Iran’s Rouhani says Aramco attacks were reciprocal response by Yemen

UNTV News   •   September 17, 2019   •   172

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

 An attack on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil facilities was a reciprocal measure by “Yemeni people” to assaults on this country, said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Monday (September 16), hours after a Saudi-led coalition said the attacks were carried out with Iranian weapons.

Speaking at a news conference in Ankara, Rouhani said Yemeni people “exercised their legitimate right to defense”.

The Iran-aligned Houthi group that controls Yemen’s capital claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack, which knocked out more than half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production and damaged the world’s biggest crude processing plant.

Speaking at the same news conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow was ready to help Saudi Arabia following attacks on the Saudi oil industry if needed.

These Russian weapons would protect any infrastructure facilities of Saudi Arabia, he added. (REUTERS)

Yemen’s Houthis to release 350 prisoners, including three Saudis

Robie de Guzman   •   October 1, 2019

An image grab from a handout video made available by the Houthi Military Media allegedly shows a Saudi trooper wearing a ‘Saudi National Guard’ patch, detained by the Houthis in an August offensive near the southern Saudi region of Najran, Issued 29 September 2019. EPA-EFE/HOUTHI MILITARY MEDIA HANDOUT

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group said they will on Monday (September 30) release 350 prisoners, including three Saudi Arabians, under the supervision of the United Nations as part of a peace initiative.

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group said they will on Monday (September 30) release 350 prisoners, including three Saudi Arabians, under the supervision of the United Nations as part of a peace initiative.

A prisoner swap between the Houthis and the internationally recognised, Saudi-backed government of Yemen was one of three pillars of a breakthrough deal reached in December in Sweden.

The U.N.-brokered prisoner swap deal involving some 7,000 detainees on each side stalled as the two sides struggled to agree at talks on its implementation.

A Saudi-led Sunni Muslim coalition, which receives arms and intelligence from Western countries, intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the Yemeni government from power in the capital Sanaa in 2014.

The Houthis, who control most major urban areas, said on Sept. 20 they would halt missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia if the alliance stopped its operations.

The coalition has not yet responded to the proposal. (Reuters)

(Production: Dina Selim)

Saudi Arabia opens to tourists with new visa, no abaya rule

Robie de Guzman   •   September 28, 2019

Saudi Arabia threw open its doors to tourists on Friday (September 27), launching a new visa program for 49 countries and appealing to foreign companies to invest in a sector it hopes will contribute 10% of gross domestic product by 2030.

Visas will be available online for about $80 (£65), with no restrictions for unaccompanied women as in the past.

Access to the Muslim cities of Mecca and Medina is restricted. Until now, foreigners travelling to Saudi Arabia have been largely restricted to resident workers and their dependents, business travellers, and Muslim pilgrims who receive special visas to visit holy sites.

The ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom has in recent years relaxed strict social codes, like segregating men and women in public places and requiring women to wear all-covering black robes, or abayas.

Tourism chief Ahmed al-Khateeb told Reuters in an interview ahead of the official announcement that abayas will not be mandatory for women tourists but modest dress is, including at public beaches.

Khateeb said China, Japan, Europe and the United States were among the top outbound targets.

The move is part of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious plans to develop new industries to wean the world’s top oil exporter off crude and open up society.

Many of his reforms received international praise, but his image has been tarnished by the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the arrest of critics including prominent women activists, and a nearly five-year war in Yemen where tens of thousands of people have been killed.

More details, including which countries are eligible, were expected later on Friday. (Reuters)

(Production: Nael Shyouki)

DFA says Filipino crew member of seized oil tanker now released

Robie de Guzman   •   September 27, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday reported that a Filipino sailor was among the crew members of a British-flagged and Swedish-owned tanker released by the government of Iran after weeks of captivity.

The DFA cited a report from the Philippine Embassy in Tehran about the Filipino sailor who works as the vessel’s Second Officer.

“Ambassador to Iran Wilfredo Santos conveyed to Iranian authorities the appreciation of the Philippine Government for releasing the said Filipino crew member, who is the Second Officer of the Stena Impero, and ensuring the safety and well-being of all crew members of the Stena Impero,” the department said in a statement.

The Stena Impero was captured by Iranian forces last July 19 for accusations of violating international maritime rules while it was passing through international water in the strait of Hormuz.  

The vessel was then brought to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas where it was anchored for more than two months.

In a statement, the management of Stena Impero has confirmed that its vessel has left the Iranian port and is transiting to Dubai for the crew’s disembarkation and medical de-briefing.

“The families of crew members have been informed and the company is currently making arrangements for the repatriation of its valued seafarers at the earliest possible opportunity,” Erik Hanell, president and CEO of Stena Bulk said.

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