Breaking News -- Middle East
|Egypt's new interim gov't sworn in, Sisi remains defense minis
CAIRO, March 1 (Xinhua) -- Egypt's interim government headed by newly-appointed Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab was sworn in on Saturday, with Military Chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi remaining in office as the defense minister, state-run Nile TV reported.
If Sisi, who also kept his post as the first deputy prime minister, announces that he will run for president which is a widely expected bid, he will have to resign as the minister and head of the Armed Forces.
Sisi is expected to announce whether he will compete in the upcoming presidential election after a new presidential law is approved.
As many as 20 ministers from the outgoing cabinet kept their posts, including ministers of foreign affairs, information, petroleum, culture, tourism, transportation and environment.
Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, who was appointed during former president Mohamed Morsi's one-year rule, also retained his post.
Ibrahim, who survived an assassination bid last September, is facing a tough task to keep the country's stability and security amid a string of terrorist attacks hitting the country and the growing militant insurgency in the restive Sinai peninsula, which killed dozens of policemen, observers say.
The 32-minister lineup included 12 new ones, such as the minister of finance, health, Justice, electricity, social solidarity, civil aviation, and housing.
Hany Kadry Dimian, a key negotiator with the International Monetary Fund and the first deputy to the outgoing finance minster, is appointed as the new minister of finance.
Mohamed Shaker, chairman of a consultancy and engineering firm, will head the Electricity Ministry, while Nahed el-Ashry, who served as head of the department of labor relations and played a major role in negotiations with striking workers, will take the Manpower Ministry.
Twelve ministries were merged into six in the new cabinet, among them Ministry of Industry and Trade was merged with the Investment Ministry, the Administrative Development and Local Development Ministries will be jointly headed by Adel Labib, the minister of the outgoing local development. Youth and Sport Ministries will be headed by Khaled Abdel Aziz of the outgoing Youth Ministry.
The new line-up led by Mahlab was announced after the sudden resignation of ex-prime minister Hazem el-Beblawi, who took office in July after the army disposed former Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi.
The new cabinet is tasked with organizing a presidential election set for mid-April.
Noha Bakir, a professor at Cairo University for Political Sciences, told Xinhua that the new government and new president " will carry huge economic burdens and challenges, and seek reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood."
Rouhani says Iran will not acquire nuclear weapons 'on principle'
Iran’s president said on Saturday the Islamic Republic has decided not to develop nuclear weapons out of principle, not only because it is prevented from doing so by treaties.
President Hassan Rouhani also urged Iran’s military leaders to let diplomacy prevail in dealing with potential foreign threats, in a clear reference to efforts to end the nuclear dispute and decades of hostile relations with the west.
“It is very important to formulate one’s sentences and speeches in a way that is not construed as threat, intention to strike a blow,” Rouhani said in a meeting with Iran’s top military echelon.
“We must be very careful in our calculations. Launching missiles and staging military exercises to scare off the other side is not good deterrence, although a necessity in its proper place,” the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying. “A misfire could burst into flames and wreak havoc to everything.”
While Iranian nuclear negotiators were haggling with world powers in Vienna last month, many generals were beating war drums at home and flexing their military muscles. “Our forefathers primed us for the final epic battle,” said the chief commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad-Ali Jafari.
Such belligerence was absent from Rouhani’s speech on Saturday. The president said that if Iran wanted weapons of mass destruction, it would be easier for it to make chemical or biological weapons. In doing so he was reiterating a policy set by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who issued a religious decree banning the production and use of nuclear weapons. He has said holding such arms is a sin as well as “useless, harmful and dangerous”.
“We are not after weapons of mass destruction. That’s our red line,” Rouhani said. “If Iran was after weapons of mass destruction, it would build chemical weapons. Those are easier to make. It would build biological arms, which are even easier than making chemical weapons.”
He said Iran’s “beliefs” and commitment to “ethical principles”, not merely the United Nations’ nuclear non-proliferation treaty, prevent it from making a bomb. Iran is a signatory to the NPT and says it will remain committed to its obligations not to build nuclear weapons under the treaty but will not compromise on its right to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel.
“We signed these treaties to show the world we are not after such weapons,” Rouhani told military commanders. “Even if there were no NPT or other treaties, our belief, our faith, our religion and principles tell us not to seek weapons of mass destruction.”
