Saudi king urges Iran to stop expansionism

News Network
November 21,2019

Nov 21: Saudi Arabia's King Salman urged arch-rival Iran on Wednesday to abandon an expansionist ideology that has "harmed" its own people, following violent street protests in the Islamic republic.

A wave of demonstrations erupted in the sanctions-hit country on Friday after an announcement that petrol prices would be raised by as much as 200 per cent with immediate effect.

"We hope the Iranian regime chooses the side of wisdom and realises there is no way to overcome the international position that rejects its practises, without abandoning its expansionist and destructive thinking that has harmed its own people," the king told the consultative Shura Council.

The region's leading Shiite and Sunni powers have no diplomatic ties and are at odds over a range of issues, including the wars in Syria and Yemen.

"The kingdom has suffered from the policies and practises of the Iranian regime and its proxies," King Salman said, quoted by the foreign ministry, reiterating that Riyadh does not seek war but is "ready to defend its people".

Saudi leaders regularly accuse Iran of stirring conflicts by supporting Shiite movements in the region.

Tehran denies the charges and in turn says Riyadh supports radical Islamist groups.

King Salman said he hoped for a political settlement in Yemen, where the Iran-aligned Huthi rebels have been fighting the Saudi-backed government for than four years.

Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the conflict in 2015, shortly after the Huthis took over the capital Sanaa.

King Salman said he hoped a recent Saudi-brokered agreement between the Yemeni government and southern separatists would "open the door for wider peace talks" to end the conflict.

Tensions have soared between Riyadh and Tehran after a recent string of assaults on oil tankers and installations in the Gulf.

In the latest attack on September 14, drone strikes targeted two Saudi oil facilities, temporarily knocking out half of the kingdom's oil production.

The attacks were claimed by the Houthis, but Washington and Riyadh said Iran was responsible, and that the strikes were carried out with advanced missiles and drones.

The king's annual address to the Shura Council, which he uses to outline the kingdom's domestic and international policy, was not aired on Saudi state television.

Authorities did not give a reason for the shift from previous years when the speech was broadcast live.

In his speech, the king did not mention a two-year Saudi-led boycott of neighbouring Qatar, amid speculation of an easing of tensions.

Not did he comment on Washington's decision this week to no longer consider Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank illegal.

However, the foreign ministry in a statement Wednesday said Saudi Arabia completely rejected Washington's stance, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

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In its first, UAE launches 'Hope' mission to Mars from Japan

News Network
July 20,2020

Abu Dhabi, Jul 20: The United Arab Emirates launched its first-ever interplanetary Hope Probe mission to Mars from Japan's Tanegashima Space Centre at 01:58 a.m. (local time) on Monday.

"United Arab Emirates (UAE) launches its first mission to Mars, the 'Hope Mars Mission' from Japan's Tanegashima Space Center," UAE Space Agency said on its Twitter page.

The spacecraft is expected to reach Mars orbit in about 200 days from now and then begin its mission to study the Red Planet's atmosphere, WAM news agency reported.

Once it enters Mars' orbit in the first quarter of 2021, the Hope probe will mark the UAE's 50th anniversary.

The probe will travel 493 million kilometres into space in a journey that will take seven months, and will orbit the Red Planet for one full Martian year of 687 days to provide the first truly global picture of the Martian atmosphere.

The Hope probe will be the first to study the Martian climate throughout daily and seasonal cycles. It will observe the weather phenomena on Mars such as the massive famous dust storms that have been known to engulf the Red Planet, as compared to the short and localised dust storms on Earth.

It will also examine the interaction between the upper and lower layers of the Martian atmosphere and causes of the Red Planet's surface corrosion, as well as study why Mars is losing its upper atmosphere.

Exploring connections between today's Martian weather and the ancient climate of the Red Planet will give deeper insights into the past and future of Earth as well as the potential of life on Mars and other distant planets.

The Hope Mars Mission is considered as the biggest strategic and scientific national initiative announced by UAE's President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2014. The UAE will be the first Arab nation to embark on a space mission to the Red Planet in a journey that contributes to the international science community as a service to human knowledge.

The interplanetary mission is the first by any West Asian, Arab or Muslim majority country.

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Saudi King Salman chairs cabinet meeting from hospital via video call

Agencies
July 22,2020

Riyadh, Jul 22: Saudi King Salman held a cabinet meeting via video call from hospital in the capital Riyadh on Tuesday, a day after the 84-year-old monarch was admitted with inflammation of the gall bladder.

Three Saudi sources said the king was in stable condition.

A video of the king chairing the meeting was broadcast on Saudi state TV on Tuesday evening. In the video, which has no sound, King Salman can be seen behind a desk, wordlessly reading and leafing through documents.

The king, who has ruled the world’s largest oil exporter and close US ally since 2015, was undergoing medical checks, state media on Monday cited a Royal Court statement as saying.

Three well-connnected Saudi sources who declined to be identified, two of whom were speaking late on Monday and one on Tuesday, said the king was “fine”.

An official in the region, who requested anonymity, said he spoke to one of King Salman’s sons on Monday who seemed “calm” and that there was no sense of panic about the monarch’s health.

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Trail of death and devastation as massive explosion rocks Lebanon's capital

Agencies
August 4,2020

bairut.jpg

Beirut, Aug 4: A massive explosion has shaken the Lebanese capital of Beirut, with a very high number of casualties expected.

A warehouse at the Beirut Port caught fire on Tuesday afternoon, triggering a huge explosion, Lebanon’s official National News Agency (NNA) reported.

Several smaller explosions were heard before the bigger one occurred.

Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s General Security, said that “highly explosive materials” confiscated earlier had been stored at the site.

Footage shared on social media captured the moment of the bigger explosion, with a colossal shock wave seen traveling fast across several hundreds of meters and shrouding the area in thick smoke.

The blast left enormous material damage to the surrounding buildings and structures. But it was not immediately known how big an area was affected.

There was also no immediate casualty count. Graphic amateur video from the scene showed bodies strewn on the ground, with their clothes blown off.

The NNA said rescue operations were underway. Ambulances were seen heading toward the scene in central Beirut.

Lebanese LBC television channel quoted Lebanon’s Health Minister Hamad Hasan as saying that the blast had caused a “very high number of injuries” and “extensive damage.”

Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud said an unspecified number of firefighters dispatched to extinguish the initial fire had been killed in the explosion.

“As they were putting out the fire, the explosion took place and we’ve [lost them],” he said, breaking down on live TV.

The explosion comes at a time when the Arab country is passing through its worst economic and financial crisis in decades, and amid rising tensions with Israel.

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