Kuwait Municipality Director Suspends Key Officials over Mangaf Fire

In the wake of the devastating Mangaf property fire tragedy, Engineer Saud Al-Dabbous, the Director General of Kuwait Municipality, extended heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased. He prayed for God’s mercy upon them and urged their families to find solace and patience during this difficult time.

Al-Dabbous wasted no time in issuing urgent decisions to address the situation. He announced the suspension of several key officials, including the Deputy Director General for Hawalli and Al-Ahmadi Governorate Affairs, the Acting Director of the Al-Ahmadi Municipality Branch, the Director of the Audit, Follow-up, and Engineering Department, and the Head of the Violations Removal Department in Al-Ahmadi. These suspensions were enacted in the interest of public safety, pending the completion of an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the tragic incident.

Highlighting the municipality’s prior efforts in overseeing real estate and ensuring compliance with regulations, Al-Dabbous emphasized the importance of enforcing laws to protect lives and property. He mentioned the municipality’s decision to deploy oversight campaign teams, comprising members from various departments including engineering audit, follow-up, emergency intervention, and violations removal, to inspect properties. These teams work in coordination with the Ministry of Interior and the General Firefighting Force to swiftly address any violations or infractions.

In closing, Al-Dabbous reiterated that adherence to the law is paramount and that all necessary measures will be taken to safeguard public safety and the common good.

This decisive action underscores Kuwait Municipality’s commitment to ensuring accountability and preventing future tragedies.


British Security Firm: Merchant Ship Attached Southwest of Hodeidah

A merchant ship issued a distress call after being struck in the Red Sea off Yemen, a security firm said on Wednesday, in what appeared to be the latest attack by the Houthis. The ship was hit about 68 nautical miles southwest of the Houthi-held port city of Hodeidah, British maritime security firm Ambrey said. The company “assessed the vessel aligned with the Houthi target profile at the time of the incident,” it said in a statement, without giving further details.

The Houthis, who are at war with a Saudi-led coalition after ousting the government from the capital Sanaa in 2014, have launched scores of drone and missile attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November. They say they are harassing the vital trade route as an act of solidarity with Palestinians during the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.


UAE-Based AI Startup Qeen.ai Holds Pre-Seed Funding Round

UAE-based AI startup qeen.ai has successfully raised US$2.2 million in a pre-seed funding round led by Wamda Capital, with participation from various international and regional investors, including 10x Founders, Aditum, Dara Holdings, Jabbar Group, Phaze Ventures, and Eureka 460.

Founded in 2023 by Dina Al-Samhan, Ahmad Khwileh, and Morteza Ibrahimi, qeen.ai focuses on providing accessible and autonomous AI solutions tailored to e-commerce businesses.

“We are thrilled to back qeen.ai in their mission to disrupt the e-commerce space in the MENA region,” said Fadi Ghandour, CEO of Wamda Capital and founder of logistics giant Aramex.

He added: “We believe that qeen.ai is well poised to achieve substantial growth and success, as it fulfills a crucial market need by providing businesses with accessible AI solutions that can significantly improve their revenue, thanks to the founder team’s expertise in AI and their deep understanding of e-commerce challenges.”

The newly acquired funds will be utilized to further the company’s mission to simplify intelligent commerce, making AI solutions more accessible and user-friendly for businesses of all sizes.


Dubai-Based Elevate Holds Pre-Series A Funding Round

London and Dubai-based fintech company Elevate has secured US$5 million in a pre-series A funding round.

Founded in 2021 by Khalid Keenan, Faris Keenan and Youcef Oudjidane, Elevate offers debit cards for online spending and applies standard foreign currency exchange rates when sending money domestically. The company also allows users to transfer money back to their local accounts for a fixed fee.

Elevate aims to provide a financial solution to address common challenges faced by freelance professionals.

The platform facilitates effortless payments from US and international employers and major freelancing platforms such as Upwork, Maqsam, PayPal, Deel, and Toptal.

Elevate claims to have attracted over 150,000 users from Asia and North Africa. The newly raised funds will support the company’s expansion into the Middle East and Africa.


iGA to Launch Enhanced eKeySsystem in Bahrain

A new eKey system, featuring a mobile app with facial recognition and AI technology, is expected to launch in Bahrain by the end of 2024, it has emerged.

This follows the signing of a partnership between the Information and eGovernment Authority (iGA) and Beyon Connect, a subsidiary of Beyon Group, to launch a revamped eKey system, the government body said.

The partnership aims to integrate advanced features, technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) into the existing system. This will offer citizens and residents simpler, more secure, and private access to digital services, enhancing their overall digital experience.

The agreement, signed by iGA chief executive Mohammed Ali Al Qaed and Beyon Digital chief executive Shaikh Mohamed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, outlines the launch of a new single-sign-on system providing secure and seamless digital services and identity verification.

