Syria vows to meet Annan ceasefire deadline



Syria announced last night it would stop fighting in time to meet this morning's deadline for a ceasefire brokered by Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League special envoy. But it added a highly unpromising proviso.

Damascus said it reserved the right to respond to any attacks by "armed terrorist groups against civilians, government forces or public and private property".

Earlier yesterday, Mr Annan had expressed confidence he could salvage his faltering Syrian peace plan as he visited Iran on a regional tour to garner support to end 13 months of violence.

He said the Syrian government had assured him it would respect the ceasefire with rebel forces.

What they mean and want is an assurance that the other forces, the opposition forces, would also stop the fighting so there could be a cessation of all the violence," he said.

There was more bloodshed yesterday, with reports that regime forces had killed at least 11 civilians in bombardments on rebel areas.

Syria flouted a Tuesday deadline to withdraw its forces from urban areas.

Mr Annan had expected the Syrian regime, as the stronger party, to make the first move in a show of good faith, aware rebel forces were unlikely to budge before government forces pulled back, analysts said.

Mr Annan, meanwhile, warned that "any further militarisation of the conflict would be disastrous".

That was seemingly a message to Saudi Arabia and Qatar which have proposed arming rebels.

Western countries have also accused Iran, Syria's only regional ally, of helping President Bashar Al Assad quell protests by supplying his regime with crowd control equipment and technical assistance to monitor internet and cellphone communications.

It is unlikely, however, that Iran has sent arms to Syria, which seemingly has a plentiful supply from Russia, analysts said.

Mr Annan said it was important for regional governments help resolve the crisis.

His "constructive" Iranian hosts had agreed on the need to "find a peaceful solution", he added.

Privately, the former UN secretary-general will have appealed to Iran not to undermine international attempts to ratchet up the pressure on Mr Al Assad, analysts said.

Publicly, Tehran has voiced support for Mr Annan's peace plan, which calls for national dialogue but not, crucially from Iran's point of view, for Mr Al Assad to step down.

Iranian politicians have lavished praise on the Syrian dictator for his handling of the crisis, insisting he is committed to democratic reforms.

Tehran maintains western powers are stoking unrest in Syria to undermine Iran because it supports Mr Al Assad's "resistance" against Israel.

The Syrian regime has been the Islamic republic's staunchest Arab ally through three turbulent decades in the Middle East. Tehran's ability to project its power in the Arab world would be greatly reduced if Mr Al Assad is ousted.

Speaking alongside Mr Annan at a televised press conference in Tehran yesterday, Iran's foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, said: "The opportunity must be given to the Syrian government to make changes under the leadership of Bashar Al Assad."

The Syrian people, he added, should be able to enjoy rights such as freedom of political parties and freedom of elections. But "at the same time we have announced that we oppose interference in the affairs of all nations, including Syria".

Iran would have been flattered by Mr Annan's visit, seeing it as acknowledgement of its role as an important regional power broker despite American attempts to isolate the Islamic republic.

Tehran resents being upstaged on the regional front by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and tiny Qatar.

In turn, however, Iran will be required to demonstrate that it can exert genuine pressure on Mr Al Assad to implement long-promised political reforms.

Whether Iran is willing to do so now without a significant reward is questionable.

"Syria is a playing card for the Iranians. Iran might only use it if there's a breakthrough in nuclear negotiations, which could mean an easing of sanctions against Tehran," Scott Lucas, an Iran expert at Birmingham University in England, said.

Iran and six leading world powers are due to open new nuclear talks in Istanbul on Saturday.

"You'd assume the Turks have more leverage over Iran than Annan, but they took their best shot last week and got nothing, absolutely nothing," Mr Lucas added in an interview.

He was referring to a visit to Tehran by the Turkish premier, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has repeatedly called on Mr Al Assad to step down and pressed Iran to end its support.

After months of expressing only outright support for Mr Al Assad, Tehran has recently shown signs of a more nuanced approach.

Iran's state-run Press TV referred yesterday to "the legitimate and peaceful demands of the Syrian people". Intriguingly, a senior Iranian politician said yesterday that Tehran has made contacts with the Syrian opposition aimed at reaching a peaceful settlement of the crisis.

Hossein Sheikholeslam, an adviser to Iran's parliamentary speaker, maintained this showed "Iran's influential role" as a regional peace-broker which had clout with both sides in the Syrian crisis.

But his revelation is unlikely to be welcomed by Damascus which might see it as a sign that Tehran is hedging its bets.

