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Pope Francis Arrives In Iraq With Message Of Peace

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Pope Francis Arrives In Iraq With Message Of Peace

Pope Francis arrived in Iraq on Friday to urge the country’s dwindling number of Christians to stay put and help rebuild the country after years of war and persecution, brushing aside the coronavirus pandemic and security concerns to make his first-ever papal visit.

The pope, who wore a facemask during the flight, kept it on as he descended the stairs to the tarmac and was greeted by two masked children in traditional dress. But health measures appeared lax inside the airport despite the country’s worsening coronavirus outbreak.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said Iraqis were eager to welcome Francis’ “message of peace and tolerance” and described the visit as a historic meeting between the “minaret and the bells.” Among the highlights of the three-day visit is Francis’ private meeting Saturday with the country’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a revered figure in Iraq and beyond.

Francis’ plane touched down at Baghdad’s airport just before 2 p.m. local time (1100 GMT). A red carpet was rolled out on the tarmac in Baghdad’s international airport with Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on hand to greet him. Francis was visibly limping in a sign his sciatica, which has flared and forced him to cancel events recently, was possibly bothering him.

A largely unmasked choir sang songs as both pope and premier made their way to a welcome area in the airport. People wandered around without masks, and the pope and the prime minister took theirs off as they sat down for their first meeting — seated less than two meters (yards) apart — and later stood next to each other shaking hands and chatting.

READ ALSO: U.S. Improves Visa Applicants’ Experience, Renovates Consular Pavilion

The pope later rolled down the window and waved to some of the hundreds of people who gathered along the airport road to watch his motorcade pass. The airport road was the scene of regular attacks in the chaotic years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Iraqis were keen to welcome him and the global attention his visit will bring, with billboards depicting Francis with the slogan “We are all Brothers.”

The government is eager to show off the relative security it has achieved after years of wars and militant attacks that nevertheless continue even today.

Francis and the Vatican delegation are relying on Iraqi security forces to protect them, including with the expected first use of an armored car for the pope mobile-loving pontiff.

Francis is breaking his year-long COVID-19 lockdown to refocus the world’s attention on a largely neglected people whose northern Christian communities, which date from the time of Christ, were largely emptied during the violent Islamic State reign from 2014-2017.

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Despite Vaccination, Brazil Health Minister Tests Positive For COVID-19 After UN Assembly

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Despite Vaccination, Brazil Health Minister Tests Positive For COVID-19 After UN Assembly

Despite the Brazil’s Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga having received the Covid-19 vaccine, he tested positive for the virus on Tuesday after attending the UN General Assembly in New York.

The assembly was inaugurated by Queiroga’s president, Jair Bolsonaro.

“The other members of the delegation have been tested and are negative,” said an official Brazilian government press release.

Queiroga was the second member of Bolsonaro’s entourage to test positive for the virus since arriving in New York for the UN gathering.

The 55-year-old health minister will remain in the United States for a period of isolation, even though the rest of the delegation has returned to Brazil.

Bolsonaro, who appeared without a mask on several occasions during the trip, has not been vaccinated and repeated that he would be “the last” Brazilian to receive the vaccine.

READ ALSO: Sudan Coup Attempt Fails

Queiroga was with Bolsonaro, who last year survived a bout of the virus, at several events, including a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday.

He was “doing well,” the statement said. He wrote on Twitter that while following “all health security protocols,” the ministry “will continue to take firm action to deal with the pandemic in Brazil.”

Bolsonaro caused a stir on social media after a photograph showed him taking few precautions against contagion while around others in his delegation, as he ate a slice of pizza from a New York street vendor.

The health minister was the only one in the photo wearing a mask, but he had pulled it down under his chin.

Under fire for his controversial handling of the pandemic, which has claimed more than 591,000 lives in Brazil, Bolsonaro opened the General Assembly with a speech in which he made several misleading or inaccurate statements, some of which related to the pandemic, according to AFP’s Factcheck team.

AFP

 

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Sudan Coup Attempt Fails

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Sudan Coup Attempt Fails

A coup attempt in Sudan reportedly failed early Tuesday.

Top military and government sources told AFP that the attempt involved a group of officers who were “immediately suspended” after they

“failed” to take over the state media building.

“There has been a failed coup attempt, the people should confront it,” state television said, without elaborating.

