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Dubai carriers resume flight operations following record-breaking storm

Courtesy: Dawn News/Reuters

Dubai’s flagship carrier Emirates and sister airline flydubai have restored normal operations after a record-breaking storm caused severe flooding across the United Arab Emirates earlier this week, the airlines said on Saturday.

Emirates cancelled nearly 400 flights and delayed many more as a result of a record storm that hit the desert city of Dubai on Tuesday, according to a statement released by the airline’s president, Tim Clark.

“As of this morning … our regular flight schedules have been restored. Passengers previously stranded in the airport transit area … are en route to their destinations.

“It will take us some more days to clear the backlog of rebooked passengers and bags, and we ask for our customers’ patience and understanding,” Clark added. He also said that Emirates provided 12,000 hotel rooms and 250,000 meal vouchers to affected customers.

Flydubai also returned to its full flight schedule from the airport’s Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 today following the weather-related disruption, a spokesperson for the airline said in a statement.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) website, various carriers’ flights from Pakistan are travelling to and from Dubai.

Due to the impact of the storm, the airline suspended check-in for passengers departing from Dubai and halted its transit operations through Dubai International Airport, a major global travel hub, leaving thousands of travellers stranded.

The airport has struggled to return to normal operations after the storm flooded taxiways, forcing flight diversions, delays and cancellations.

The UAE has suffered the impact of the flooding for days, with roads between the city and Abu Dhabi still partially underwater as of Saturday. In Abu Dhabi, some supermarkets and restaurants faced product shortages, unable to receive deliveries from Dubai.

Researchers have linked extreme weather events such as Tuesday’s storm to climate change and anticipate that global warming will lead to higher temperatures, increased humidity and a greater risk of flooding in parts of the Gulf region.

A lack of drainage infrastructure to cope with heavy rains in countries such as the UAE can put them at particular risk of flooding.

Courtesy: Dawn News/Reuters Dubai’s flagship carrier Emirates and sister airline flydubai have restored normal operations after a record-breaking storm caused severe flooding across the United Arab Emirates earlier this week, the airlines said on Saturday. Emirates cancelled nearly 400 flights and delayed many more as a result of a record storm that hit the desert city of Dubai on Tuesday, according to a statement released by the airline’s president, Tim Clark. “As of this morning … our regular flight schedules have been restored. Passengers previously stranded in the airport transit area … are en route to their destinations. “It will take us some more days to clear the backlog of rebooked passengers and bags, and we ask for our customers’ patience and understanding,” Clark added. He also said
Pakistan denounces ‘political use of export controls’ after US sanctions alleged missile suppliers

Courtesy: Dawn News

Pakistan rejected what it said was the “political use of export controls” after the United States imposed sanctions on four entities for their alleged involvement in supplying “missile-applicable items” to Pakistan’s ballistic missile programme, the Foreign Office (FO) said on Saturday.

The US State Department claimed on Friday evening that the entities — three Chinese and one from Belarus — were particularly assisting Pakistan’s long-range missile endeavors.

The statement specified that “the ultimate goal of sanctions is not to punish, but to bring about a positive change in behavior.”

The entities facing sanctions include the Belarus-based Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant, the People’s Republic of China-based Xi’an Longde Technology Development Company Limited, Tianjin Creative Source International Trade Co Ltd and Granpect Company Limited.

As per the sanctions imposed under Executive Order 13382, all property and interests in property of the designated entities that are in the United States or under the control of US persons are now blocked. Furthermore, any individuals or entities with ownership, directly or indirectly, of 50 per cent or more by the designated persons are also subject to these sanctions.

These measures prohibit transactions involving any property or interests in property of designated or blocked persons unless authorised by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) or exempt. This includes contributions and provision of funds, goods, or services to or from any blocked person.

Moreover, the entry of designated individuals into the United States has been suspended under Presidential Proclamation 8693.

The US government explained that “the integrity of these sanctions lies not only in the ability to designate and add persons to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN), but also in the willingness to remove persons from the list in accordance with the law.”

