year. The two nations are on opposing sides in conflicts in Syria and Yemen.


READ MORE: Lebanon and Saudi Arabia’s love and hate relationship


Announcing the military funding cut last month, a Saudi official said the kingdom had noticed “hostile Lebanese positions resulting from the stranglehold of Hezbollah on the state”.

Riyadh would be conducting “a comprehensive review of its relations with the Lebanese republic”, the unnamed official said.

He specifically cited Lebanon’s refusal to join the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in condemning attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran in January.

Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Tehran after demonstrators set fire to its embassy and a consulate following the Saudi execution of a prominent Shia cleric

Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah lashed out at Saudi Arabia during a televised speech on Tuesday. 


READ MORE: What’s to become of Lebanon?


“The kingdom is trying to put pressure on the Lebanese to try to silent us but we will not be silent on the crimes the Saudis are committing in Yemen and elsewhere,” Nasrallah said. 

“Does Saudi Arabia have the right to punish Lebanon, its state and its army because a certain party has decided to raise its voice?” he asked.

“If they have a problem with us, let them keep it with us, and let them spare Lebanon and the Lebanese,” Nasrallah added.

Last month, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain also called on their citizens to leave Lebanon or to avoid travelling there. 

Kuwait’s National Assembly on Wednesday announced a new law aimed at criminalising expressions of support for Hezbollah on social media.

“The law criminalises tweets that support or advocate the terrorist group Hezbollah, as a crime under the new cybercrime law of 2012,” the assembly announced.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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Oman bus crash kills 18 people: state news agency

 
>> 
Reuters

Published: 2016-03-02 13:22:06.0 BdST
Updated: 2016-03-02 13:22:06.0 BdST

Eighteen people were killed and 14 injured when the bus they were traveling in crashed into a truck in central Oman on Tuesday morning, state news agency ONA reported.

The collision occurred on a roundabout connecting the districts of Ibri and Fuhud and the victims came from several countries, the statement said.

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Can Obama bring power to Africa?

US President Barack Obama (L) talks with June Muli, head of Customer Care at M-Kopa, about solar power during the Power Africa Innovation FairImage copyright
AFP

In February US President Barack Obama signed an agreement to bring electricity to 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020. Neil Ford asks, even if this is possible, how many will still be left in the dark?

Perhaps the most remarkable things about the Electrify Africa Act of 2015 are that it commits the US to increased foreign aid at a time of economic uncertainty and cuts through sharp political divisions.

The Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce, worked with Democrat Eliot Engel for two years to drive the bill through Congress.

The act commits the US government to supporting President Obama’s Power Africa initiative. Although headlined as a $50bn (£36bn) scheme, the US authorities will contribute just $7bn.

Other governments, development agencies and private sector companies are expected to provide the remainder in public-private partnerships.

This will be difficult to achieve during a global economic downturn.

Even if it succeeds in its aim of bringing electricity to 50 million Africans by 2020, more than 10 times that number will still be without power.

So the Power Africa initiative is not a magic bullet, but it has at least highlighted Africa’s power supply problems.

Permanently off grid

It is easy to take electricity for granted.

Most African homes lack fridges and electric cookers but even a single electric light bulb can bring security and allow children to do their homework after dark.

Mobile phones encourage economic growth but the lack of electricity makes recharging them yet another hurdle to be cleared.

According to the latest World Bank data, 35% of sub-Saharan Africans have no access to electricity.

This is a far lower figure than in any other region.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

People who do not have electricity use charcoal to cook

The next lowest rate is 22% for South Asia, while all five North African countries claim 100% coverage.

Most Africans use wood and kerosene for fuel, causing deforestation and thousands of fatal accidents every year.

The 35% figure masks huge variations, with electrification rates ranging from 5% in South Sudan up to 100% in Mauritius.

Connection rates in rural areas are typically worse than 10%.

Most of those with electricity at home live in cities, supplied by grids that were developed in colonial times but which have failed to expand with urban growth.

Image copyright
Clare Spencer

Even many of those connected to the grid suffer from unreliable supplies.

So those who can afford them, buy their own expensive diesel fired generators.

While South Africa relies on coal-fired plants, most African countries depend on large hydro schemes to generate electricity.

