x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Testing times for peace

Tensions rise after North Korea's nuclear tests, swine flu hits the UAE, Nicolas Sarkozy cements friendships and Portsmouth FC have a new owner.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, left, and the French president Nicolas Sarkozy, centre share a joke at Al Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, left, and the French president Nicolas Sarkozy, centre share a joke at Al Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi.

Tensions mounted after North Korea threatened war if any attempt was made to search its ships for material for weapons of mass destruction. The secretive communist dictatorship had already been unanimously condemned by the international community after testing a nuclear weapon believed to be equal in power to the Hiroshima bomb. The latest explosion was estimated at 20 times the power of the communist regime's first test in 2006 and was described by President Barack Obama as a threat to world peace. It was condemned by the UN Security Council, with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon calling on the council to take further, unspecified, measures against North Korea. The regime is thought to have enough material for at least six nuclear bombs, with some analysts speculating that Pyongyang is pressuring the US for one-to-one talks.

A doctor at an Al Ain hospital was recovering after being diagnosed as the country's first case of swine flu. The man, an associate professor at the UAE University Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, had recently returned from Canada with a sore throat, cough and fever. After admitting himself to hospital to avoid contact with others, he was treated with the antiviral drug Tamifu.

A state visit by Nicolas Sarkozy saw the president of France inaugurate the naval compound of his country's first new overseas military base for half a century. The base, in Mina Port, was described by Mr Sarkozy as reflecting the commitment to friends of France "that should anything happen to them we would be on their side". France will eventually house around 500 navy, army and air force personnel on the base, with the intentions of providing training and keeping the security in the Gulf. The visit also gave the first glimpse of what will become the collection of the new Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Paintings by Manet, part of a 14th century Quran and a 2,000-year-old Greek vase were put on display at the Emirates Palace hotel before eventually moving to the new museum on Saadiyat Island.

The New York Times admitted that two of its journalists missed one of the biggest scoops of the last century. The newspaper was the first to learn of the Watergate break-in, which led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974.

Robert Smith, a Times reporter, was told that the scandal could implicate the White House by an FBI contact, but after telling his editor Robert Phelps, neither journalist took the story any further. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, reporters with the Washington Post, eventually broke the story, with the assistance of a secret informant known as Deep Throat. Iran creates waves Iran sent six warships into international waters, saying it wanted to show it had the ability to counter any threat from foreign powers. The official news agency ISNA said two of the ships had been sent to the Gulf of Aden to protect oil tankers. The move was described by Admiral Habibollah Sayyari as "an historically unprecedented move by the Iranian navy".

Washington released figures showing that one in seven of inmates released from its detention centre at Guantanamo Bay had returned to terrorist activities. Out of 530 prisoners released from the Cuban base, 74 were confirmed or suspected of "re-engaging in terrorist activity", according to the Pentagon. The percentage going back to terrorism has doubled since May 2007 but the Pentagon did not offer an explanation for the increase.

Sewage lorry drivers in Jeddah went on strike in protest over new working conditions. The dispute resulted in sewage overflowing into the streets in several residential districts in the Saudi city.

Drivers walked out after being told they must work for a new subcontractor who imposed new regulations and fees. Shopping tips for couples Marriage guidance was offered at a Dubai shopping mall in a bid to tackle rising divorce rates. Counsellors set up shop at the Festival City Mall, hoping to reach troubled couples who might not otherwise seek help. The campaign is called "He has put between you affection and mercy" in reference to a verse from the Quran. Divorce rates have hit 40 per cent in the UAE, the highest in the Arab world.

America warned Israel to stop the expansion of its settlements, days before President Obama sets out on a visit to the region. In a meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton told the Palestinian president that Mr Obama "wants to see a stop to settlements. Not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions." The American president is to make an address to the Muslim world from Egypt next week and will also travel to Saudi Arabia to discuss oil prices. He will then travel to Europe for the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

The British fashion retailer Next was forced to withdraw thousands of pairs of underwear after a customer claimed that they showed a picture of Hitler. After investigating, the chain said the cartoon strip reproduced on the men's undergarment actually showed a drawing of the Russian wartime leader Joseph Stalin saluting military aircraft. Next said it was still pulling all 5,200 pairs from its shops.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for a bomb in Lahore that killed at least 24 people and injured hundreds. A spokesman for the Taliban told the BBC that the blast was in retaliation for the Pakistani army's operations against militants in the Swat valley. The car bomb was targeted at buildings used by police and the ISI intelligence agency, with gunmen first firing on officers. Pakistan claims to have killed around 1,000 militants in its Swat operation, with the Taliban saying hundreds of civilians have also lost their lives.

Portsmouth Football club followed Manchester City into Emirati ownership. The buyer was Dr Sulaiman al Fahim, the property tycoon behind Hydra Properties and The Hydra Executives reality TV show. Dr Fahim was also involved in the purchase of Manchester City last year by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed and the Abu Dhabi United Group.

Portsmouth, on the south coast of England, struggled against relegation this season, eventually finishing in 14th place in the Premier League, four places below Manchester City. The club, known affectionately as Pompey, won the FA Cup last year but also suffered its heaviest defeat of the season against Manchester City, losing 6-0. jlangton@thenational.ae