Arab News

Palestine urges US to remove PLO from terror lists

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has urged the US to remove the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) from the lists of terror classified by the US Congress, a senior Palestinian official said…reports Asian Lite News

The PA addressed an official letter to the US administration, calling on it to remove the PLO from the lists of terror, Hussein al-Sheikh, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, said in a press statement.

“We expressed our shock and our absolute rejection of the persistence of this unjust and unfair classification of the Palestinian people who live under the occupation while the Israeli terrorist organisation Kach was removed from those lists,” Al-Sheikh added.

The Palestinian request comes days after US State Department announced that it removed five extremist groups believed to be no longer active from its list of foreign terrorist organisations, including the Israeli “Kach” organisation, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Palestinians accuse the organisation of being responsible for killing and wounding dozens of worshipers at the Ibrahimi mosque in the southern West Bank city of Hebron in 1994 and being behind the incitement to kill and displace Palestinians.

ALSO READ: Palestine Seeks UN Help to Stem Al-Aqsa Incursion

In 1987, the US Congress declared the PLO a “terrorist organisation” and prohibited it from opening any of its office in the US.

Despite the decision, the Congress allowed US Presidents to issue an exemption with their consent, which every US President has done since the signing of the Oslo interim peace agreement between the PLO and Israel in 1993, except former President Donald Trump.

In September 2018, the Trump administration closed the PLO office in Washington D.C. and its banking accounts to pressure the Palestinians to stop working with the International Criminal Court against Israel.

-Top News USA World

19 students killed in a massive gun shooting in Texas

A gunman killed 18 students and one adult at an elementary school in Texas in a second mass shooting in the US in the last 10 days…reports Asian Lite News

The gunman, identified as Salvador Ramos, first shot his grandmother, who is alive but in critical condition, before hitting Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, about 83 miles west of San Antonio in Texas, with two assault rifles that he had bought shortly after he turned 18 recently. He was killed by law enforcement officers.

His motive had not been ascertained yet.

A white gunman, also 18, had opened fire at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York on May 14, killing 10 African Americans. He gave himself over to law enforcement. He was motivated by racism and had intended to kill African Americans and chose a grocery frequented by them for his carnage.

“As a nation, we have to ask: When in God’s name we are going to stand up to the gun lobby. When in God’s name we do (that) we all know in our gut needs to be done,” US President Joe Biden in remarks to the nation from the White House. He learnt of the shooting on the flight back from Tokyo.

Biden said of the visit that he was struck by the fact none of these other nations experienced these shootings, with such frequency.

Biden went on to say, with frustration and anger: “Why? They have mental health problems. They have domestic disputes in other countries. They have people who are lost. But these kinds of mass shootings never happen, with the kind of frequency they happen in America. Why? Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen? Where in God’s name is our backbone?”

Gun control laws introduced in Australia, whose Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was among the leaders Biden met in Tokyo, after a 1996 massacre that left 36 people dead is now cited as the gold standard world over and has been used as a model. It has been discussed in the US as well.

The Tuesday shooting was the 27 school shootings in the US in 2022, according to Education Week, which tracks these incidents. There have been 212 mass shootings this year.

ALSO READ: Putin trying to erase a culture: Biden 

The Washington Post has said 300,000 school students have been exposed to gun violence at school since the worst of them all, the Columbine school shooting, in 1999 in which 13 people were killed. In some of the worst school massacres 20 first-graders and 6 adults were killed at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut in 2013 and 17 students and staff in 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

Gun violence is a politically sensitive issue in the United States. Calls for commonsense controls peak after every incident of mass shooting and peter out after a while as the powerful gun lobby pushes back with its army of supporters among lawmakers, policy circles and media.

Arab News

Iran: Agreement in Vienna talks within reach if US acts ‘logically’

If the United States acts “logically,” an agreement in the Vienna talks on the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal will be within reach, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said…reports Asian Lite News

Amir Abdollahian made the remarks on Thursday in a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, calling on the other sides in the Vienna talks to put forward their initiatives to this end, according to the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s website.

He said Tehran is willing to reach a “good,” “strong,” and “lasting” agreement while observing the Islamic Republic’s red lines, Xinhua news agency reported.

