Abu Dhabi crown prince holds talks with Moroccan PM – Arab News
RIYADH: Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed held talks with Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch, who is currently on a working visit to the UAE, state news agency WAM reported on Saturday.
During the meeting, they discussed the now-running Expo 2020 Dubai and the importance of the participation of Arab countries in sharing the latest sustainability innovations and solutions with various participating countries.
The two sides discussed opportunities of further strengthening bilateral relations and the various aspects of cooperation, especially in areas of investment and economy, to spur the development drive in both countries.
“They also reviewed the latest developments in the Arab region and exchanged views over a number of regional and international issues of common interest,” WAM said.
Sheikh Mohammed also congratulated Akhannouch on his appointment as prime minister and the trust given to him by the king of Morocco to head the government, “wishing him success in his duties to serve his country and achieve the aspirations of his people for development and prosperity.”
TEL AVIVI: An Israeli hospital launched a clinical trial Monday on the impact of a fourth shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, as the health ministry weighs a national fourth jab rollout.
The study being conducted by Sheba Medical Center involves 150 volunteers from the hospital’s staff, who are at least four months removed from their third vaccine shot and have signs of waning antibodies.
Director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit at Sheba, Gili Regev-Yochay, said the study would assess the potential antibody boost from a fourth shot, the existence of adverse effects and whether an additional booster reduces the risk of infection.
Participants will be monitored for six months, she added.
Israeli health ministry spokeswoman Gal Rotem Golan told AFP that the ministry had approved the trial to “check the efficacy” of the fourth shot.
The study’s launch comes as Ministry of Health Director General Nachman Ash weighs the recommendation of an Israeli expert panel to begin administering a fourth vaccine shot to medical staff and everyone above 60 years old.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett hailed the recommendation, which came earlier this month, citing the risk of the highly transmissible omicron coronavirus variant.
He said that Israel, which was among the first countries in the world to offer a third shot to the general public, would be a trailblazer for the fourth jab.
But the rollout is on hold, pending the health ministry’s approval.
Ash reportedly wants more time to assess the recommendation, as he awaits further data on the severity of infections caused by omicron.
Ran Balicer, chairman of Israel’s national expert panel on Covid-19, supported the trial as Israel is “the first (country) to have a large national cohort of third dose vaccinated people with substantial waning immunity.”
Heart transplant surgeon Jacob Levee, who is participating in the trial for the fourth shot, told reporters: “I did not want to expose the heart transplant patients I am taking care of to the potential of getting the omicron variant.”
Some 4.2 million of Israel’s estimated 9.3 million citizens have received three doses of coronavirus vaccine.
PARIS: A Frenchman held in Iran for more than 18 months on espionage charges he rejects has begun a hunger strike to protest at his detention conditions, his family said Monday.
Benjamin Briere, 36, was arrested in Iran last May, allegedly while flying a drone and taking photographs in a prohibited area.
“Benjamin started the hunger strike on December 25 because he was not allowed to call us for Christmas, but also to draw attention to the mistreatment he has suffered for twenty months,” his sister Blandine Briere told AFP.
“He sees no evolution in his case.”
His family describes him as an innocent tourist who set out in 2018 on a road trip in his camper van that began in Scandinavia before heading overland toward Iran.
His Iranian lawyer said in May that prosecutors had confirmed he would be tried for espionage as well as “propaganda against the system.” A conviction of espionage is punishable by death in Iran.
The French foreign ministry has described the spying charges against Briere, who is being held in the Valikabad prison in the city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran, as “incomprehensible.”
“The Iranian judiciary have not yet decided which court will try the case,” said Blandine Briere.
“He is being held hostage for no reason,” she added. “It is completely illegal and we don’t know anything. Benjamin needs more from the French foreign ministry.”
In Paris, a foreign ministry spokesman said Monday that the government was following “our compatriot’s situation with the greatest attention.”
The French embassy in Tehran had been in regular contact with Briere, who the spokesman said was in Iran “as a tourist” when he was arrested.
The latest such visit took place on December 21, and the embassy contacted him again on Monday, the ministry spokesman said.
Briere is one of more than a dozen Western nationals held in Iran whom activists describe as hostages innocent of any crime, and detained at the behest of the powerful Revolutionary Guards to extract concessions from the West.
Iran insists they are held in accordance with Iranian law, but Tehran has in the past shown readiness to release Western nationals in exchange for the freedom of Iranians held abroad.
Briere is the only such Western detainee known to be held in Iran who does not also hold an Iranian passport.
Iran is also holding the French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, who was detained in 2019 and sentenced in May 2020 to five years in prison on national security charges. In October, she was moved to house arrest.
Fellow French academic Roland Marchal, who was detained with her, was released in March 2020 after France released Iranian engineer Jallal Rohollahnejad, who faced extradition to the United States over accusations he violated US sanctions against Iran.
CAIRO: Egypt has announced that all adults must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or lose their right to public services, such as healthcare and education.
Health Ministry spokesman Hossam Abdel Ghaffar said the ruling applied to all citizens aged over 18.
Egypt earlier barred government employees from entering their workplaces unless they had received at least one jab.
The Supreme Council of Universities confirmed that students will be prohibited from entering campus to take their exams unless they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Those who are exempt from vaccination on medical grounds must provide a negative PCR test every three days, a council spokesman said.
The Health Ministry said it had acquired 118 million vaccine doses but only 55 million had so far been administered.
The ministry recorded 823 new infections and 37 deaths in Egypt on Sunday, taking the respective totals to 381,343 and 21,608.
BAGHDAD: Iraq’s Supreme Court rejected appeals lodged by Iran-backed Shiite factions against the results of a parliamentary election on Monday, the chief judge said, derailing their attempt to overturn the vote in which they performed poorly.
The Iran-backed factions, including powerful armed groups, had alleged irregularities in the Oct. 10 vote. Judge Jassim Mohammed read out the ruling rejecting their appeal at the court headquarters in Baghdad.
The biggest winner in the vote was the movement led by Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, an opponent of both Iranian and US influence in Iraq, which won 73 seats, more than any other group in the fractious 329-seat house.
Once the result is confirmed by the Supreme Court, negotiations are expected among Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish groups over the formation of a new government to replace the outgoing cabinet led by Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.


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