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Stress laid on interfaith cooperation at Expo 2020 Dubai event to mark Human Fraternity Day – Arab News

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DUBAI: The Document for Human Fraternity was “a milestone on the path of interreligious dialogue,” Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso told Arab News on the sidelines of an event at Expo 2020 Dubai marking the International Day of Human Fraternity.
He was one of several faith leaders who gathered at the Expo’s Sustainability Pavilion on Friday to mark the third anniversary of the signing — by Pope Francis of the Catholic Church and Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar — of the document in Abu Dhabi on Feb. 4, 2019.
The joint declaration called for peace among all peoples, while setting out a blueprint for a culture of dialogue and collaboration between all faiths.
“We are citizens of the world,” said Ayuso, from Spain, who is the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and a renowned historian of Islam.
“All believers of God must work together to counter the problems we are facing today. It is important to cultivate values and to maintain a relationship with religion, whether it’s in church, a mosque or a synagogue.”
To mark the anniversary, Pope Francis and Sheikh El-Tayeb sent video messages in which they called for continued interfaith understanding.
“Now is not a time for indifference,” Pope Francis said. “Either we are brothers and sisters or everything falls apart.”
Sheikh El-Tayeb said: “This celebration means a quest for a better world where the spirit of tolerance, fraternity, solidarity and collaboration prevails. It also indicates a hope for providing effective tools to face the crises and challenges of contemporary humanity.
“We have embarked on this path in the hope for a new world that is free of wars and conflicts, where the fearful are reassured, the poor sustained, the vulnerable protected and justice administered.”
Opening the celebrations, Judge Mohammed Abdelsalam, secretary-general of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, emphasized the ways in which the Document for Human Fraternity has empowered people to fight prejudice and increase accountability, offering protection for “the haves and have-nots, the rich and the poor, and both genders.”
The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity was founded by authorities in the UAE to determine the recipients of the Zayed Award, which is awarded each year to people or organizations “who embody through their work this lifelong commitment to human fraternity.”
Last year’s recipients were UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Latifa Ibn Ziaten, a Moroccan-French activist who has campaigned tirelessly against radicalization since losing her son in a terrorist attack 10 years ago.
Speaking during Friday’s event in Dubai, Mohammed Al-Diwaini, Al-Azhar deputy director of the grand imam, said it is imperative to “drop any sicknesses” of hatred and discrimination in favor of religious tolerance.
“If we follow our religion in its right form and without misinterpretation, we would be living in the best condition possible,” he told attendees.
The opening ceremony included a short video highlighting leaders who had served the cause of coexistence, including Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr. and Sheikh Zayed, who was the driving force behind the formation of the UAE and championed plurality throughout his life.
To mark the International Day of Human Fraternity, US President Joe Biden sent a letter to the Higher Committee calling for global solidarity to meet the challenges of the day.
“From the ongoing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic and the existential climate crisis to the rise of violence around the world, these challenges require global cooperation from people of all backgrounds, cultures, faiths and beliefs,” Biden wrote.
He added that these challenges “require us to speak with one another in open dialogue, to promote tolerance, inclusion and understanding. Above all, they require us to be open minded, cooperative and empathetic and to ensure that all people are treated with dignity and as full participants in society.”
Echoing these sentiments, Cardinal Ayuso said the pandemic has been a challenge for people of all religious backgrounds, but added that faith has helped to guide communities through the crisis and would help them recover.
“In light of today’s pandemic that pushed people to lockdown, numbers of believers at houses of worship went down but I believe their faith grew stronger in their hearts,” he told Arab News.
“Some complain religion should not be active in society but religion is not a problem; rather it is a part of a solution.”
AL-MUKALLA: Yemeni civilians have been warned to avoid roads leading to the northern city of Haradh, a day after the Yemeni army launched an offensive to oust Houthi forces from the area.
The Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen is backing the Yemeni army’s efforts to liberate the strategic city from the Iran-backed Houthi militia.
Starting at 3 a.m. on Saturday, the coalition threatened to target vehicles on roads to Haradh and said the area is an operation site where Yemeni government troops are pushing to seize control of the city. 