"As close as relations are between Iran and Syria, Ayatollah Khamenei [Iran's supreme leader] will not want to sink with Assad," said Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born analyst in Israel. "The moment he realises Assad's ship is sinking and unsalvageable, he will abandon him."

mtheodoulou@thenational.ae

The Cairo Statement

1: Commit to countering all types of terrorism and extremism in all their manifestations

2: Denounce violence and the rhetoric of hatred

3: Adhere to the full compliance with the Riyadh accord of 2014 and the subsequent meeting and executive procedures approved in 2014 by the GCC

4: Comply with all recommendations of the Summit between the US and Muslim countries held in May 2017 in Saudi Arabia.

5: Refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of countries and of supporting rogue entities.

6: Carry out the responsibility of all the countries with the international community to counter all manifestations of extremism and terrorism that threaten international peace and security

Company profile

Company name: Xare 

Started: January 18, 2021 

Founders: Padmini Gupta, Milind Singh, Mandeep Singh 

Based: Dubai 

Sector: FinTech 

Funds Raised: $10 million 

Current number of staff: 28 

Investment stage: undisclosed

Investors: MS&AD Ventures, Middle East Venture Partners, Astra Amco, the Dubai International Financial Centre, Fintech Fund, 500 Startups, Khwarizmi Ventures, and Phoenician Funds

Gully Boy

Director: Zoya Akhtar
Producer: Excel Entertainment & Tiger Baby
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, Kalki Koechlin, Siddhant Chaturvedi​​​​​​​
Rating: 4/5 stars

The years Ramadan fell in May

1987

1954

1921

1888

World Cup League Two

Results

Oman beat Nepal by 18 runs

Oman beat United States by six wickets

Nepal beat United States by 35 runs

Oman beat Nepal by eight wickets

 

Fixtures

Tuesday, Oman v United States

Wednesday, Nepal v United States

 

RESULTS

Cagliari 5-2 Fiorentina
Udinese 0-0 SPAL
Sampdoria 0-0 Atalanta
Lazio 4-2 Lecce
Parma 2-0 Roma
Juventus 1-0 AC Milan

Leaderboard

63 - Mike Lorenzo-Vera (FRA)

64 - Rory McIlroy (NIR)

66 - Jon Rahm (ESP)

67 - Tom Lewis (ENG), Tommy Fleetwood (ENG)

68 - Rafael Cabrera-Bello (ESP), Marcus Kinhult (SWE)

69 - Justin Rose (ENG), Thomas Detry (BEL), Francesco Molinari (ITA), Danny Willett (ENG), Li Haotong (CHN), Matthias Schwab (AUT)

THE SPECS

Engine: 1.6-litre turbo

Transmission: six-speed automatic

Power: 165hp

Torque: 240Nm

Price: From Dh89,000 (Enjoy), Dh99,900 (Innovation)

On sale: Now

LA LIGA FIXTURES

Friday

Granada v Real Betis (9.30pm)

Valencia v Levante (midnight)

Saturday

Espanyol v Alaves (4pm)

Celta Vigo v Villarreal (7pm)

Leganes v Real Valladolid (9.30pm)

Mallorca v Barcelona (midnight)

Sunday

Atletic Bilbao v Atletico Madrid (4pm)

Real Madrid v Eibar (9.30pm)

Real Sociedad v Osasuna (midnight)

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

UAE medallists at Asian Games 2023

Gold
Magomedomar Magomedomarov – Judo – Men’s +100kg
Khaled Al Shehi – Jiu-jitsu – Men’s -62kg
Faisal Al Ketbi – Jiu-jitsu – Men’s -85kg
Asma Al Hosani – Jiu-jitsu – Women’s -52kg
Shamma Al Kalbani – Jiu-jitsu – Women’s -63kg
Silver
Omar Al Marzooqi – Equestrian – Individual showjumping
Bishrelt Khorloodoi – Judo – Women’s -52kg
Khalid Al Blooshi – Jiu-jitsu – Men’s -62kg
Mohamed Al Suwaidi – Jiu-jitsu – Men’s -69kg
Balqees Abdulla – Jiu-jitsu – Women’s -48kg
Bronze
Hawraa Alajmi – Karate – Women’s kumite -50kg
Ahmed Al Mansoori – Cycling – Men’s omnium
Abdullah Al Marri – Equestrian – Individual showjumping
Team UAE – Equestrian – Team showjumping
Dzhafar Kostoev – Judo – Men’s -100kg
Narmandakh Bayanmunkh – Judo – Men’s -66kg
Grigorian Aram – Judo – Men’s -90kg
Mahdi Al Awlaqi – Jiu-jitsu – Men’s -77kg
Saeed Al Kubaisi – Jiu-jitsu – Men’s -85kg
Shamsa Al Ameri – Jiu-jitsu – Women’s -57kg

