Daily Archives: April 5, 2015

Rifi: Whoever hampers electing a president,…

NNA – Whoever hampers the election of a new president, commits a treachery against the fatherland, minister of Justice Ashraf Rifi warned during his inspection of Tripoli Book Fair today.

Having greeted Christians on the advent of Easter Sunday, the general metaphorically hoped to witness the resurrection of a new fatherland despite difficult stations endured by the Middle Eastern region as a whole.

Rifi dismissed the likelihood of a major Lebanese conflagration for all political factions including Hizbullah, have a vested interest in maintaining a state of domestic calm under the lid as he said. However and in an indirect reference to Hizbullah, Rifi added that whoever suffers from a steaming head intoxicated with power, they would simply delude themselves in thinking that they can prevail alone, for the state alone must do that, he retorted.

The minister urged Iran to act as a nation-state rather than a revolution bent on fanning the sparks of a major regional brushfire; Tehran ought to leave the Arab East for itself, he exclaimed. No doubt, Hizbullah-Future Bloc talks defuse tensions, he noted albeit, let’s just wait and see if the agreement signed by Iran and the super powers could materialize by June…

Recalling a couple of botched security plans, the minister went on to call for a new security modality for south Beirut and the country as a whole.

Having credited former president Sleiman with drafting Baabda declaration for Lebanese self-detachment from regional influences, Rifi concluded on a note of encouragement to Tripoli sportswomen about to launch a marathon calling the event tantamount to reflecting a shining face of Tripolitan civility.

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Pope, thousands brave rain for Easter in St. Peter's Square

NNA – In an Easter peace wish, Pope Francis on Sunday praised the framework nuclear agreement with Iran as an opportunity to make the world safer, while expressing deep worry about bloodshed in Libya, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa.

Cautious hope ran through Francis’ “Urbi et Orbi” Easter message, a kind of papal commentary on the state of the world’s affairs, which he delivered from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Square.

He had just celebrated Mass in rain-whipped St. Peter’s Square for tens of thousands of people, who huddled under umbrellas or braved the downpour in thin, plastic rain-slickers.

Easter day is “so beautiful, and so ugly because of the rain,” Francis said after Mass about Christianity’s most important feast day. He expressed thanks for the flowers which bedecked the square and which were donated by the Netherlands, but the bright hues of the azaleas and other blossoms seemed muted by the gray skies.

Francis made his first public comments about the recent framework for an accord, reached in Lausanne, Switzerland, and aimed at ensuring Iran doesn’t develop a nuclear weapon.

“In hope we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework recently agreed to in Lausanne, that it may be a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.”

Decrying the plentitude of weapons in the world in general, Francis said: “And we ask for peace for this world subjected to arms dealers, who earn their living with the blood of men and women.”

He denounced “absurd bloodshed and all barbarous acts of violence” in Libya, convulsed by fighting fueled by tribal and militia rivalries. He hoped “a common desire for peace” would prevail in Yemen, wracked by civil warfare.

Francis prayed that the “roar of arms may cease” in Syria and Iraq, and that peace would come in Africa for Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan and Congo.

He recalled the young people, many of them targeted because they were Christians, killed last week in a Kenyan university, and lamented kidnappings, by Islamic extremists, that have plagued parts of Africa, including Nigeria.

He also cited bloodshed closer to home, in Ukraine, praying that the Eastern European nation would “rediscover peace and hope thanks to the commitment of all interested parties.” Government forces have been battling Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine, months after a cease-fire was proclaimed following international diplomatic efforts.

On Good Friday, Francis chastised the international community for what he called the complicit silence about the killing of Christians. On Easter he prayed that God would alleviate “the suffering of so many of our brothers persecuted because of his name.”

During Mass, Francis was shielded from pelting rain by a canopy erected outside St. Peter’s Basilica, while prelates carried umbrellas in the yellow and white colors of the Vatican.

The downpour petered out to a drizzle, and by the end of the ceremony, the rain had stopped. Francis, wearing a white overcoat, was driven through the square in the open-sided popemobile so he could wave to the faithful.–AFP

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Civilians flee as militants seize most of Damascus camp

NNA – Civilians trapped in a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria’s capital fled to safer areas Saturday amid intense shelling and clashes between Palestinian armed factions and Islamic militants who took over most of the camp, Syrian activists said.

A Damascus-based Palestinian official, Khaled Abdul-Majid, said the militants controlled about half of the Yarmouk camp, located on the southern edge of the Syrian capital.

Islamic State militants stormed the camp on Wednesday, marking the extremist group’s deepest foray yet into the capital. Palestinian officials and Syrian activists said they were working with rivals from the al-Qaida affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front. The two groups have fought bloody battles against each other in other parts of Syria, but appear to be cooperating in the attack on Yarmouk.