The senior diplomat also praised Russia for its positive stance and support for the achievement of an agreement that is acceptable to Iran.

ALSO READ: Iran demands US response to its proposals on stalled Vienna talks

Describing ties with Tehran as important, the Russian foreign minister, for his part, stressed that Moscow will continue its support and efforts to make sure that a fair agreement would be reached in Vienna that safeguards Iran’s demands.

In 2015, Iran signed the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), with world powers, including the United States. However, former US President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the pact in May 2018 and re-imposed sanctions on Iran, which prompted the latter to drop some of its nuclear commitments.

Since April 2021, Iran and the remaining JCPOA parties have held several rounds of talks in Vienna to revive the deal.

Arab News Saudi Arabia UAE News

UAE, Saudi decline to take calls from White House on oil prices

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan both declined US requests to speak to Biden in the recent weeks…reports Asian Lite News

The White House unsuccessfully tried to arrange calls between President Biden and the de facto leaders of Saudi Arabia and the UAE as the US was working to build international support for Ukraine and contain a surge in oil prices, said Middle East and US officials, Wall Street Journal reported.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan both declined US requests to speak to Biden in the recent weeks, the officials said, as Saudi and Emirati officials have become more vocal in recent weeks in their criticism of the American policy in the Gulf, the report said.

Persian Gulf monarchies have signalled they won’t help ease surging oil prices unless Washington supports them in Yemen, elsewhere.

“There was some waiting for a phone call, but it didn’t happen. It was part of the opening of the tap,” WSJ said, quoting the words of the interlocutor.

ALSO READ: Egypt reiterates support to UAE, Saudi on security

Washington plans to ask Riyadh to increase oil production, Axios reported earlier.

For this, US President Joe Biden may visit Saudi Arabia in the spring.

According to the publication, this trip will show “the severity of the global energy crisis.”

Earlier, US President Joe Biden ordered the release of 30 million barrels of oil from the strategic reserve.

Africa News Arab News News

Ex-cop jailed for fatally shooting African-American man

Kim Potter, a former police officer in the US state of Minnesota who fatally shot African-American man Daunte Wright last year, has been sentenced to two years in prison and supervised release…reports Asian Lite News

The punishment includes 16 months in prison and eight months of supervised release after Potter was found guilty of first- and second-degree manslaughter in December 2021, reports Xinhua news agency.

Potter was attempting to arrest Wright on an open warrant on April 11, 2021 for failure to appear on a weapons charge when she drew her gun instead of her taser.

Judge Regina Chu, handing down the sentence in a Minneapolis courtroom on Friday, said that Potter “never intended to hurt anyone” and that “her conduct cries out for a sentence significantly below the guidelines”.

ALSO READ: Pak’s silence on blogger’s murder plot raises questions

Daunte Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, responded that they are “very disappointed in the outcome” and the justice system murdered her son “all over again”.

“This isn’t okay, this is the problem with our justice system today: white women’s tears trump justice,” she added, describing how Potter cried on the stand while apologising for killing Wright.

Potter has been held without bail since her conviction in December.

-Top News Europe UK News

Govts urge citizens to leave Ukraine amid fears of invasion

Canada is closing its embassy in Kyiv temporarily, moving diplomatic operations to Lviv, as is Australia…reports Asian Lite News

Fearing an invasion of Ukraine by Russia, many countries are urging their citizens there to leave and are cutting back their diplomatic staff.

Among the countries that have called on their nationals to leave Ukraine are the United States, Germany, Italy, Britain, Ireland, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Canada, Norway, Estonia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Australia, Japan, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

France advised against travel to border areas of northern and eastern Ukraine, but has not told its citizens to leave the country.

Romania, which borders Ukraine, has strongly recommended its nationals avoid travel to the country and to “re-evaluate the need to stay” if already there.

Diplomatic presence cut back

Moscow has recalled some of its diplomatic staff, saying it fears “provocations”.

The United States ordered the departure of most of its diplomatic staff in Kyiv, saying a Russian offensive could begin “any day now”. Washington will maintain a consular presence in the western city of Lviv.

Canada is closing its embassy in Kyiv temporarily, moving diplomatic operations to Lviv, as is Australia.

