International Briefs

Belgium, Iran conduct prisoner swap in Oman

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Belgium and Iran exchanged prisoners on Friday in a controversial move that saw an Iranian diplomat convicted of attempting to bomb exiles in France returning to Tehran bedecked in flowers while a visibly gaunt aid worker headed back to Brussels. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said in a statement that the aid worker, Olivier Vandecasteele, had been freed and said that for him, “the choice was always clear: Olivier’s life was always the most important.” He said Vandecasteele had been unjustly held in Iran for 455 days and added that “in Belgium, we abandon no one. Not least someone who is innocent,” whatever the legal and diplomatic consequences. Iranian state television later showed the diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, being welcomed at the airport by Iran’s judiciary chief and the secretary of human rights council Kazem Gharibabadi.

Rights groups slam restrictions on Afghan women as ‘crime against humanity’

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Two top rights groups on Friday slammed the severe restrictions imposed on women and girls by the Taliban in Afghanistan as gender-based persecution, which is a crime against humanity. In a new report, Amnesty International and the International Commission for Jurists, or ICJ, underscored how the Taliban crackdown on Afghan women’s rights, coupled with “imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment,” could constitute gender persecution under the International Criminal Court.

Serbia puts troop on high alert on border with Kosovo following clashes

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Serbia put its troops on the border with Kosovo on the highest state of alert Friday following clashes between ethnic Serbs and Kosovo police that left more than a dozen injured on both sides. The Serbs in northern Kosovo, who represent a majority in that region, were trying to block the entrance of municipal buildings to prevent recently-elected ethnic Albanian officials from entering them. Police fired tear gas and several cars were set ablaze. In response to the clashes, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that he put the army on a “highest state of alert.”

World Bank approves $300 million financing to help poor people in Lebanon

BEIRUT (AP) — The World Bank approved a $300 million additional financing to Lebanon’s poor, providing cash payments to help families struggling through the country’s historic economic meltdown, the institution said in a statement Friday. The new financing comes two years after the World Bank approved a $246 million loan to Lebanon to provide emergency cash assistance to hundreds of thousands in the tiny Mediterranean nation of 6 million people. Lebanon is in the throes of the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history.


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