Yet unreliable rainfall means that hydroelectric production varies even during a good year and is even worse – as at present – during an El Nino event.

The main problem is a lack of revenue.

Most consumers are unable to afford to pay a commercial rate for electricity.

This prevents power utilities from earning enough money to pay for new generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure; generation capacity to produce electricity; transmission to move it across big distances; and distribution to get it into people’s homes and businesses.

Either people need to become richer, or power needs to be cheaper.

Luckily, a solution may be at hand.

The price of photovoltaic (PV) solar power panels is falling, while solar cells are becoming more efficient, so PV is becoming a cost-effective option.

Such off-grid solutions avoid the need for expensive transmission and distribution infrastructure.

Juice for mobiles

Power Africa is already supporting very small-scale solar PV.

It has awarded part-funding to 28 off-grid projects, along with the technical support that small-scale developers often lack.

Many more will now follow suit.

Image copyright
Clare Spencer

Image caption

The first kWh is said to be the most valuable because it powers your mobile phone

Most of these projects involve solar PV or biomass, which involves using agricultural waste as a power generation feedstock.

Power Africa describes the first kWh people gain access to as the “the most valuable” because it provides at least a single source of electric light and the ability to charge mobile phones and radios.

With its commitment to providing “cleaner power generation”, many of the on-grid ventures backed by Power Africa also involve renewable energy.

In some cases, it is directly funding generation projects, such as the 152 MW Sarreole wind farm in Senegal.

More often, it will supply technical support and dedicated advisors.

It has already helped Ghana to tap its newly discovered gas reserves for thermal power production by providing regulatory advice.

New projects will be identified as more of the funding is made available.

It may be that a single grand scheme cannot solve Africa’s power problems but Power Africa can help provide local solutions, one at a time.

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Turnover Port of Rotterdam Authority increases, sound profit development

Port_of_Rotterdam_NEW

Last year, turnover of the Port Authority increased by 2.6% to €676.9 million. This was mainly due to a 4.9% rise in the throughput of goods as a result of which the Port Authority received more port dues. Costs are under control, therefore profit development is sound. Nevertheless, profits fell by 1.7% to €211.6 million due to the redemption of a long-term loan. This has reduced the debt that has been accumulated due to the construction of Maasvlakte 2.

jaarverslag

Chief Financial Officer Paul Smits: “Our financial situation shows a positive development. For the second consecutive year after the construction of Maasvlakte 2 the cash flow is positive, which allows us to continue to invest in the port and at the same time improve our debt position. The fact that our revenues have not increased to the same extent as the throughput shows that we are making an effort to keep Rotterdam attractive for business.”

The two main sources of income for the Port Authority are the lease of sites and the seaport dues that ships pay when they visit the port. Revenues from the lease of sites rose by €3.3 million (+1.0%) to €340.8 million. This is the sum of – on the one hand – the allocation of a site to Sif – Verbrugge at Maasvlakte 2, indexation of contracts and renewal of contracts at revised prices, and – on the other – termination of the contract with Shtandart, resulting in the Port Authority recovering a site. The port dues increased by €10.3 million (+3.4%) to €316.5 million, which is less than the rise in throughput (+4.9%). The Port Authority granted environmentally-friendly ships discounts on port dues totalling €3.8 million. Overall, operating revenues rose by €17.1 million (+2.6%) to €676.9 million.

Operating expenses rose by 3.3% to €133.6 million, mainly due to higher costs for the management and maintenance of port infrastructure and investments in innovations such as PortXL and SmartPort. Costs for internal business operations remained stable. The income from participating interests amounted to €8.9 million, over 50% more than the previous year. The size of this item is determined mainly by the successful participation in the port of Sohar (Oman). For the redemption of a loan the Port Authority paid a one-off sum of €19.2 million. This is the main reason why profit for 2015 declined by 1.7% to €211.6 million.

Dividends of €91 million

In conformity with long-term agreements, the Port Authority will propose to its shareholders – the municipality of Rotterdam (70.83%) and the State (29.17%) – to pay dividends of €91.0 million (+2.0%) for 2015: €64.5 million to the municipality, and €26.5 million to the State.