European Union bodies recommended non-essential diplomatic personnel in Kyiv leave the country and telecommute from abroad.

Romania has withdrawn non-essential personnel from its embassy in Kyiv, and Israel has evacuated the families of embassy diplomats and staff.

The Dutch airline KLM announced Saturday that it was suspending its flights to Ukraine until further notice.

But the Ukrainian infrastructure ministry said Sunday the country would leave its airspace open despite the possibility of a Russian invasion.

ALSO READ-Economy rebounds by record 7.5% from pandemic in 2021

-Top News Arab News UAE News

US to assist UAE to stem Houthi drones

US to help UAE improve air defence system, stop drones before launching: CENTCOM Commander …. Writes Binsal Abdulkader, WAM

The UAE’s air defence system has been very effective to thwart recent missile attacks on the country; still, the United States will work with the UAE to further improve the system, a top US military commander told the Emirates News Agency (WAM).

General Kenneth F. McKenzie, Commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), added in an exclusive interview that the US is working with the UAE and other regional and global partners to develop more effective solutions to stop drone attacks, even before they are launched.

“We are happy to see that THAAD [the US-built Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system] employed successfully by UAE in the first two combat employments of that system. So, that’s been very good, and I know that it sends a strong message of reassurance to everyone in UAE. We will continue to work with UAE to make that system even better in the future,” said General McKenzie, who is on an official visit to the UAE.

His visit comes in the wake of terrorist attacks by the Houthi militia against civilian targets in the UAE. The UAE’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) had announced in January that its air defence forces had intercepted and destroyed missiles launched by the Houthi terrorist group.

On 2nd February, the ministry said it had intercepted and destroyed three “hostile” drones that penetrated the UAE’s airspace.

General McKenzie, who oversees the US forces in the Middle East, added, “We are working with our partners here in the region and with the industry back in the United States to develop solutions that would work against drones. We would like to work against drones what we call ‘Left of Launch,’ [which means] before they can be launched.”

Such a system will be able to detect the launch of drones, see them and disrupt their flight.

“And if you can’t do that, you will certainly be able to shoot them down as they reach their intended target,” he explained.

“In all of those areas we’re working with our friends internationally as well as with industries in the United States to become more effective at that.”

He emphasised that he finds his visit “a great opportunity to assure the United Arab Emirates about the continued friendship and support of the United States of America.”

Although the attacks on the UAE are very concerning to the US, “I think the UAE has one of the most professional militaries in the region. They’re very well-led, and I think the UAE is a very safe and secure place,” the commander stressed.

“Even as the UAE has come under attack, the United States has moved quickly and swiftly to help an old friend. We brought a destroyer in a guided-missile destroyer, the USS Cole, which has ballistic missile defence capabilities. It will patrol the waters of the UAE, working closely with UAE air defenders to protect their nation,” he affirmed.

“And then additionally, over the next week or so, we’re going to bring in a squadron of F-22 fighter jets, the best air superiority fighters in the world. They will also work with their UAE partners to help defend the nation. So, we think this is just one friend helping another in a time of crisis.”

Asked about the US Government reports considering re-designating Houthis as a terrorist organisation and the possible impact of such a move, Gen. McKenzie replied, “I would leave the questions about designating the Houthis to the diplomats. But I would tell you this – the Houthis are behaving in a reckless and irresponsible manner as they attacked the UAE and they have continued to attack the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

About the killing of Daesh leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi during a US counterterrorism raid in northwest Syria on Wednesday, McKenzie said, “I think taking the international leader of ISIS [or Deash] off the table makes it hard for them to coordinate their activities across the globe. And certainly, while regional aspects of ISIS will remain, it will be harder for them to coordinate their activities across continents.”

ALSO READ: UAE offers help to Houthi attack victims

Asked whether the threat of Daesh forming a global network has been thwarted with his killing, he answered, “No, I do not believe it has been done away with. I think that threat will be with us for a long time. Our goal of encountering this threat is not to have a bloodless or a nonviolent future, because tragically, I don’t think that’s going to be a possible outcome.”

The CENTCOM Commander explained that the US wants to contain the threat of Daesh “locally and regionally” so that its security forces could “deal with them on the spot rather than allowing them to coordinate across the globe, and mount large, spectacular attacks.”