A coalition spokesperson was quoted by the Saudi Press Agency as saying that areas around Haradh are “within the area of operations and are being monitored round the clock, and any movements on these roads will be targeted.”
The coalition’s warning came as Yemeni army troops, backed by coalition air support, almost besieged Haradh after forcing militia fighters to abandon strategic locations east of the city. 
Brig. Gen. Abdu Abdullah Majili, a Yemeni army spokesperson, told Arab News on Saturday that government troops had seized a military base and land east of Haradh.
Troops called on Houthis who control the city’s downtown area to surrender. 
“The national army liberated Al-Mehsam military base and the international road that links Hajjah with Hodeidah, and is now pushing toward the city’s downtown,” Majili said. 
Starting at 3 a.m. on Saturday, the coalition threatened to target vehicles on roads to Haradh and said the area was an operational site.
Gains by government troops were first announced on Friday by Maj. Gen. Yahiya Salah, commander of the Yemeni army’s 5th military region, hours after the start of the Haradh offensive. 
Military strikes in the northern province of Hajjah are part of the “Freedom of Happy Yemen” operation to liberate the country from the Houthis announced by Brig. Gen. Turki Al-Maliki in January. 
Majili said the liberation of Haradh will allow government troops to push southward toward the port city of Hodeidah, secure Al-Tewal border crossing that links Yemen’s northern areas with Saudi Arabia, and help thousands of displaced people to return to their homes. 
Local media reports said that the Houthis fired three ballistic missiles at government forces surrounding Haradh and planted land mines in a bid to stop troops from advancing into the city.
Government forces also made advances in the northern province of Saada, the Houthi heartland, seizing several locations and areas in Haydan district. 
The Houthis suffered heavy casualties, while 13 militia vehicles were destroyed by coalition warplanes during the past 24 hours in the provinces of Hajjah and Marib, the coalition said in a statement.
TUNIS: Tunisian President Kais Saied on Sunday dissolved the Supreme Judicial Council, the body that deals with judicial independence, a move that raises fears about the independence of the judiciary and was sure to anger his opponents.
Saied’s decision caps months of his sharp criticism of the judges. Saied has frequently criticized the judiciary’s delay in issuing rulings in cases of corruption and terrorism. He repeatedly said he would not allow judges to act as if they are a state, instead of being a function of the state.
Saied called the council a thing of the past, adding he will issue a temporary decree to the council. He gave no details about the decree.
Last July, Saied dismissed the government and suspended parliament, a move his opponents described as a coup. He has been broadly criticized after seizing power and rejecting dialogue with all political parties.
The Supreme Judicial Council is an independent and constitutional institution, formed in 2016. Its powers include ensuring the independence of the judiciary, disciplining judges and granting them professional promotions.
Last month, Saied revoked all financial privileges for council members.
“In this council, positions and appointments are sold according to loyalties. Their place is not the place where they sit now, but where the accused stand,” Saied said in speech in the interior ministry.
On Sunday, parties and organizations, including the powerful UGTT union, will demonstrate to pressure the judiciary to hold those involved in terrorism accountable, on the ninth anniversary of the assassination of secular politician Chokri Belaid.
It is expected that Saied’s supporters also will protest in a second demonstration against the Supreme Judicial Council.
“I tell Tunisians to demonstrate freely. It is your right and our right to dissolve the Supreme Judicial Council,” Saied said.
Saied’s approval of Sunday’s demonstrations comes even though a government decision to ban all demonstrations remains in effect.
Last month, police fired water cannons and beat protesters with sticks to break up an opposition protest against Saied, whose seizure of broad powers and declared plans to redraw the constitution have cast doubt on Tunisia’s decade-old democratic system, and hindered its quest for an international rescue plan for public finances.
The president has initiated an online public consultation before drafting a new constitution that he says will be put to a referendum. He has not brought major political or civil society players into the process. 
LONDON: Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed on Saturday held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss ways of developing ties and opportunities for increasing joint cooperation, especially in investment and economy.
The two leaders also discussed the latest regional and global issues of common concern, Emirates state news agency WAM reported.
Sheikh Mohammed arrived in China on Friday to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, following an invitation from Xi.
