Posts Tagged ‘UAE’

S. Arabia pledges $100 million and UAE $30 million for Sahel anti-terror force

December 13, 2017

AFP

© Ludovic Marin, AFP | Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (L), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and France’s President Emmanuel Macron take part in a press conference on December 13 at La Celle-Saint-Cloud, near Paris.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-12-13

Saudi Arabia has pledged $100 million towards a five-nation anti-terror force in the Sahel region of West Africa, while the United Arab Emirates has offered $30 million, French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday.

Macron made the announcement at a meeting to drum up support for the G5 Sahel force, an initiative pooling troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

The leaders of the five nations, which are among the world’s poorest, joined Macron and other leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the talks at a chateau in La Celle-Saint-Cloud outside Paris.

Former colonial power France is fighting against jihadists in West Africa with its 4,000-strong regional Barkhane force, but is keen for the countries affected to take on more responsibility.

>> Video: FRANCE 24 follows the forces fighting Sahel jihadists

“We must win the war against terrorism in the Sahel-Sahara region,” Macron told a press conference after the meeting.

“There are attacks everyday, there are states which are currently in jeopardy… We must intensify our efforts,” he said.

(AFP)

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Anti-Trump protests wane in Jerusalem, West Bank; flare in Beirut

December 10, 2017

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Palestinian protests waned in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip on Sunday while violence flared near the U.S. embassy in Beirut over U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Four days of protests in the Palestinian territories over Trump’s announcement on Wednesday had largely died down, but his overturning of long-standing U.S. policy on Jerusalem — a city holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians — drew more Arab warnings of potential damage to prospects for Middle East peace.

“Our hope is that everything is calming down and that we are returning to a path of normal life without riots and without violence,” Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Army Radio.

But Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, the de facto leader of the United Arab Emirates, said the situation threatens to stoke violence.

Image result for Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, photos

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan

“The U.S. move could throw a lifebuoy to terrorist and armed groups, which have begun to lose ground in the region,” he said.

In Beirut, meanwhile, Lebanese security forces fired tear gas and water canons at protesters, some of them waving Palestinian flags, near the U.S. embassy.

Demonstrators set fires in the street, torched U.S. and Israeli flags and threw projectiles toward security forces that had barricaded the main road to the complex.

Along Israel’s tense frontier with the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military on Sunday destroyed what it described as a “significant” cross-border attack tunnel dug by the enclave’s dominant Islamist group, Hamas.

There was no immediate comment on the demolition, which came as Palestinian factions tried to meet Sunday’s deadline for an Egyptian-mediated handover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas to Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas after a decade’s schism.

Pre-dawn Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip on Saturday killed two Palestinian gunmen after militants fired rockets from the area into Israel on Friday.

PROTESTS IN INDONESIA

In the Indonesian capital Jakarta on Sunday, thousands protested outside the U.S. embassy, many waving banners saying “Palestine is in our hearts”.

Leaders in Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, have joined a global chorus of condemnation of Trump’s announcement, including from Western allies.

Arab foreign ministers who met in Cairo on Saturday urged the United States to abandon its decision and said the move would spur violence throughout the region.

Israel says that all of Jerusalem is its capital, while Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state.

Most countries consider East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after capturing it in a 1967 war, to be occupied territory and say the status of the city should be decided at future Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to critics in a statement before talks in Paris on Sunday with French President Emmanuel Macron, to be followed by a meeting with European foreign ministers in Brussels.

“I hear (from Europe) voices of condemnation over President Trump’s historic announcement, but I have not heard any condemnation for the rocket firing against Israel that has come (after the announcement) and the awful incitement against us,” Netanyahu said.

The Trump administration has said it is still committed to reviving Palestinian-Israeli talks that collapsed in 2014.

It said Israel’s capital would be in Jerusalem under any serious peace plan, adding that it has not taken a position with regard to the city’s borders.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki has said the Palestinians will be looking for a new peace talks broker instead of the United States and would seek a United Nations Security Council resolution over Trump’s decision.

Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem, Tom Perry in Beirut, Agustinus Beo Da Costa in Jakarta and Sami Aboudi in Dubai; Editing by David Goodman

Qatar, France sign billion-dollar fighter jet deal amid Gulf crisis

December 7, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by David HARDING | A French Rafale fighter jet is displayed during the Dubai Airshow on November 14, 2017

DOHA (AFP) – Qatar agreed Thursday to buy 12 French-built fighter jets, part of a multi-billion-dollar raft of deals announced as President Emmanuel Macron visited the emirate, hit by the Gulf’s worst political crisis in years.The 1.1-billion-euro ($1.3 billion) order for Dassault Aviation warplanes, with an option for 36 more, comes as Qatar faces a trade and diplomatic boycott by Saudi Arabia and its allies.

The deal was one of a slew of contracts together worth more than 11 billion euros ($13 billion) announced between Qatar and France on Thursday.

 Image may contain: airplane

Qatar Airways announced a 5.5-billion-euro ($6.4-billion) deal to buy 50 Airbus A321 passenger planes, with an option for 36 more.

The two countries also signed a three-billion-euro ($3.5 billion) deal on the operation and maintenance of the Doha Metro, currently being built as the country prepares for the football World Cup in 2022.

The lucrative contracts were inked in the presence of the two young leaders — Macron is 39 and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani is 37.

Qatar also signed a letter of intent to buy 490 VBCI armoured vehicles from Nexter, a French government-owned weapons manufacturer, in a potential deal worth 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion), the Elysee said.

– Regional tensions –

The military contracts come at a time of heightened tensions in the Gulf, where a Saudi-led boycott of Qatar is in its sixth month.

Since June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have diplomatically isolated Qatar, accusing the emirate of supporting Islamist extremists and of being too close to Shiite Iran, Riyadh’s arch-rival.

The four countries also cut off all air and sea links to Qatar and closed the only land terminal for the tiny peninsula.

Qatar denies the allegations and has accused the Saudi-led bloc of aiming to incite regime change in Doha.

Speaking about the crisis at a later joint press conference with Macron, Sheikh Tamim reiterated Qatar’s calls for a negotiated settlement.

“Qatar’s sovereignty is above all considerations. We want to resolve the rift but not at the expense of our sovereignty and dignity,” he said.

“If the brothers want to resolve the dispute, we are ready,” he said. “Any solution should be founded on a clear basis acceptable by all and the non-interference in the sovereignty of others.”

The French president, who had flown to Doha from Algeria, urged a diplomatic solution through regional mediator Kuwait.

“I reiterated to the emir France’s support for Kuwait’s mediation efforts and my wish for a quick solution,” Macron told reporters.

The prospects, however remain increasingly remote.

A Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Kuwait this week ended a day early after the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain failed to attend.

Macron also urged all countries, including France, to give “a very clear commitment” to do more on terror financing.

He added that Iraq would announce its total “liberation” from the grip of the Islamic State jihadist group by the end of December.

Thursday’s defence deals are the latest in a growing list signed by Qatar since the Gulf diplomatic crisis erupted. It has also struck deals with the US, Italy and Britain.

A 2015 deal between Qatar and France for 24 Rafale fighter jets was worth 6.3 billion euros ($7.4 billion).

Qatar Airways Group chief executive Akbar al-Baker said in a statement that the Airbus deal would “answer our need for growth and additional capacity”.

by David HARDING

Saudi-led Arab coalition capture coastal area in Yemen from Houthis

December 7, 2017

(Google maps)

DUBAI: The Saudi-led Arab coalition scored its first major gains in Yemen since former President Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed on Monday when local fighters captured an area on the Red Sea coast from Houthi militias, residents said on Thursday.

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Local fighters loyal to Saleh, who was killed by the Iran-aligned Houthis after switching sides in the civil war, captured Al-Khoukha district about 350 km south-west of the capital Sanaa after heavy fighting over Wednesday night which also involved coalition forces.
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Houthi forces control Sanaa and much of the rest of the impoverished country.
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Saleh had helped the Houthis win control of Sanaa and much of the north and his decision to abandon them had major implications on the battlefield.
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The Houthis crushed a pro-Saleh uprising in the capital and shot him dead in an attack on his convoy on Dec. 4.
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The US and UK-backed Saudi-led Arab coalition has stepped up airstrikes on Yemen since then as Houthi forces have tightened their grip on the capital.
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Residents said Saleh’s killing spurred opposition to the Houthis and fighters known as the Southern Resistance, together with other local militia and backed by coalition advisers from the UAE, launched attacks on Al-Khoukha on Wednesday.
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At least 25 people from both sides were killed in the fighting before Yemeni fighters captured the town of Al-Khoukha and a small fishing port.
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When Saleh switched sides he announced he was ready to end a nearly three-year-old war.
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French President Macron arrives in Qatar amid Arab boycott of Doha, uproar over Trump decision on Jerusalem

December 7, 2017

AFP and The Associated Press

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© France 24, screen capture | President Macron arrives in Doha on December 7, 2017.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-12-07

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Qatar on Thursday for a one-day trip to the small Gulf country as it faces continued isolation and a boycott by some of its Arab neighbors.

