UN Condemns Saudi-Iran Dispute

SaudiThe UN Security Council has strongly condemned an attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran by protesters angered by the execution of a Shia cleric.

Saudi Arabia has broken off diplomatic relations with Iran and is cutting trade and air links.

On Monday, some of Riyadh’s allies also joined diplomatic action against Iran.

Meanwhile, the Turkish government had urged both sides to calm their diplomatic row, saying the dispute will only worsen regional tensions.

Deputy Prime Minister, Numan Kurtulmus, said that the Middle East is “already a powder keg”.

He criticised attacks on Saudi missions in Iran and he also criticized Saudi Arabia’s execution of a Shia Muslim cleric, which triggered the dispute.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are respectively the key Sunni Muslim and Shia powers in the region and back opposing sides in Syria and Yemen.

Saudi Arabia had earlier criticised UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, who had spoken of his “dismay” at the executions, however, Mr Mouallimi described Mr Ban’s comments as “misinformed”.

Following the attacks on the missions, Saudi authorities announced late on Sunday that they were severing diplomatic relations with Iran. They said that all commercial and air traffic links were being cut and that Saudi citizens were banned from travelling to Iran.


Kachikwu Replaces Diezani At OPEC Conference In Vienna

nnpcAs the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is set to meet in Vienna on Friday, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum, and head of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC) Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, has been named as the new conference President of the Organisation.

Dr. Kachikwu replaces Nigeria’s former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke who was named the first female President of OPEC in November last year.

The minister is calling for a delay in Iran’s intended oversupply of crude oil in order to control pricing that has dropped near 20 percent in 2015.

Ahead of Friday’s meeting, US crude oil price climbed 1.40 percent early today trading at 40 Dollars 23 cents per barrel, Brent was up 48 cents at 42 Dollars 97 cents per barrel.

Ahead of Fridy’s meeting analysts expect OPEC whose 12 member nations from the Middle East, Africa and Latin America pump out about one third of the world’s oil, to leave its daily oil output target at 30 million barrels.

Republican Debate: Trump’s Immigration Plan Savaged By Rivals

trumpPolitical opponents have tagged United States (US) Republican, Donald Trump’s plan to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants from the US as impractical and divisive.

In a live television debate, two of his Republican rivals, who are also fighting for presidential nomination, John Kasich and Jeb Bush, were very critical of Mr Trump’s immigration plans.

Mr Trump, a billionaire New Yorker who has been leading in the polls, was booed as he tried to counter-attack.

Another source of friction at the debate in Milwaukee was foreign policy.

The eight candidates were divided on whether the US should do more to intervene in the Middle East, especially in the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants.

But immigration sparked the biggest confrontation when Mr Trump said that a wall should be built at the US-Mexico border, and all migrants living illegally in the US must be deported.

Migrant Crisis: Thousands Arrive Greece

thousands of migrant arrive greeceThousands of migrants have arrived Greece’s mainland, as the government prepares for talks on how to tackle the huge number of people reaching its shores.

Two ships carrying more than 4,200 people travelled to Piraeus Port at night after leaving Lesbos island.

The whole EU is struggling to deal with an unprecedented influx of migrants.

Hundreds of people, mostly from the Middle East, remained stranded outside a railway station in Hungary after police stopped them from travelling through the EU.

The EU’s Border Control Agency, Frontex, said that 23,000 migrants arrived in Greece last week alone, an increase of 50% on the previous week.

More than 160,000 people have arrived in Greece so far this year which is already surpassing last year’s total.

The country’s government said it lacked the resources to look after that many arrivals, but aid groups said that authorities should be doing more.

On Tuesday, Greek President, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, called his French counterpart, Francois Hollande and asked that the situation facing Greece be discussed at a senior European level.

Greece’s caretaker cabinet is set to convene later on Wednesday.

German Federal Police have said that a record 3,500 migrant arrivals have been registered in a southern border region with Austria since Monday morning.

The arrivals have spiked, as passenger trains, each packed with hundreds of refugees, headed from Hungary through Austria into Germany’s southern Bavaria state, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

It was the highest number recorded by any of Germany’s 10 Federal Police Districts since the start of the migrant crisis that is expected to bring 800,000 newcomers to Europe’s top economy this year.

Macedonian Police Fires Tear Gas At Migrants

Macedonian policeMacedonian police have fired tear gas and stun grenades as thousands of people try to enter Macedonia from Greece.

It came up a day after Macedonia declared a state of emergency in two border regions to cope with an influx of migrants, many from the Middle East.

The state of emergency was declared because of the number of people wanting to head north to Europe, leading to desperate scenes of crowds battling to board packed trains.

There were several attempts to charge officers by angry people among a crowd of 3,000 from the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

They had spent the night in the open in a no man’s land between the two countries after Macedonia sealed its southern border to migrants and refugees.

At least eight people were injured in the confrontation earlier and one youngster was seen bleeding.

Large numbers spent the night stuck on Macedonia’s southern frontier, and tried to charge police in the morning.

The Balkan nation has become a major transit point for migrants trying to reach northern EU members.

