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Donors Pledge $4.4B in Aid for Syria, Neighbors

Wed, 04/25/2018 - 19:27
International donors have pledged $4.4 billion in humanitarian aid for Syria and neighboring countries that have sheltered refugees this year. But the pledge total is significantly less than the more than $7 billion the United Nations is seeking. Mark Lowcock, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said Wednesday that the pledges made an at international donor conference in Brussels were a "good start." He said that based on previous years'...
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Interview - Schools, Water are Priorities as Saudi Launches Privatization Plan

Wed, 04/25/2018 - 18:05
School buildings and desalination facilities producing fresh water will feature in some of the first deals as Saudi Arabia transfers a quarter of its economy to private hands, an official overseeing the process said on Wednesday. Turki A. al-Hokail, chief executive of the National Center for Privatization and Public-Private Partnerships, was speaking as the government formally launched a vast privatization program focusing on 10 sectors of the economy. Riyadh is working on new rules to...
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Cheese Puffs? Iran Says Haley Showed Fabricated Houthi Proof

Wed, 04/25/2018 - 15:43
To the Trump administration, the recovered missile fragments were incontrovertible proof that Iran was illicitly arming Yemen's Houthi rebels. Yet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is brushing it off as little more than cheese puffs. During a visit to New York, the Iranian diplomat accused U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Tuesday of displaying fabricated evidence that missiles lobbed by the Houthis at civilian areas in Saudi Arabia originated in Iran....
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Watchdogs Warn of Worldwide Threats to Press Freedom

Wed, 04/25/2018 - 08:30
Incessant attacks on the media by populist politicians are posing a threat to major democracies, two international watchdogs said on Wednesday.  In their annual reports on the state of press freedom around the world, Reporters Without Borders and Freedom House harshly criticized Western populist leaders for discrediting the media, berating journalists, and threatening to impose restrictions.  “As recently as five years ago, global pressure on the media did not appear to...
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Egypt's Rice Farmers See Rough Times Downstream of Nile Mega-dam

Wed, 04/25/2018 - 03:30
Rice farmers in Kafr Ziada village in the Nile River Delta have ignored planting restrictions aimed at conserving water for years, continuing to grow a medium-grain variety of the crop that is prized around the Arab world. A decision thousands of kilometers to the south is about to change that, however, in another example of how concern about water, one of the world's most valuable commodities, is forcing change in farming, laws and even international diplomacy. Far upstream, close...
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UN Official: Farming Should Be at Heart of Syria Reconstruction

Wed, 04/25/2018 - 02:09
International efforts to rebuild Syria once the civil war is over should center on agriculture to kick-start the economy and quickly improve the livelihoods of the people, a high-level U.N. official said Tuesday. In an interview with The Associated Press ahead of an international Syria donors conference, Daniel Gustafson, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's deputy director general, said that in case of a return to peace, the impact of funding farming would yield almost...
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Syria is Death Trap for Civilians, UN Refugee Chief Warns

Wed, 04/25/2018 - 00:30
Civilians can no longer flee fighting and bombing raids in Syria because borders are so tightly controlled and neighboring countries are overwhelmed by refugees, creating some of the worst suffering in modern times, a top U.N. agency chief said. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi was warning of a new disaster if the rebel-controlled Syrian city of Idlib was the next target of the Syrian military. "The country is becoming a trap, in some places a death trap for...
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Seeking Aid Abroad, Lebanon Uproots Syrian Refugees

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 22:44
Three years ago, Ahmad Mohsin was forced to relocate his campsite in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley after soldiers raided the community of Syrian refugees where he lived and smashed their belongings. The message was clear, he said: they were not wanted. On Tuesday, Mohsin, 39, was preparing to break down his camp again, after an order came from the security services to move once more. Even as donor nations raise money for Syria's neighbors to host refugees of the country's civil...
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Local Tensions Flare Up Before Lebanese Election

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 22:15
Incidents of political violence including an assault on one candidate and an attack on the office of another are casting a shadow over Lebanon’s first general election in nine years. The May 6 vote will take place using a complicated new electoral law. It is not expected to cause major changes to the government or its policies. Analysts expect Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri will head the next cabinet. But the law has made the outcome less predictable in some places. This has sharpened...
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Egypt's Former Anti-graft Chief Jailed for 5 Years for Spreading False News

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 20:18
A military court has sentenced Egypt’s former anti-corruption chief to five years in prison on charges of spreading false news harmful to the military, his lawyer said on Tuesday. Hisham Genena ran alongside former military chief-of-staff Sami Anan as a member of his short-lived presidential campaign before the latter was detained in January and accused by the army of running for office without permission, bringing his bid to an end. Genena was arrested and put under investigation by...
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Israel Abandons Plan to Forcibly Deport African Migrants

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 20:17
The Israeli government said on Tuesday it was abandoning a plan to forcibly deport African migrants who entered the country illegally. The government had been working for months on an arrangement to expel thousands of mostly Eritrean and Sudanese men who crossed into Israel through Egypt's Sinai desert. "At this stage, the possibility of carrying out an unwilling deportation to a third country is not on the agenda," the government wrote in a response to the court. The...
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UN Rights Office: Saudi-Led Yemen Strikes Kill Dozens of Civilians

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 19:15
The U.N. Human Rights Office is calling for an investigation into the killings of dozens of civilians in Yemen during the past four days by Saudi-led Coalition airstrikes. The office reports Saudi-led airstrikes killed at least 45 people, all civilians, and wounded many more, including women and children in three separate incidents. The first attack on Friday reportedly killed 21 civilians, including five children traveling in a vehicle in a village in Taizz governorate. Two days...
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UN-EU Conference on Syria Aims to Revive Peace Process

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 18:54
Efforts to find a political solution to the Syrian civil war resumed Tuesday as representatives and ministers from 85 countries gathered in Brussels for a two-day conference, co-chaired by the United Nations and the European Union. Its stated aim is to mobilize humanitarian aid to Syrians inside the country and boost support for the U.N.-led Geneva peace process. However, with Syrian government forces -backed by their Russian allies - seemingly determined to try to secure a military...
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Syrian Troops Target IS Tunnels, Trenches in Damascus

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 18:22
The Syrian government launched a new operation Tuesday targeting tunnels used by the Islamic State group in the capital, state TV said, while shelling by the extremists on a government-held neighborhood left at least four dead. The TV said the aim of the operation is to destroy trenches and tunnels in the Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood and the nearby Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, which is also mostly controlled by the extremists. IS fighters in Hajar al-Aswad fired a shell on the...
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WFP: Battle for Syria's Idlib Would Trigger Humanitarian Nightmare

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 18:15
A senior World Food Program official warns that a Syrian government offensive to wrest the besieged province of Idlib from rebel armed groups would be catastrophic and trigger a humanitarian crisis. Now that the besieged enclave of eastern Ghouta has fallen, Idlib remains the last rebel stronghold in Syria. Troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russian air forces, are advancing on Idlib, which is home to 2 million people. One half of this population is composed of...
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Mummified Body Found in Iran Could Be Father of Last Shah

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 18:00
A mummified body discovered near the site of a former royal mausoleum in Iran may be the remains of Reza Shah Pahlavi, the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty and the father of the country's last shah. The recent find of the gauze-wrapped body — and the speculation it triggered — puts new hurdles in the way of the Islamic Republic's efforts to fully erase the country's dynastic past, which includes the jack-hammered destruction of the autocrat's tomb immediately after the 1979...
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