Investments vs corporation tax

The mission of the Port of Rotterdam Authority is to create economic and social value by generating sustainable growth together with customers and stakeholders. That is why the Port Authority, in addition to paying off debts and paying dividends, uses its profits to invest in the development of the port. Investments in 2015 included new buoys and dolphins in the Caland and Hartel Canals, the construction of the LNG Breakbulk terminal, quay walls for UWT and Sif – Verbrugge, a jetty for LBC and the redevelopment of RDM Rotterdam. Last year, the Port Authority invested a total of €151.1 million compared to €189.4 million in the previous year.

The investment portfolio for the coming years is well-filled with projects such as the diversion of approximately 4 km of the Port Railway Line via the Theemsweg. This concerns public infrastructure to which the Port Authority will contribute almost €100 million. In competing ports in neighbouring countries, the government pays for that kind of public infrastructure. It is therefore particularly unfortunate that the European Commission has decided that the Port Authority will have to pay corporation tax as from 1 January 2017. The Port Authority is considering an appeal against this decision because it violates the principle that a level playing field should exist within Europe.

Integrated annual report

Since 2009, the Port of Rotterdam Authority has integrated its financial annual report and its CSR report, as corporate social responsibility is embedded in the company. For the sixth consecutive year, Ernst & Young Accountants LLP has issued an integrated auditor’s report for the annual report. The report is in line with the new G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative.
Source: Port of Rotterdam Authority

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EU renews its support to Palestinian Authority and Palestinian refugees with a first 2016 assistance package totalling €252.5 million

Today, the European Commission has approved a €252.5 million assistance package supporting the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian refugees. It is the first part of the EU’s 2016 annual support package in favour of Palestine[1].

High Representative/ Vice-President Federica Mogherini, said: “The European Union renews its concrete commitment to the Palestinians. Through this package, the EU supports the daily lives of Palestinians in the fields of education and health, protecting the poorest families and also providing the Palestinian refugees across the country with access to essential services. These are tangible steps on the ground that can improve the lives of Palestinian people. But these steps are not enough; Palestinian institutions must continue to grow stronger, become more transparent, more accountable and more democratic. Viable and inclusive institutions, based on respect for the rule of law and human rights, are crucial in view of the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian State. Because what we want to achieve is the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian State living side by side, in peace and security, with the State of Israel and other neighbours.

Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, said: “The EU remains firm in its commitment to Palestinians and actively supports a two-state solution. Our assistance to ensure the functioning of the Palestinian Authority and to support vulnerable Palestinian groups, including Palestinian refugees is a concrete example of this commitment. Let me also thank all EU Member States for their continued backing of EU programmes for this troubled region, which have proved effective.”

Within today’s package, €170.5 million will be channelled directly to the Palestinian Authority, through the PEGASE mechanism (Mécanisme Palestino-Européen de Gestion de l’Aide Socio-Economique). Through these funds the EU will support the Palestinian Authority in delivering health and education services, protecting the poorest families and providing financial assistance to the hospitals in East Jerusalem.

The remaining €82 million will be a contribution to the Programme Budget of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in the Near East (UNRWA), which provides essential services for Palestinian refugees across the region. This support aims at offering improved access to essential public services and increased livelihood opportunities to the most vulnerable Palestinian refugees.

A second package of measures in favour of the Palestinians will be announced later in the year.

Background

PEGASE (Mécanisme Palestino-Européen de Gestion de l’Aide Socio-Economique) is the mechanism through which the EU helps the Palestinian Authority build the institutions of a future independent Palestinian state. Through the payment of pensions and civil servants’ salaries, it ensures that essential public services keep operating. PEGASE also provides social allowances to Palestinian households living in extreme poverty and a contribution to pay the Palestinian Authority’s bills due to East Jerusalem hospitals.

UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) provides essential services for Palestine refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The EU is the largest multilateral donor of international assistance to Palestinian refugees. Between 2007 and 2014, the EU contributed over €1 billion to UNRWA, including €809 million to the Programme Budget. In addition, the EU has generously contributed to UNRWA humanitarian emergency appeals and projects in response to various crises and specific needs across the region. EU Member States provide additional crucial support to the Agency. The partnership between the EU and UNRWA has allowed millions of Palestinian refugees to be better educated, live healthier lives, access employment opportunities and improve their living conditions, thus contributing to the development of the entire region.