The US is watching Afghanistan very closely, McKenzie said.

The US’ concern related to Afghanistan is mostly the ability of Daesh Khorasan, a regional affiliate, and Al Qaeda to mount large attacks against the US and its allies. “That’s what we’re looking at when we look into Afghanistan. That’s the principal concern that we have right now.”

McKenzie was promoted to his current rank and assumed command of US Central Command in March 2019. In July 2017, he was named Director, Joint Staff. In October 2015, he was assigned to the Joint Staff to serve as Director, J-5, Strategic Plans and Policy, Joint Staff.

Earlier, he was promoted to lieutenant general and assumed command of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Central Command, in June 2014.

-Top News Arab News News

Iran seeks lifting of ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions by US

Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) has said the anti-Iran sanctions re-imposed by the former US administration should be lifted in order to reach a “good agreement” in the ongoing Vienna nuclear talks…reports Asian Lite News

“The Iranian negotiators’ agenda for continuing the eighth round of talks has been carefully specified,” Shamkhani tweeted on Monday, adding “an agreement in which the ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions are not lifted will have an impact on the country’s (Iran) economy, and cannot be the basis of a good agreement.”

The eighth round of Vienna talks, which had been postponed for a few days, was expected to continue in the Austrian capital of Vienna on Tuesday, according to media reports.

ALSO READ: No initiative received from US in Vienna talks: Iran

Under the nuclear agreement reached in June 2015, Iran agreed to some restrictions on the development of its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of the US and Western sanctions. However, former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018, and re-imposed sanctions on Iran, after which Iran responded by abandoning some of its nuclear commitments, Xinhua news agency reported.

Since April 2021, several rounds of negotiations have been undertaken between Iran and the other parties to salvage the 2015 deal, with the US indirectly involved.

Arab News News World

Bennett, Biden talks over phone on Iranian nuclear issue

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and US President Joe Biden held a phone conversation over Iranian nuclear and other international issues, the Prime Minister’s office said in a statement…reports Asian Lite News

The two leaders on Sunday discussed “regional challenges” and in particular the “growing Iranian aggression, and the steps to block the Iranian nuclear program,” it added.

Bennett congratulated Biden on the operation to kill the IS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, noting that “the world is now a safer place”.

The Israeli Prime Minister invited the US President and his wife to visit Israel, said the statement, adding that the two leaders agreed to be “in regular contact”.

ALSO READ: Israel sanctions Lebanese firms aiding Hezbollah missile project

The phone conversation came as the international talks in Vienna on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, between world powers and Iran enters the final stretch, Xinhua news agency reported.

Earlier on Sunday, Bennett told his weekly cabinet meeting that “we are responsible for dealing with the Iranian nuclear program and, of course, we are monitoring the Vienna talks”.

Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.

Arab News News World

Blinken, Abbas discuss bilateral issues

In a phone call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the importance of strengthening bilateral relationships…reports Asian Lite News

In a tweet early Tuesday morning, Blinken said: “Good discussion with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. We discussed strengthening the US-Palestinian relationship, and the need for Palestinian Authority reform and for Palestinians and Israelis alike to enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, and prosperity.”

According to the statement, Blinken and Abbas on Monday also discussed the challenges facing the Palestinian Authority and the need for reform.

“Secretary Blinken reiterated that Israelis and Palestinians alike deserve to live safely and securely, and enjoy equal measures of security, freedom, and prosperity, and reaffirmed the US administration’s commitment to a two-state solution,” the Department added.

Meanwhile, Palestinian state media said that Abbas reiterated to Blinken that the “current situation is not sustainable and stressed the need to end the Israeli occupation of the land of the State of Palestine”.

ALSO READ: Bennett’s remarks incitement to violence: Palestine

Abbas asked Blinken to put pressure on Israel to stop settlement activities, the expulsion of Palestinians from Jerusalem’s neighbourhoods, abusing prisoners, and deducting the tax revenue dues that weakened the Palestinian economy, it added.

The Palestinian President stressed the need to stop Israel’s unilateral practices that undermine the two-state solution and implement the agreements signed between the two sides, the state media report said.

It added that Abbas also pointed out the importance of strengthening relations with the US.