Good evening. This is Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation with the news in English. Here is what happened in the Middle East and North Africa today.
In Riyadh, mourners gathered today to pay a last tribute to King Abdullah who died yesterday. Who will succeed the late king as the leader of the House of Saud is very much unclear at this time, since the kingdom is in a demographic downfall. Following the adoption of a “women to drive” law three years ago, the fertility rate has dropped dramatically in Saudi Arabia, while the mortality rate has significantly increased.
In Qatar, the dismantling of the football stadiums constructed for the FIFA World Cup in 2022 has been completed today. While the construction of the stadiums had officially cost 4267 lives, their dismantling only took 83 lives when a wrecking ball accidentally hit Camp Miley, a series of barracks housing Indian and Pakistani migrant workers. We might like to remind our listeners that the 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar never saw a single match played, since FIFA president Charles Taylor ordered the dissolution of the international football association one day before the opening game amid various ongoing corruption investigations.
In Egypt, the last protester has left Tahrir Square in central Cairo today, making way for a complete makeover of this once very busy venue. Tahrir Square will become a parking lot that the Egyptian army will use to park military hardware recently delivered by the United States after a ten years interruption. Egyptian president Sisi is expected to formally open the parking lot, now called Mubarak Square, on 25 January 2024, exactly 13 years after the failed Egyptian revolution had started on Tahrir Square.
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In Beirut, another oil and gas industry executive was assassinated in broad daylight today. The reason for these targeted killings are still obscure, however it is suspected that the assassinations are connected to the disappointing results of the drilling for Lebanese oil and gas in the Eastern Mediterranean basin. After 12 years of negotiations between international energy companies and Lebanese politicians, an agreement was finally signed last year on how to exploit the resources and distribute the profits. However, when the drilling started, it was discovered that the potentially energy rich basin had already been emptied by Israel in the meantime.
In New York, the United Nations Security Council seat reserved for Arab nations, and vacant since the refusal of Saudi Arabia to occupy it in 2013, was eventually given to the ISIS (Islamic State of Idlib and Sham), formerly known as the northern part of Syria. ISIS president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had accepted the ISIS presidency after his bid in his native Turkey had failed, said that he was “overjoyed by the news” and that he saw this vote as a recognition of his politics in the passed ten years. In a first reaction, the United States' UN ambassador Chelsea Clinton applauded the nomination as “smart and well deserved”.
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In Tripoli, Libya, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was sworn in as the new revolutionary leader today. After being liberated by an American commando last year, to end an 11 years ordeal as a hostage of the Zintan militia in Western Libya, Dr. Gaddafi had taken over power in Tripoli shortly thereafter, supported on the ground by French and Italian parachutists. In his inaugural speech, General Gaddafi vowed to stop the unhindered flow of African refugees across the Mediterranean sea and to resume energy supply to a Western Europe still reeling from heavy clashes between African immigrants and radical right wing activists one year ago. In a Viber message delivered from his prison cell in Oslo, Anders Behring Breivik felicitated the Libyan Guide on his promotion.
"The president of the Federation of Damascus and Latakia (FDL), Asma al-Assad, announced her country's merger with the United States today"
The United States Secretary of State, Edward Snowden, met his Iranian counterpart Golshifteh Farahani in Tehran today, to discuss the war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. According to the State Department's spokesperson Glenn Greenwald, the meeting with Farahani was held “in good spirit”. Snowden had come to Tehran to also explore the possibilities of an elevated export of Iranian nuclear energy to the United States, after Russian energy minister Mikhail Khodorkovsky had threatened Washington with cutting natural gas deliveries in order to sanction the country's massive support of the Iranian regime.
Guns were firing into the air today in Tripoli, Lebanon, to celebrate the millionth entry to the city's “Tripoli sniper fun park”. Since its opening three years ago, the fun park dedicated to snipers and their skills has attracted visitors from all over the world. The park consists of two main parts, formerly known as Jabel Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh, and was designed by Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid. In the park, expert marksmen from the aforementioned communities demonstrate to an excited audience how to kill an adversary with a single bullet from a distance, shooting at dummy puppets. In a congratulation note, British prime minister and former UK ambassador to Lebanon, Tom Fletcher, called the fun park “a great idea and a marvelous project”. The transformation of Jabel Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh into a tourist attraction had ended a long history of violence in Tripoli. It finally gave North Lebanese men a legal road to income, using their natural ability of sniping.
The president of the Federation of Damascus and Latakia (FDL), Asma al-Assad, announced her country's merger with the United States today. FDL will thus become the 53rd state of the United States, only two years after long time Cuban rulers Fidel and Raoul Castro were forced into exile in Guantanamo and the subsequent annexation of the Caribbean island by the United States. Having suffered from eight years of civil war, FDL is one of the poorest countries in the world, heavily depending on the US and China that use large parts of the country as an experimental platform for their respective chemicals weapons programs. The 2013 Nobel Peace Prize winner OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) could not be reached for a comment until now.
In Baghdad, a car bomb ripped through the government district today, killing 12 and injuring 43. Among the injured was the Iraqi interior minister and former Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Nouri al-Maliki, who is in his fifth term as the Iraqi prime minister, denounced the terror attack with strong words, pledging to bring security and stability back to a level not seen in Iraq since the days of Saddam Hussein over 20 years ago.
These were today's news from the Middle East and North Africa. Thank you for listening. We now go live to Jerusalem. In yet another goodwill gesture, amid the ongoing peace talks between Israel and Palestine, Israel released the last remaining Palestinian prisoner today. Mahmoud Abbas left Ayalon prison at 10 am this morning, only to realize that he had no home and no place to go as Israel had completed the full settlement of Palestine just last week. We want to hear from our correspondent if the peace process in the Middle East still has a chance. Mark Regev, are you there?