“This partnership aligns with government directives to enhance public-private co-operation and invest in technology to improve government processes and service quality,” said Mr Al Qaed.

He highlighted the agreement’s role in building a comprehensive digital society in Bahrain. He added that the enhanced system will strengthen security, user control over data sharing and transparency.

This will benefit government entities, citizens, and private sector companies.


Iraq's Development Road Might Link with China's Belt & Road

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia' Al-Sudani met with Mr. Dai Houliang, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), and an accompanying delegation. Al-Sudani affirmed Iraq's keenness to develop relations with China across various sectors, emphasizing that the presence of Chinese companies, including in the oil sector, strengthens this aim.

He highlighted the associated gas project in Missan Province, implemented by PetroChina, as a strategic project enhancing bilateral ties. The project aligns with the government's priorities to curb gas flaring. Al-Sudani outlined Iraq's interest in developing gas projects to boost the manufacturing and fertilizer industries, adding value to the economy and creating job opportunities. He proposed presenting potential sites to CNPC for integrated energy projects comprising oil and gas production, processing plants, power plants, and petrochemical refineries.

The Prime Minister suggested linking China's Belt and Road Initiative with Iraq's Development Road project, which CNPC expressed willingness to cooperate on. Iraq is open to partnering with CNPC on petrochemical projects abroad. Environmental standards and providing an attractive investment environment were emphasised, including establishing training centers and academic partnerships.


Russia, Iran Continuing Work on Cooperation Agreement

Moscow and Tehran are continuing their work on a comprehensive bilateral cooperation agreement, although the schedule of specific events may shift, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday.

Earlier Russia's RIA state news agency reported that the agreement had been temporarily suspended due to problems faced by Iranian partners, however Iran's ambassador to Moscow Kazem Jalali said this was not the case, Asharq Al-Awsat reported.

Work on a new major agreement between Moscow and Tehran was announced in September 2022 during a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and late President Ebrahim Raisi.

In January, Russia's Foreign Ministry had said a new interstate treaty reflecting the "unprecedented upswing" in Russia-Iran ties was in the final stages of being agreed, and Putin and Raisi were expected to sign it soon., the report added. - Mehr


Russia Stresses Commitment to Completing Rasht-Astara Railway

Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation Roman Vladimirovich has stressed the importance of Iran’s Rasht-Astara railway as the missing link of the International North-South Transit Corridor (INSTC) saying that Russia is committed to completing the project.

“The work with Iran regarding the implementation of the Moscow-Tehran agreement continues in this regard, and we believe that the implementation of this project will increase rail traffic in the region,” the minister said in a specialized meeting on the sidelines of the 27th Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum.

According to the official, Russia has already signed memorandums of understanding in the field of transportation and transit within the framework of the INSTC from 2022 to 2024 with Iran, Turkmenistan, and Bahrain and is seeking to reach an agreement with other countries. Back in April, Deputy Minister of Russian Railways Sergey Pavlov and Iran’s Ambassador to Russia Kazem Jalali met to discuss the implementation of Rasht-Astara railway project. In that meeting, the two sides stressed that Tehran and Moscow are finalizing the draft of a contract for the implementation of the agreement to construct the mentioned railway.

Iran and Russia, both under harsh Western sanctions, on May 17 inked an agreement on the long-stalled construction of a railway connecting the northern Iranian cities of Rasht and Astara. Spanning 162 km (100.6 miles), the railway is a crucial element of the INSTC. The corridor integrates road, rail, and sea transportation, facilitating the movement of goods between Russia and India via Iran. Through a video conference, late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin addressed the ceremony in Tehran where the two countries' transport ministers signed the agreement. According to this agreement, the Russian Federation will invest 1.6 billion euros in this railway route.

Iran has been a key player in the INSTC and stands to benefit greatly from its full realization. As reported by Amwaj media, the Raisi government has seemingly banked significantly on transit becoming a top revenue generator. But Iran stands to gain from the project in more ways. The operationalization of the corridor could mean improved relations between Iran and India, aligning New Delhi more closely with Tehran’s regional interests. A vital element of the INSTC, the Rasht-Astara railway project has been stalled for years due to costs, engineering, and logistical complications.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei stressed the importance of completing the stretch of the railway in his July 2022 meeting with Putin in Tehran. VTB's new office in Tehran is part of Iran and Russia's ongoing efforts to connect their banking systems. The two countries signed an agreement on January 29 to link their inter-bank messaging systems. Due to Western sanctions, both countries have been cut off from SWIFT—a leading Belgium-based financial messaging service. Both Iran and Russia are looking to reap the potential economic benefits of increased transit amid Western sanctions. - Tehran Times