The bio

Date of Birth: April 25, 1993
Place of Birth: Dubai, UAE
Marital Status: Single
School: Al Sufouh in Jumeirah, Dubai
University: Emirates Airline National Cadet Programme and Hamdan University
Job Title: Pilot, First Officer
Number of hours flying in a Boeing 777: 1,200
Number of flights: Approximately 300
Hobbies: Exercising
Nicest destination: Milan, New Zealand, Seattle for shopping
Least nice destination: Kabul, but someone has to do it. It’s not scary but at least you can tick the box that you’ve been
Favourite place to visit: Dubai, there’s no place like home

ARGYLLE

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Rockwell, John Cena

Rating: 3/5

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

Five hymns the crowds can join in

Papal Mass will begin at 10.30am at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on Tuesday

Some 17 hymns will be sung by a 120-strong UAE choir

Five hymns will be rehearsed with crowds on Tuesday morning before the Pope arrives at stadium

‘Christ be our Light’ as the entrance song

‘All that I am’ for the offertory or during the symbolic offering of gifts at the altar

‘Make me a Channel of your Peace’ and ‘Soul of my Saviour’ for the communion

‘Tell out my Soul’ as the final hymn after the blessings from the Pope

The choir will also sing the hymn ‘Legions of Heaven’ in Arabic as ‘Assakiroo Sama’

There are 15 Arabic speakers from Syria, Lebanon and Jordan in the choir that comprises residents from the Philippines, India, France, Italy, America, Netherlands, Armenia and Indonesia

The choir will be accompanied by a brass ensemble and an organ

They will practice for the first time at the stadium on the eve of the public mass on Monday evening 

'Cheb Khaled'

Artist: Khaled
Label: Believe
Rating: 4/5

How to watch Ireland v Pakistan in UAE

When: The one-off Test starts on Friday, May 11
What time: Each day’s play is scheduled to start at 2pm UAE time.
TV: The match will be broadcast on OSN Sports Cricket HD. Subscribers to the channel can also stream the action live on OSN Play.

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

Key figures in the life of the fort

Sheikh Dhiyab bin Isa (ruled 1761-1793) Built Qasr Al Hosn as a watchtower to guard over the only freshwater well on Abu Dhabi island.

Sheikh Shakhbut bin Dhiyab (ruled 1793-1816) Expanded the tower into a small fort and transferred his ruling place of residence from Liwa Oasis to the fort on the island.

Sheikh Tahnoon bin Shakhbut (ruled 1818-1833) Expanded Qasr Al Hosn further as Abu Dhabi grew from a small village of palm huts to a town of more than 5,000 inhabitants.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Shakhbut (ruled 1833-1845) Repaired and fortified the fort.

Sheikh Saeed bin Tahnoon (ruled 1845-1855) Turned Qasr Al Hosn into a strong two-storied structure.

Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa (ruled 1855-1909) Expanded Qasr Al Hosn further to reflect the emirate's increasing prominence.

Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan (ruled 1928-1966) Renovated and enlarged Qasr Al Hosn, adding a decorative arch and two new villas.

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan (ruled 1966-2004) Moved the royal residence to Al Manhal palace and kept his diwan at Qasr Al Hosn.

Sources: Jayanti Maitra, www.adach.ae

MATCH SCHEDULE

Uefa Champions League semi-final, first leg
Tuesday, April 24 (10.45pm)

Liverpool v Roma

Wednesday, April 25
Bayern Munich v Real Madrid (10.45pm)

Europa League semi-final, first leg
Thursday, April 26

Arsenal v Atletico Madrid (11.05pm)
Marseille v Salzburg (11.05pm)

BRAZIL SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Alisson, Ederson, Weverton

Defenders: Dani Alves, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Eder Militao , Danilo, Alex Sandro, Alex Telles, Bremer.

Midfielders: Casemiro, Fred, Fabinho, Bruno Guimaraes, Lucas Paqueta, Everton Ribeiro.

Forwards: Neymar, Vinicius Junior, Richarlison, Raphinha, Antony, Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli, Pedro, Rodrygo

The Bloomberg Billionaire Index in full

1 Jeff Bezos $140 billion
2 Bill Gates $98.3 billion
3 Bernard Arnault $83.1 billion
4 Warren Buffett $83 billion
5 Amancio Ortega $67.9 billion
6 Mark Zuckerberg $67.3 billion
7 Larry Page $56.8 billion
8 Larry Ellison $56.1 billion
9 Sergey Brin $55.2 billion
10 Carlos Slim $55.2 billion


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