The US and its allies fear that Iran seeks to develop the ability to make a nuclear weapon, should it want one. Iran denies the charge, saying its nuclear programme is peaceful and geared towards generating electricity and producing radioisotopes to treat cancer patients.
Rouhani said his government’s policy of moderation and easing tensions with the outside world is “not a tactic” but a genuine change in the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy.
“The foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is based on easing tensions and building confidence with the world. This is not a tactic or slogan. Iran is not seeking tensions with others … but we don’t compromise on our dignity, independence, national interests and values,” he said.
Rouhani says his countrymen elected him president in June to change Iran’s foreign policy and shift away from the bombastic style adopted under his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He has said, however, that its principles including maintaining a peaceful nuclear programme will not change.
That policy, also supported by Khamenei, led to a historic interim nuclear deal with world powers on 24 November, in Geneva. Iran stopped enriching uranium to 20% and started neutralising its existing stockpile of that grade just steps away from weapons material in January, in order to fulfil commitments reached under the deal. The US and the European Union also lifted some sanctions in response to the Iranian moves.
Iran and the six-nation group – the five permanent members of the UN security council plus Germany – began talks earlier this month for a comprehensive deal in Vienna.
Iran economy showing signs of revival due to West sanctions relief, reforms
The Voice of Russia
In the address to the three branches of government, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, supreme leader of Iran, said that economic difficulties were the main reasons of Iranians' anxiety, fears and concerns. Hassan Rouhani, president of Iran, said that the government was ready to turn to the "economy of resistance" plan in order to remove the burden from people’s shoulders. What does this mean to Iranians and the world as a whole?
Today everyone is sure that the international sanctions adversely affected the economy of Iran. It dropped by six percent during the last year. Oil export rate's dropped by 60 percent and deprived Iran from some $80 billion. In addition, the rate of Iran’s currency, the rial, has dropped twice. The inflation rate has increased by 40 percent. Retail prices have risen on all kinds of goods and services. The lack of investments in the gas and oil branch alone has reached $230 billion, Yelena Dunayeva, an orientalist and an expert on Iran, says, commenting on the issue:
"The economic situation shows that Iran is in need of effective economic reforms. The government of Rouhani strives for laying the foundations in an attempt to solve the economic crisis problem. Iran and six leading world powers ("The Sextet") agreed upon the abolition of some sanctions in exchange for cessation of some elements of the Iran nuclear program. This has slightly improved the economic situation in the country. If such tendencies continue, Iran’s economy will be restored in the near future."
President Rouhani asks himself how there could be unemployment, poverty and high inflation in a country that possesses minerals, talented and skilled specialists and a perfect Constitution. He answers his question himself: "We couldn’t use all favorable opportunities." It’s clear that the international sanctions prevented the government from doing this. However, the president says that the determination of the government to eliminate unfair sanctions doesn’t mean that the government has given way to despair. On the contrary, this gives the government a determination to create.
This has become a basis of reforms, called "the economy of resistance". Hassan Rouhani says that it has two sides – the inner and the outer. While solving the inner task, the government should ameliorate the conditions for business, adopt new effective legislation and rules for business. It should also optimize the structure of inner and outer investments, distributing them uniformly among the sectors of the economy.
As for the outer side, the president emphasized the importance of the negotiation between Iran and "The Sextet", considering Iran’s nuclear program. Rouhani said that he hoped for a positive result of the negotiations. He also added that Iran wanted to be open to the world and keep a fitting place in the international arena.
His optimism is somewhat justified. A month has passed since a Geneva Convention on the Iran nuclear program came into force, but the results are to the fore. There is a trend in the revival of Iranian economy. The International Monetary Fund thinks that the rate at which the Iranian economy is falling will decrease by 1-2 percent and the inflation rate by 25 percent in the next financial year.
Meanwhile, the delegations of business groups from Britain, France, Italy, Austria, Kazakhstan, Turkey and other countries are rushing to Iran. Businessmen are hurrying to get their business sector in Iran. The country is in possession of some 80 million potential consumers and has a GDP of $500 billion, which is the third in the region after Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
That’s why, Iran without its nuclear program and sanctions, imposed by the international community, might become an important center of trade and investments not only in the region, but in the international arena as well. This will benefit Iran’s economy and the living conditions of Iran's citizens.
|(Disclaimer) What to Look For in World Events: Audio & Text Video|