Further information on EU assistance to Palestine1:

European Commission:

http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/neighbourhood/countries/palestine/index_en.htm

EU Delegation: http://www.eeas.europa.eu/delegations/westbank/index_en.htm

UNRWA: http://www.unrwa.org/

[1] This designation shall not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual positions of the Member States on this issue.

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Oman road crash leaves at least 18 dead

A crash involving a bus, truck and car has killed at least 18 people and injured 14 others in the Gulf Arab country of Oman.

Police said the collision on Tuesday morning occurred on a road between the northern cities of Fahud and Ibri.

The state-run Oman News Agency said the accident happened at a roundabout and that some of the survivors suffered serious injuries.

Oman police spokesman Mohammed bin Salama al-Hashami said officials were still not sure what caused the collision. The dead included Saudis, Omanis and Asians, he said.

He added that those hurt had injuries ranging from serious to minor and had been transported to hospitals throughout the country.

Source: Agencies

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MAST appoint Rear Admiral Anthony Rix as new Business Development and Board advisor

MAST

International maritime security company MAST have announced today the appointment of Rear Admiral Anthony Rix as Business Development and Board advisor. Anthony’s responsibilities within the team will include advising commercial ship-owners and private yacht owners on a range of maritime matters and supporting MAST on their global maritime security business.

Anthony previously worked for five years in London as Director of Maritime Security at Salamanca Risk Management Ltd and for 34 years as a Warfare Officer in Operations in the Royal Navy, where he retired as a Rear Admiral in 2009. He has proven expertise in Corporate Communications, Maritime Security policy and operations, Training, Equipment Procurement and Change Programmes in the UK and abroad, as well as extensive first-hand experience of Intelligence provision, team leading and security project management in the Middle East and West Africa.

Phil Cable, CEO and co-founder, MAST said:

“Anthony is an accomplished senior leader with wide-ranging command, leadership and operational experience, and we are looking forward to utilising his expertise within the team. MAST is in the final phase of completing a highly successful training project in Oman and as part of a Bae offset programme, we have trained the Omani Maritime Police and Coastguard in boarding and search techniques, navigation and general maritime skills.
“ We are in a strong position to replicate this project in other territories and are speaking to officials West Africa, and also believe this product to be relevant to other Coastguard operations in South East Asia and the Gulf. I am confident that Anthony will be an invaluable asset in expanding and implementing projects such as these and warmly welcome him to MAST.”

Antony Rix commented:

“MAST is a market leader in maritime security and this is certainly an exciting time to be joining the team. Their strong international presence and impressive track record of past operational experience helped me make this decision, in what is a time of multiple maritime security threats around the globe. ,. I look forward to helping deliver on MAST’s core promises of professionalism and, integrity, and making the high seas a safer place to live and work in 2016.”

Source: MAST

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Q&A: A 'terrible moment' for the Arab world

Beirut – My Name is Adam, the latest novel by Elias Khoury, a novelist, playwright, critic, cultural journalist and public intellectual, is set in the Palestinian town of Lydda in 1948. It explores life for the Palestinians who remained in what Israelis dubbed “the ghetto”. 

Khoury has also written about Lebanon’s civil war and spoken publicly about the wave of revolutions that washed over the Arab world in 2011, which he calls a “big step” whose ramifications are still unfolding.

Khoury spoke with Al Jazeera about how his novels help to mark the difference between past and present, about the ongoing violence in Israel, and about the Arab Spring five years on.

‘I’m telling stories, I’m not teaching lessons in history or philosophy,’ Khoury says [Getty Images]

Al Jazeera: You have said that you don’t consider your novels to be historical, because when you write about the Lebanese Civil War or the Palestinian Nakba, you are writing about the present. Can you elaborate on that?

Elias Khoury: My first novel about the Civil War, Little Mountain, was published in 1977, so it was written in 1975 and 1976, during the war. My idea was that we have to write what we are living, because this separation between writing and living, between spoken and written, must be destroyed. Speaking about something that happened 10 years ago is not the past, it’s present – otherwise everything is past. Ten minutes ago is the past. It becomes an absurdity.