Macron landed and immediately traveled to the vast al-Udeid Air Base, home to some 10,000 American troops and the forward headquarters of the U.S. military’s Central Command. France also has a contingent of soldiers at the base, which is crucial to the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria and to the war in Afghanistan.

Macron smiled and shook hands with the French and American soldiers who greeted him at the base before walking into a meeting with the base’s top commanders.

Speaking to coalition soldiers, he said the next few months of battle will determine the outcome of the war against the IS group in Iraq in Syria.

“This military win does not signify the end of the operations and the end of our battle because first we need to stabilize and win peace in Iraq and Syria,” he told troops. “Next spring is decisive in the situation in Iraq.”

Macron also stressed in his remarks at the air base that France wants to avoid partition in Syria and “avoid the domination of certain international elements whose interests contradict peace.”

The French president later will hold talks with Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Macron is traveling with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who in 2015 as defense minister helped negotiate a multibillion dollar deal with Qatar to buy 24 Rafale fighter jets. Qatar may announce during Macron’s visit that it will purchase up to 12 more of the French-made Dassault Rafale jets.

Macron’s visit comes just days after a Gulf Cooperation Council meeting in Kuwait failed to bring the standoff any closer to a resolution in the dispute engulfing Qatar. In June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut relations with Qatar over allegations it supports extremists and has too-close relations with Iran.

Qatar has long denied supporting extremists and shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Tehran.

Also likely to come up during Macron’s visit is President Donald Trump‘s announcement that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim the city’s eastern sector, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as the capital of a future independent state.

Before Macron’s arrival, Qatar’s ruler held calls with Trump, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Qatar has, in the past, provided crucial aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which is run by the militant Hamas group, and has helped pay public sector wages in the besieged Palestinian territory.

(AP)

 

Saudi-led coalition intensifies Yemen air strikes after Saleh’s death

December 6, 2017

 

A view of damage on a street where Houthis have recently clashed with forces loyal to slain Yemeni former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen Dec. 6, 2017. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)
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ADEN: A Saudi-led coalition intensified air strikes on Yemen early on Wednesday as the armed Houthi terrorist movement tightened its grip on the capital after it killed former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who switched sides in the civil war.
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Saudi Arabia and its allies struck a day after Saleh’s son vowed to lead a campaign against the Iran-aligned Houthis.
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The intervention by Ahmed Ali, a former leader of the elite Republican Guard once seen as a likely successor to his father, gives the anti-Houthi movement a potential figurehead after a week of fighting that saw the Houthis rout Saleh’s supporters in the capital.
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Yemen’s war, pitting the Iran-allied Houthis militias, who control Sanaa, against a Saudi-led military alliance backing a government based in the south, has brought what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
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Saleh had helped the Houthis win control of much of the country’s north, including Sanaa, and his decision to switch allegiances and abandon the Houthis in the past week was the most dramatic change on the battlefield in years.
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But the Houthis swiftly crushed the pro-Saleh uprising in the capital and killed him.
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Coalition fighter jets carried out dozens of air strikes, both sides said, bombing Houthi positions inside Sanaa and in other northern provinces.
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Yemen’s pro-Houthi Al Masirah television station said the coalition bombed Saleh’s residence and other houses of his family members.
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Residents told Reuters loud explosions were heard in downtown Sanaa.
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Masirah said air strikes also hit northern provinces including Taiz, Hajja, Midi and Saada. There was no immediate word on casualties.
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In a sign of support and defiance, tens of thousands of Houthi supporters staged a rally in Sanaa on Tuesday to celebrate the death of Saleh. They chanted slogans against Saudi Arabia and its allies.
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The proxy war between regional arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran has already killed more than 10,000 people, with more than two million displaced. Nearly a million have been hit by a cholera outbreak and famine threatens much of the country.
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The United Nations says millions of people may die in one of the worst famines of modern times, caused by warring parties blocking food supplies.
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The UN Secretary-General Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, called on all parties to show restraint in a briefing to the Security Council.
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“Increased hostilities will further threaten civilian lives and exacerbate their suffering,” he said.
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US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday that the killing of Saleh would, in the short term, likely worsen an already dire humanitarian situation in the country.
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Mattis, speaking with reporters on a military aircraft en route to Washington after a brief trip to parts of the Middle East and South Asia, said it was too early to say what impact the killing would have on the war.
He said it could either push the conflict toward UN peace negotiations or make it an “even more vicious war.”
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The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said Yemen’s enemies had been behind Saleh’s armed uprising and praised what he called the Houthis’ swift quashing of the “coup against the holy warriors,” the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
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The death of Saleh, who once compared ruling Yemen to dancing on the heads of snakes, deepens the complexity of the multi-sided war.
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Much is likely to depend on the future allegiances of his loyalists, who had previously helped the armed Houthi group, which hails from the Zaidi branch of Shiite Islam that ruled a thousand-year kingdom in northern Yemen until 1962.
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In a statement sent to Reuters by an aide, his son said his father was killed at “the hands of the enemies of God and the country.”
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Ahmed Ali said he would “confront the enemies of the homeland and humanity, who are trying to obliterate its identity and its gains and to humiliate Yemen and Yemenis.”
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The Arabian peninsula’s poorest country, Yemen is one of the most violent fronts in the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which have also backed opposing sides in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere across the Middle East.