Some 44,000 people have reportedly travelled through Macedonia in the past two months.

An 18-year-old Syrian man told Reuters he was able to cross overnight into Macedonia, but others were caught and drove back.

“I ran fast and escaped,” he said. “They got my brother and most of the others and sent them back to Greece.”

Greece, particularly on the tourist hotspot islands, has been overwhelmed by the influx because some 160,000 had arrived in the country so far this year.

Others have walked to Bulgaria from Turkey before making their way through Macedonia or Serbia before heading north to the EU.

Some 39,000 migrants, mostly Syrians, have been registered as passing through Macedonia in the past month – twice as many as the previous month.

The situation at the border with Greece is not helped by Macedonia’s tense relationship with Athens.

The dispute originates over the Macedonia’s name after it declared independence from the then Yugoslavia in 1991.

Syrian Archaeologist ‘killed In Palmyra’ By IS Militants

palmyraReports says the Archaeologist who looked after ancient ruins of Palmyra in Syria for 40 years has been killed by Islamic State (IS) militants.

Khaled al-Asaad had been held for about a month by the group, which seized the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site in May.

The 81-year-old’s family informed Syria’s Director of Antiquities, Maamoun Abdul Karim, that he had been beheaded.

Mr Karim said IS militants had tried to extract information from Mr Assad about where some treasures were hidden.

He described Mr Asaad as “one of the most important pioneers in Syrian Archaeology in the 20th Century”.

The murder has been denounced as a “horrific act” by UNESCO, the UN cultural organisation.

Reports say the Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, as saying “they killed him because he would not betray his deep commitment to Palmyra,” in a statement.

“His work will live on far beyond the reach of these extremists,” she said. “They murdered a great man, but they will never silence history.”

IS has demolished several ancient sites in Iraq, and there are fears that it will destroy Palmyra, one of the Archaeological jewels of the Middle East.

Nigeria Will Continue To Support Peaceful Use Of Nuclear Technology – Buhari

Muhammadu-Buhari-Nigeria-PresidentPresident Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday said that his leadership would continue to support the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and human development.

Nigeria, President Buhari said, therefore welcomes this week’s agreement between Iran and the six world powers on its nuclear programme.

At a meeting with visiting Iranian Vice President for Executive Affairs, Mohammed Shariatmadari, President Buhari applauded the agreement, saying that it was  a major step toward ensuring peace and stability in the Middle East.

In a statement by his Spokesman, Femi Adesina, the President said that as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Nigeria looks forward to the faithful implementation of the terms of the agreement by all concerned parties.

President Buhari, who received an invitation from the Iranian Vice President to attend an upcoming  Summit of Gas Exporting Countries in Tehran, remarked that it was in the interest of developing countries to maximize the use of their natural resources for the improvement of the living conditions of their people.

Mr Shariatmadari congratulated President Buhari on his election and gave him an assurance of Iran’s support in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism.

“The government of President Hassan Rouhani of Iran advocates moderation and departure from any form of extremism,” he said.

Iran Nuclear Deal: Best Way To Avoid More Midle East War – Obama

obamaU.S. President, Barack Obama, has warned that the world would risk “even more war in the Middle East” without the nuclear agreement with Iran.

Obama made the statement in response to critics after Iran and six world powers sealed an accord in Vienna on Tuesday that will limit Iran’s nuclear programme in return for the lifting of sanctions.

Reuters quoted the President as saying: “Without a deal, there would be no limits to Iran’s nuclear program and Iran could move closer to a nuclear bomb … Without a deal, we risk even more war in the Middle East”.

“Behave Differently”

The deal, reached with six world powers in Vienna, would begin to be implemented by November, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad, Javad Zarif, said earlier on Wednesday.

Obama expressed hopes that the agreement would encourage Iran to “behave differently,” citing “its support of terrorism and its use of proxies to destabilise parts of the Middle East”.

On Monday, Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, tweeted that if there was a deal with world powers, it would be a “victory of diplomacy and mutual respect over outdated paradigm of exclusion and coercion. And this will be good beginning”.

There has been stiff resistance to a deal from conservatives both in Iran and the US.

EU To Back Smuggler’s Boat Destruction In Mediterranean

euThe European Union (EU) Foreign and Defence Ministers are expected to approve a mission to destroy the boats used by people-smugglers operating in Libya.

At a meeting in Brussels, the Ministers will also discuss the mission’s command-and-control structure and headquarters.

This is part of the EU’s response to the vast number of illegal migrants from Africa and the Middle East crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe.

Report suggests that more than 1,800 migrants have died in the Mediterranean in 2015. This is a 20-fold increase on the same period in 2014.

On arrival for the meeting, EU Foreign Policy Chief, Federica Mogherini, said: “Today the main point will be taking the decision to establish the operation, the EU operation at sea to dismantle the criminal networks that are smuggling people in the Mediterranean”.

“We are looking for partnership with the Libyan authorities, with all the relevant Libyan authorities,” she said.


Abbas Rejects Israel’s Partial Transfer Of Palestinian Tax Revenue

PalestinianPalestinian authorities have rejected hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenues unfrozen by Israel.

Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, said on Sunday that he returned the money because Israel deducted a third to cover unpaid Palestinian utility debts.

Israel started withholding around $130 million a month in tax and customs revenue in December.

The move came after the Palestinians announced that they were joining the International Criminal Court (ICC), a move finalized on April 1.

Under international pressure, Israel agreed last week to resume the transfers, saying it would immediately pay around $400 million, the withheld revenue minus the amount owed by the Palestinians for utilities supplied by Israel.

President Abbas said those deductions amounted to a third of the total sum that Israel owed the Palestinians.

“We are returning the money. Either they give it to us in full or we go to arbitration or to the court (ICC). We will not accept anything else,” he said in a speech.

An official at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said that Israel had deducted a portion of the Palestinians’ electricity, water and health bills from tax revenue it transferred and was “willing to transfer back to the Palestinian Authority the sum that was returned whenever it wishes”.

The government made the decision to restart payments two weeks ago but warned at the time that it would make deductions from the transfer.

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said at the time that Israel would resume payments partly out of “humanitarian considerations”, adding that the “deteriorating situation in the Middle East” and rise of extremists required him to “act responsibly and judiciously”.

Pope Francis Easter Message

Pope-FrancisPope Francis has prayed for an end to the torment of Christians, commemorating the students murdered by Islamist militants at Garissa University in Kenya.

Celebrating the third Easter of his pontificate, Pope Francis spoke from the central balcony in a drizzling St. Peter’s Square after saying a Mass for tens of thousands of people wearing plastic ponchos and holding umbrellas.

Pope Francis in his message, said “We ask Jesus, the Victor over death, to lighten the sufferings of our many brothers and sisters who are persecuted for His name, and of all those who suffer injustice as a result of ongoing conflicts and violence – and there are many”.

Attacks on Christians in Africa and the Middle East have been the unattractive backdrop of all Holy Week ceremonies leading up to Easter.

He commemorated the students massacred by Islamist militants at Garissa University in Kenya.

In Libya, where Islamic State (IS) militants beheaded 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians last February, he called for peace and also for an end to “the present absurd bloodshed and all barbarous acts of violence”.

He further prayed for peace in Iraq and Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, and Nigeria, where Boko Haram had also launched attacks on Christian churches.

“We ask for peace and freedom for the many men and women subject to old and new forms of enslavement on the part of criminal individuals and groups.

“Peace and liberty for the victims of drug dealers, who are often allied with the powers who ought to defend peace and harmony in the human family.

“We ask peace for this world subjected to arms dealers, who make their money from the blood of men and women,” he said.

Just about the only positive part in the pope’s address was a reference to the deal reached in Switzerland last week between Iran and the international community on a framework for a nuclear accord.

Referencing the deal reached in Switzerland last week between Iran and the international community on a framework for a nuclear accord, Pope Francis said “In hope we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework recently agreed to in Lausanne, that it may be a definitive step towards a more secure and fraternal world”.

Egyptian Court Calls For Retrial Of Three Jailed Al Jazeera Journalists

Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, Peter GresteAn Egyptian court’s call for a retrial of three jailed Al Jazeera journalists acknowledges major flaws in the original convictions but leaves the men in unjust incarceration, Amnesty International said on Thursday.

“By calling for a retrial the Egyptian courts are prolonging the injustice that Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed have faced,” said Hassiba Hadjsahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.

“These men should never have been jailed in the first place and should not have to spend one more day in prison. Instead of prolonging their unjust detention pending a retrial, they must be freed immediately.”

The Court of Cassation, Egypt’s highest court of law, ruled that there had been procedural failings in the trial of Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed. The three are now set to face a retrial.

The trio are serving sentences of between seven and 10 years for “falsifying news” and involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which the authorities allege is involved in terrorism-related activity.

The Court of Cassation did not review the facts of the case and does not have the power to acquit the men of the charges against them. However, it found that the court that jailed the men had not followed correct legal procedures.

An Amnesty International trial observer recorded several irregularities and examples of complete ineptitude during the trial proceedings.

In 12 court sessions, the prosecution failed to produce a single shred of solid evidence linking the journalists to an organization involved in terrorism, or prove they had “falsified” news footage.

“The trial of these three men was a complete farce. Their only crime was to challenge the political narrative of the authorities,” said Hassiba Hadjsahraoui.

“All three are prisoners of conscience, targeted simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression in carrying out legitimate activities as journalists.”

At least 16,000 people have been detained as part of a sweeping crackdown on dissent in Egypt, with activists estimating that the true figure is much higher.
Those targeted include government opponents and critics, as well as media workers and human rights activists.

Meanwhile, courts have acquitted security forces of killing detainees and thrown out criminal charges against former president Hosni Mubarak for conspiring to crush the “25 January Revolution”.

“The Court of Cassation’s decision bucks the current trend in Egypt’s criminal justice system, which is more than ever becoming a rubber stamp endorsing repression by the authorities,” Hassiba Hadjsahraoui said .

“Courts are busy locking up government critics and political activists, while letting security forces and officials responsible for gross human rights violations walk free.”