Sheikh Mohammed congratulated the president on the Chinese New Year, and thanked him for the invitation to attend the Olympic games.
I had the pleasure of meeting with President Xi Jinping in Beijing today. We discussed the robust partnership between our two nations & ways to strengthen these growing ties. Our talks covered areas of mutual interest including ways to promote peace & stability in the Middle East pic.twitter.com/bGl4vSg9U3
Meanwhile, Xi also met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to discuss strengthening communication and political consultation between the two countries on regional and international issues.
The Chinese leader said his country attaches special importance to its relations with Egypt in view of its pivotal role in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Mediterranean, El-Sisi’s spokesman Bassam Rady said.
“In the context of the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries, the (Egyptian) president affirmed Egypt’s keenness to build on the momentum reached in bilateral meetings” and develop bilateral cooperation in many fields, especially development, economic and trade, and to attract more Chinese investments to take advantage of the promising opportunities available in Egypt in various sectors.
Rady said both sides discussed enhancing cooperation in scientific research activities, technology transfer in the pharmaceutical industries, manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines, industrial technologies, communications and information technology, electric vehicles and health care.
TEHRAN: Some 50 members of Iran’s 290-seat parliament have contracted COVID-19, a senior MP said on Saturday as the omicron variant spreads unabated across the county.
MP Alireza Salimi, speaking to YJC, a news agency linked to Iran’s state TV, said this week’s parliamentary session would be held in accordance with health regulations.
Parliament was suspended for two weeks last April due to an outbreak among MPs. In the early days of the pandemic, several lawmakers died from the virus.
Iran has seen a surge in cases after a brief respite following mass vaccinations. In recent days it has reported an average of more than 30,000 new infections a day. However, the number of cases over the previous 24 hours was 23,130, the Health Ministry said on Saturday.
Iran, with a population of about 85 million, has reported more than 6.5 million infections and more than 132,500 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began.
More than 50 million people have received two doses of coronavirus vaccine, and more than 19 million have received three doses.
TEHRAN: US steps on lifting sanctions are “good but not enough,” Iran’s foreign minister said on Saturday, hours after Washington announced it was waiving sanctions on Iran’s civilian nuclear program.
The US action came as talks to restore a 2015 deal between Tehran and world powers over its nuclear program reached an advanced stage, with the issue of sanctions relief a major issue.
“The lifting of some sanctions can, in the true sense of the word, translate into their good will. Americans talk about it, but it should be known that what happens on paper is good but not enough,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency.
The US State Department on Friday said it was waiving sanctions on Iran’s civilian nuclear program in a technical step necessary to return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.
Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the pact in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran, prompting the country to begin pulling back from its commitments under the deal.
The waiver allows other countries and companies to participate in Iran’s civilian nuclear program without triggering US sanctions on them, in the name of promoting safety and nonproliferation.
Iran’s civilian program includes increasing stockpiles of enriched uranium.
Amir-Abdollahian reiterated that one of the “main issues” in the JCPOA talks is obtaining guarantees that the US will not withdraw from the 2015 deal again. “We seek and demand guarantees in the political, legal and economic sectors,” he said, adding that “agreements have been reached in some areas.”
The Vienna negotiations, which include Iran, the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, are at a stage where the sides have to make important “political decisions,” different parties to the negotiations said last week.
“Our negotiating team in the Vienna talks is seriously pursuing obtaining tangible guarantees from the West to fulfil their commitments,” Amir-Abdollahian said.
Earlier on Saturday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said: “Naturally, Tehran is carefully considering any action that is in the right direction of fulfilling the obligations of the JCPOA,” local media reported.
Mikhail Ulyanov, Moscow’s ambassador to the UN in Vienna, on Saturday called the US waiver decision “a move in the right direction.”
“It will help expedite restoration of #JCPOA and mutual return of #US and #Iran to compliance with 2015 deal. It also can be seen as an indication that the #ViennaTalks have entered the final stage,” he said on Twitter.
Talks on reviving the nuclear deal were halted last week and the negotiators returned to their capitals for consultations. Experts say the JCPOA talks could resume next week.

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