The Islamic State group’s presence in Yarmouk gives it an important foothold only a few kilometers away from President Bashar Assad’s seat of power. It also gives the group a potential sanctuary where U.S.-led coalition forces were unlikely to strike because of the camp’s proximity to Damascus.

The United Nations says around 18,000 civilians, including a large number of children, are trapped in Yarmouk. The camp has been under government siege for nearly two years, leading to starvation and illnesses caused by lack of medical aid. The camp has also witnessed several rounds of ferocious and deadly fighting between government forces and militants.

Most of the camp’s estimated 160,000 inhabitants fled in late 2012 as clashes erupted between pro- and anti-Assad Palestinian gunmen– many to overcrowded and destitute Palestinian refugee camps in neighboring Lebanon. Only the poorest remained behind.

U.N. aid workers have been sending food parcels into the camp in an effort to alleviate the extreme suffering inside.

After militants advanced into northeastern districts of the camp overnight Saturday, many residents fled the fighting to safer districts in the south, activists said. Islamic State militants took up sniper positions on rooftops, they added.

An activist based in an area just south of Damascus, Hatem al-Dimashqi, said Saturday that rebel groups have launched a counteroffensive aimed at ousting the militants from the camp. He said a number of factions based inside the camp and in surrounding areas, including Yalda, Babila and Beit Saham, formed a joint operations command to coordinate their military action.

Al-Dimashqi, speaking from the edge of Yalda, said mosques in those areas were blaring calls for blood donations as hospitals received wounded civilians from Yarmouk.

He and the Palestinian official, Abdul-Majid, said IS militants beheaded five people, some of them from the anti-Assad group known as Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis which has fought them in the camp.

The coalition has been striking at Islamic State militants and infrastructure in north and eastern Syria, where the group has its strongholds.

In addition to the ground clashes, Syrian forces were shelling the camp. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Syrian government airstrikes on Yarmouk, but said there was no immediate word on casualties.

The Syrian National Coalition opposition group accused the government, which has blockaded the camp from three sides, of allowing militants access into the camp. It called for urgent intervention by the U.N. and Arab League to provide humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians.

Elsewhere in Syria, activists said militant groups continued to hold at least eight Lebanese truck drivers hostage near a border crossing point with Jordan.

The men were taken late Thursday near the Nasib crossing, hours after it was captured by an array of militant groups, including members of the Nusra Front.

The Observatory said the men were among 35 truck drivers being held captive by Nusra.

Chaos and looting took hold Thursday as the rebels took over the crossing — the last crossing the Syrian government still controlled along the Jordanian border — ransacking duty free shops and warehouses in the free zone.

“They took every single thing. They stole from the warehouses trucks and trailers, and forklifts,” said Rami Ahmad Abu Shehab, a worker in the free zone.

“We were surprised when we entered our offices because they were all destroyed. Everything was broken, the air conditioners, surveillance cameras and computers were stolen,” he added. “When you look at it, it’s like a gang entered and destroyed everything.”

Abdullah Abu Aghalah, a trader in the free zone, said shops in the free zone area lost around $9 million worth of cars.

“We are imploring them to return these cars because so many families depend on them to live. Many employees lost their jobs. All of our investments in the free zone are gone.–AP

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Weather forecast: Sporadic clouds with rise…

NNA – The meteorology department at Rafik Hariri International Airport forecasted Monday’s weather to be partly cloudy with an increase in temperatures.

Coastal temperatures: 13 to 25 degrees Celsius.

Mountain-range temperatures: 9 to 18 degrees Celsius.

Inland temperatures: 9 to 22 degrees Celsius.

Surface winds: South-westerly to north-westerly with speeds between 12 and 35 km/hr.

Visibility: Good.

Coastal humidity: 55% to 80%.

Sea: Calm waters with surface temperature at 19 degrees Celsius.

Sunrise: 06:21 a.m.

Sunset: 07:01 p.m.

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Secretary-General disappointed at cancellation of meeting to ...

4 April 2015 – The United Nations Secretary-General today expressed his disappointment at the failure to hold the Sudanese pre-dialogue meeting in Addis Ababa because of the decision by the ruling National Congress Party and its allies not to attend the meeting.

In a statement released by his Spokesperson today, Ban Ki-moon stressed that a fully inclusive, free and transparent dialogue is critical to addressing the root causes of the recurrent crises in Sudan and achieving sustainable peace, adding that the pre-dialogue meeting would have been an important step in this regard.

He urged all stakeholders to continue to engage constructively towards the early convening of a credible and inclusive National Dialogue and expressed his appreciation to the African Union High-level Implementation Panel for its tireless efforts on Sudan and South Sudan, while reaffirming the continued full support and partnership of the United Nations.