Senior member of Sudan’s ruling body, Taher Abuhaja, said “an attempt to seize power has been thwarted.”

Another senior ruling body member, Mohamed al-Fekki said: “Everything is under control and the revolution is victorious.”

Traffic appeared to be flowing smoothly in central Khartoum, AFP correspondents reported, including around army headquarters, where protesters staged a mass sit-in that eventually led to Bashir’s ouster in a palace coup.

Security forces did however close the main bridge across the Nile connecting Khartoum to its twin city Omdurman.

Sudan is currently ruled by a transitional government composed of both civilian and military representatives that was installed in the aftermath of Bashir’s April 2019 overthrow and is tasked with overseeing a return to full civilian rule.

READ ALSO: German Lawmakers Quiz Merkel’s Likely Successor Over Corruption Charge

The August 2019 power-sharing deal originally provided for the formation of a legislative assembly during a three-year transition, but that period was reset when Sudan signed a peace deal with an alliance of rebel groups last October.

More than two years later, the country remains plagued by chronic economic problems inherited from the Bashir regime as well as deep divisions among the various factions steering the transition.

The promised legislative assembly has yet to materialise.

The government, led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, has vowed to fix the country’s battered economy and forge peace with rebel groups who fought the Bashir regime.

In recent months, his government has undertaken a series of tough economic reforms to qualify for debt relief from the International Monetary Fund.

The steps, which included slashing subsidies and a managed float of the Sudanese pound, were seen by many Sudanese as too harsh.

Sporadic protests have broken out against the IMF-backed reforms and the rising cost of living, as well as delays to deliver justice to the families of those killed under Bashir.

On Monday, demonstrators blocked key roads as well as the country’s key trade hub, Port Sudan, to protest the peace deal signed with rebel groups last year.

AFP

 

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German Lawmakers Quiz Merkel’s Likely Successor Over Corruption Charge

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German Lawmakers Quiz Merkel's Likely Successor Over Corruption Charge

A top contender for Angela Merkel’s office as chancellor will on Monday face an investigation into an anti-money laundering agency overseen by his ministry.

The appearance of Finance Minister, Olaf Scholz, the frontrunner in the race to succeed Merkel, before the German parliament’s finance committee comes less than a week before Germans go to the polls in national elections on September 26.

MPs from opposition parties will have the opportunity to ask Scholz questions via video link after the finance and justice ministries were raided by prosecutors on September 9 as part of a probe into the Cologne-based Financial Intelligence Unit.

The body, part of Germany’s customs authority tasked with tackling money laundering, is suspected of failing to report potential wrongdoing to the relevant authorities.

Merkel’s conservative bloc has seen a steady decline in opinion polls under unpopular candidate Armin Laschet, allowing Scholz’s centre-left Social Democratic Party to grab a late polling lead.

“Nerves at the SPD are shredded” at the prospect that the scandal could have an impact on the party’s poll ratings, according to German weekly Der Spiegel.

But prosecutors are also under scrutiny over the timing of their raids.

READ ALSO: ECOWAS Gives Guinea Military Deadline To Restore Democracy

The under-pressure conservatives have seized the opportunity to attack Scholz for his involvement in the controversy.

In a televised election debate last Sunday, Laschet said the result of the finance minister’s actions was that “supervision had failed” and accused Scholz of trying to brush the issue under the carpet.

In response, Scholz distanced himself from the unit, saying the raids “had nothing to do with the ministries”, and accused Laschet of asking “dishonest” questions.

Scholz has previously been criticised for the failure of his ministry to heed early warning signs from the payments company Wirecard, which collapsed last year after acknowledging a 1.9-billion-euro ($2.2-billion) hole in its accounts.

The finance minister appeared in front of a parliamentary inquiry into Wirecard earlier this year, where he denied responsibility for the collapse of the company.

On the campaign trail, Scholz has defended his response to Wirecard, saying that he has led an effort to strengthen Germany’s financial watchdog in the aftermath.

“We did what we had to do,” Scholz said when confronted with accusations in a televised debate.
Scholz has also come under fire over Germany’s “cum-ex” tax fraud saga, a complicated share dividend scam that went on for years and is estimated to have cost the state some 5.5 billion euros.

The former mayor of Hamburg has denied putting pressure on the city’s tax authorities after meeting with the owner of a bank implicated in the scandal in 2016.

 

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