Gulf rulers boycotting Qatar skip GCC annual summit

December 5, 2017

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing

Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani gestures as he poses for a family photo during the annual summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), in Kuwait City, Kuwait, December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed Reuters

By Ahmed Hagagy

KUWAIT (Reuters) – Qatar’s Emir said on Tuesday he hoped a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Kuwait would help maintain stability in the region, Al-Jazeera TV said, though four Arab heads of state involved in a rift with Qatar stayed away.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt which have imposed economic, diplomatic and trade sanctions on Qatar in a dispute that began in June, sent ministers or deputy prime ministers instead to the annual event.

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who with Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah were the only heads of state to attend the meeting, acknowledged that the summit took place in “highly sensitive circumstances” in the life of the GCC.

“I am full of hope that the summit will lead to results that will maintain the security of the Gulf and its stability,” Tamim said, according to the Doha-based Al-Jazeera.

Sheikh Sabah, opening the summit, called for a mechanism to be set up in the Western-backed grouping to resolve disputes among its members.

Relations within the Gulf have soured since the four Arab states accused Qatar of supporting terrorism. Qatar had denied the charges.

Kuwait, which had spearheaded unsuccessful mediation efforts since the rift began, had hoped the summit would provide an opportunity for leaders to meet face-to-face and discuss the crisis, according to two Gulf diplomats.

Earlier, the UAE said it would set up a bilateral cooperation committee with Saudi Arabia, separate from the GCC, on political, economic and military issues.

UAE president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan said the new committee would be chaired by Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, Mohammed Bin Zayed, state news agency WAM reported.

Saudi Arabia has not yet commented.

The proposal also coincides with an escalation in the conflict in Yemen, where both Saudi Arabia and the UAE are heavily involved. Veteran former president Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed in a roadside attack on Monday after switching sides in Yemen’s civil war, abandoning his Iran-aligned Houthi allies in favor of a Saudi-led coalition.

Founded in 1980 as a bulwark against bigger neighbors Iran and Iraq, the GCC is facing an existential crisis after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt accused Qatar of supporting terrorism, charges Doha denies.

(Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

European Union adopts blacklist of 17 tax havens

December 5, 2017

© Jewel Samad, AFP | Tourists play on the water along a beach as the sun sets in Bridgetown, Barbados, on March 24, 2017.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-12-05

European Union finance ministers adopted on Tuesday a blacklist of tax havens which includes 17 extra-EU jurisdictions seen as not cooperative on tax matters, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.

American Samoa, Bahrain, Barbados, Grenada, Guam, South Korea, Macau, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Namibia, Palau, Panama, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates are the countries listed, officials said.

Le Maire said that another 47 jurisdictions are included in a public “grey” list of countries that are currently not compliant with EU standards but have committed to change their tax rules.