I’m telling stories, I’m not teaching lessons in history or philosophy. I’m just telling stories – love stories, life stories. I love these characters and I find them interesting, and through them I discover different aspects of reality.

Al Jazeera: Is your new novel, My Name is Adam, the long-awaited follow-up to Gate of the Sun [a previous book that chronicled the Palestinian saga]?

Khoury: It’s set in Palestine and this book is the first volume. It’s supposed to be a trilogy, but every book is independent. It is a continuation of Gate of the Sun in the sense that it chronicles the Nakba and the aftermath.

It begins in the city of Lydda, and it tells a story which is not known at all. The biggest massacre of 1948 happened in Lydda, but this is not the issue. The issue is that the people who stayed in Lydda were quite a small number. From 50,000, something like 500 or 600 people stayed. The Israelis let them live for a year and two months in an enclosed area, surrounded by razor wire. There was one door and they couldn’t leave, and the Israelis called it the ghetto.

This novel is entitled My Name is Adam because the narrator’s name is Adam. He was born in 1948, so he was the first baby born in the ghetto.

He’s telling the memories of his mother and the people with whom he lives in this first year in the ghetto, which was a terrible year, because the Palestinians who stayed were obliged to do forced labour and the labour was terrible, because the major part of it was to collect the corpses from the streets of the city.


READ MORE: The terrible illusions of the Arab Spring


Al Jazeera: How did you research the historical background?

Khoury: There are some testimonies which were written about Lydda, but very few, and I collected a lot of oral testimonies. It was very difficult because I could not go there.

For Gate of the Sun, it was easier because I was working in the camps here in Lebanon. This time I had to collect information by Skype and phone and WhatsApp and Viber – actually, I learned to use this technology because of this. There were also many people who I met, in New York and also in Jordan.

Al-Nakba – Episode 1

Al Jazeera: What do you make of the renewed wave of violence in the occupied Palestinian territories in recent months? 

Khoury: I think in the Arab East, we are going through something new. My feeling is that we are entering a new phase, and maybe it’s the toughest phase of our contemporary history. If we take the Palestinian cause, what we feel is that there is no political option. The Palestinians have no options at all.

In the Oslo Accords, which came as a result of the first intifada, the Palestinians surrendered. The Oslo Agreement is a total surrender by a people who accepted losing 78 percent of their homeland.

The condition of surrender is that if you surrender, you have to survive. The Israelis have proved that they refused the Palestinians’ surrender. They are continuing the occupation and it’s becoming unimaginable now to think about the Israelis agreeing to the two-state plan.

I think it’s impossible for the Israelis to agree to it now; it would lead to a civil war in Israel. They have created a situation that’s irreversible. What does this mean? It means that the Palestinians have to accept to be stateless.

It’s an apartheid system without recognition of the Palestinians as citizens. In a sense, we’ve gone back to the origin of things, where survival is resistance. My reading of the resistance that’s taking place now is that it’s not led by anybody and it cannot be stopped by anybody.

These are the first signs of a new type of resistance, which is resistance against an apartheid system.

Al Jazeera: You gave a keynote speech about the Arab Spring back in 2012, in which you spoke of the revolutions as a positive force for change. Do you still feel this way?

Khoury: Positive or negative, history decides. We are living it and we cannot see what will happen and how things will unfold, but I think what happened in the Arab states is a big step and nothing can go back to the status that was before.

Look at Egypt, where they tried to bring back the status quo with Sisi; it’s undoable. That system is over. But on the other hand, the failure of the secular political groups is terrible. We are going through a very tough period.

I don’t see any end for the civil wars in Syria and Iraq. And, of course, one of the terrible outcomes of this is the collapse of society. I don’t think it’s the revolutions that are responsible for this catastrophe.

The revolutions happened because it was the end of an era and people couldn’t take any more of this type of regime. But the savagery of the despotic apparatus led a revolution towards a sectarian civil war.

We are in a very terrible moment, and I don’t think we can rethink the destiny of the states one by one. We have to rethink the destiny of the region.

It’s all related. I think this is the last struggle of the ancient despotic ways of governing and thinking. They are fighting their last battles and they will be very bloody and they will defend themselves to the end, but there is nothing that can save them. This is the end of an era.

Source: Al Jazeera

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