Following multiple disclosures of offshore tax avoidance schemes by companies and wealthy individuals, EU states launched a process in February to list tax havens in a bid to discourage setting up shell structures abroad which are themselves in many cases legal but could hide illicit activities.

Blacklisted countries could lose access to EU funds. Other possible countermeasures will be decided in coming weeks, Le Maire said.

(REUTERS)

Yemen rebels tighten hold after killing ex-strongman — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says anyone attacking Yemen will regret it

December 5, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Smoke billows over the rebel-held Yemeni capital Sanaa on December 3, 2017, during clashes between Huthi rebels and supporters of now slain ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh

SANAA (AFP) – Yemen’s Huthi rebels moved to cement their grip on the capital Tuesday after killing former president Ali Abdullah Saleh as he fled the city following the collapse of their uneasy alliance.Residents reported a few minor clashes between the Huthis and Saleh supporters late on Monday in southern districts which had been loyal to the slain strongman.

But there was no repetition of the heavy fighting that had rocked Sanaa for the five previous nights.

A least 234 people were killed and 400 wounded in those clashes, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Tuesday.

New checkpoints manned by rebels sprung up across Sanaa as their leaders hailed their control of the capital.

“We declare the end of security operations and the stabilisation of the situation,” senior Huthi official Saleh al-Sammad told the rebels’ Almasirah television channel late on Monday.

Sammad said he had ordered the security forces to “take steps against the saboteurs and all those who collaborated with them”.

The capital was awash with unconfirmed rumours of widespread arrests of suspected Saleh supporters in the army and the rebel government.

The former strongman retained the loyalty of some of the best equipped units of the army after he was forced to step down as president in 2012.

Saleh, who ruled Yemen for three decades, had joined forces with the Huthis in 2014 when they took control of large parts of the country, including the capital.

But that alliance unravelled over the past week as the former leader reached out to the Saudi-led coalition that has waged an air campaign against the Huthis since March 2015.

In a sign of confidence, the Huthis called a mass rally for Tuesday afternoon to celebrate their “foiling of the plot” hatched by Saleh to change sides in Yemen’s devastating civil war.

– Air strikes pound Sanaa –

The Saudi-led coalition stepped up its bombardment of the capital on Monday night, carrying out at least seven strikes on the rebel-held presidential palace, witnesses said.

There was no immediate word of any casualties.

Yemen’s war has left thousands dead, led to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises and deepened tensions between Middle East rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned on Tuesday that those attacking Yemen would regret it.

“The people of Yemen will make their aggressors regret their actions,” he said in a televised speech.

The commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, said Saleh was killed because he had been trying to overthrow the Huthis.

“The traitor Saudis are seeking to create insecurity in the region under orders from the United States and working alongside Israel… We witnessed their attempt to launch a coup against (the Huthis), which was strangled at birth,” Jafari said.

Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit condemned Saleh’s killing, saying that the “way it was done reveals to everyone the criminal nature” of the Huthis.

Saleh was forced to step down in 2012, after his forces waged a bloody crackdown on peaceful Arab Spring-inspired protests calling for his ouster.

The 75-year-old had survived civil war, rebellion in the north, an Al-Qaeda insurgency in the south and a June 2011 bomb attack on his palace that wounded him badly.

The Huthis announced his death on Almasirah, and a video provided to AFP by the rebels showed what appeared to be a dead Saleh with a severe head injury, his body wrapped in a floral-print blanket.

A military source said the Huthis had stopped their four-car convoy about 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of Sanaa and shot dead Saleh and two other officials.

In a televised speech on Monday, rebel chief Abdul Malik al-Huthi made no mention of Saleh’s death but expressed his satisfaction at the day’s events.

“Today marked the failure of the conspiracy and treason, a black day for the forces of aggression,” he said.

 

UAE, Saudi Arabia forming new group, separate from GCC

December 5, 2017

By Jon Gambrell
The Associated Press
December 5, 2017

KUWAIT CITY (AP) — The United Arab Emirates on Tuesday announced it has formed a new economic and partnership group with Saudi Arabia, separate from the Gulf Cooperation Council — a move that could undermine the council amid a diplomatic crisis with member state Qatar.

The Emirati Foreign Ministry announcement, just hours ahead of a GCC meeting in Kuwait, said the new “joint cooperation committee” was approved by the UAE’s ruler and president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nayhan.

Saudi Arabia did not immediately report on the new partnership.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the development could affect the six-member GCC meeting, which is expected to focus on the Qatar issue. Half of the GCC members are boycotting Doha in a dispute that’s cleaved the Arabian Peninsula.

The Emirati ministry said the new “committee is assigned to cooperate and coordinate between the UAE and Saudi Arabia in all military, political, economic, trade and cultural fields, as well as others, in the interest of the two countries.”

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have cultivated even-closer ties in recent years. Emirati troops are deeply involved in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nayhan, also is believed to have a closer relationship with Saudi Arabia’s young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Emirati announcement did not say whether any other Gulf Arab countries would be invited to join the new group but the development puts pressure the GCC, a group of American-allied Gulf Arab nations formed in part in 1981 as a counterbalance to Shiite power Iran.

The United States and its European allies all have told the council’s members that the region remains stronger with them working together as a whole, while the countries themselves still appear divided over their future.

The fact the GCC meeting in Kuwait was to take place at all is a bit of a surprise, given the unusually sharp criticism among the typically clubby members of the GCC pointed at Doha.

“This is the most important annual summit the GCC has held for more than two decades,” said Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a research fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. “The GCC needs to illustrate its relevance after having been bypassed at every stage of the Qatar crisis.”

The dispute began in June, following what Qatar described as a hack of its state-run news agency that saw incendiary comments attributed to its ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Soon after, GCC members Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates closed off their airspace and seaports to Qatar, as well as the small peninsular nation’s sole land border with Saudi Arabia.

The boycott initially reeled Doha, though it soon replaced food products with those flown in from Turkey and Iran.

However, Qatar’s foreign reserves have dropped by some $10 billion — a fifth of their value — since the dispute began. Those reserves are crucial in supporting the nation’s riyal, which is pegged to the U.S. dollar, as well as funding the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup that Doha will host.

For boycotting nations, they allege Qatar funds extremist groups and has too-cozy ties to Iran. Qatar has long denied funding extremists but it restored full diplomatic ties with Iran during the crisis. Doha shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Tehran that gives its citizens the highest per-capita income in the world.

A similar dispute involving Qatar erupted in 2014. But this time positions have hardened against Qatar, whose support for Islamist opposition groups has angered the Arab nations now boycotting it. The UAE in particular views Islamists as a threat to hereditary rule in its federation of seven sheikhdoms. Egypt, angered by Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and the nation’s deposed President Mohammed Morsi, is also boycotting Doha.

The U.S., which has some 10,000 troops stationed at Qatar’s sprawling al-Udeid Air Base as part of its campaign against the Islamic State group and the war in Afghanistan, also has sought to end the crisis. Its military has halted some regional exercises to put pressure on the GCC to resolve the crisis. However, President Donald Trump in the meantime made comments seemingly supporting the Arab nations’ efforts at isolating Qatar, complicating those efforts.

A Trump-prompted call in September between Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim and the Saudi crown prince that offered a chance at negotiations also broke down in mutual recriminations.

Kuwait’s 88-year-old emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, has tried to mediate the dispute, so far without success. However, Kuwait appeared in recent days to secure promises from the GCC to attend its annual high-level summit.

It remains in question who will attend from each member state. Bahrain had sworn it would not attend any meeting that featured Qatar, though a lower-level official attended a meeting of GCC foreign ministers on Monday in Kuwait City. Qatar’s Shiekh Tamim already committed to attending, while Oman said another official would represent Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

But the GCC meeting also represents more than just the Qatar crisis. The long-stalemated Saudi-led war in Yemen suffered a new setback with the death Monday of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who recently defected from the Shiite rebels holding its capital.

Meanwhile, a new generation of Gulf leaders is rising, like Saudi Arabia’s assertive 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed, who launched the Yemen war and has been more confrontational with Iran.

“The Saudi camp is seeking to commit the Gulf states to a hard-line anti-Iran policy and adherence to Saudi leadership,” Ayham Kamel, the head of the Middle East and North Africa division of the Eurasia Group, wrote in an analysis published Tuesday. “While the UAE believes its interests are best served by an alliance with Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain is compelled to follow Riyadh’s lead, the other Gulf states are much more hesitant to do so.”

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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellap . His work can be found at http://apne.ws/2galNpz .