Following the sanctions, FO spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch issued a statement today saying: “We reject political use of export controls. It is well known that the same jurisdictions, which claim strict adherence to non-proliferation controls, have waived off licensing requirements for advanced military technologies for some countries.”

She added that “such discriminatory approaches and double standards” undermine the credibility of non proliferation regimes and also the objectives of regional and global peace and security by “accentuating military asymmetries”.

Baloch said that such listings of commercial entities took place in the past as well on allegations of links to Pakistan’s ballistic missile programme “without sharing any evidence whatsoever”.

“While we are not aware of the specifics of the latest measures by the United States, in the past we have come across many instances where listings have been made on mere suspicion or even when the involved items were not on any control lists but were deemed sensitive under catch-all provisions,” she said.

Baloch said that Pakistan had pointed out many times the need to avoid “arbitrary application of export controls” and for discussions between concerned parties for an “objective mechanism to avoid erroneous sanctions on technology needed purely for socio-economic development pursuits”.

She concluded that Pakistan was ready to discuss end-use and end-user verification mechanisms so that legitimate commercial users wre not hurt by the “discriminatory application” of export controls.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Pakistan@ForeignOfficePk
𝐒𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐛𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐩𝐨𝐤𝐞𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐨𝐧 𝐑𝐞𝐠𝐚𝐫𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐔𝐒 𝐃𝐞𝐜𝐢𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐈𝐦𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐞 𝐒𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐀𝐠𝐚𝐢𝐧𝐬𝐭 𝐂𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐞𝐫𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐥 𝐄𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐧 𝐀𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐠𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐋𝐢𝐧𝐤𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐏𝐚𝐤𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐧’𝐬 𝐁𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐜 𝐌𝐢𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐥𝐞 𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐦𝐦𝐞.

‘Sanctions reminder to Pakistan of American carrot and stick policy’

Shuja Nawaz, a fellow at the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council in Washington, told Dawn that “the nub of US sanctions on four entities allegedly supplying missile technology to Pakistan is captured in its stated aim: The ultimate goal of sanctions is not to punish, but to bring about a positive change in behavior.”

But he also noted that the sanctions directly punished Pakistan for pursuing the development of missiles.

“In a week when the US officialdom went out of its way to assist Pakistan in its economic recovery efforts via the IMF, World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank, as well as US development finance institutions, these sanctions are going to punish Pakistan publicly,” Nawaz said, adding that this was “a reminder that for all the carrots, there are sticks that the US can deploy.”

Nawaz suggested that Pakistani authorities should also “ask themselves who inside Pakistan provided the information to American authorities?”

Courtesy: Dawn News Pakistan rejected what it said was the “political use of export controls” after the United States imposed sanctions on four entities for their alleged involvement in supplying “missile-applicable items” to Pakistan’s ballistic missile programme, the Foreign Office (FO) said on Saturday. The US State Department claimed on Friday evening that the entities — three Chinese and one from Belarus — were particularly assisting Pakistan’s long-range missile endeavors. The statement specified that “the ultimate goal of sanctions is not to punish, but to bring about a positive change in behavior.” The entities facing sanctions include the Belarus-based Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant, the People’s Republic of China-based Xi’an Longde Technology Development Company Limited, Tianjin Creative Source International Trade Co Ltd and Granpect Company Limited. As
Why Chinese cities are sinking?

Courtesy: Geo News/Reuters

As climate change continues to unravel its miseries around the world with harsh weather conditions and forcing people to leave their areas, a new study has revealed that Chinese cities are sinking, putting millions of people at risk, reported Metro UK.

The cause behind the scary phenomenon is because of the sheer weight of buildings and the extraction of groundwater, which is anticipated to affect around one-third of the Chinese urban population.

The East Asian giant has witnessed a robust urbanisation in recent decades which has never been observed in history.

The observing 82 urban places showed that over half of them are sinking, and 16% are standing at a rate of 10mm a year or more – labelled China’s ‘sinking belt’, the outlet reported.

The study was conducted using satellite radar and GPS data and was published in the journal Science.

The study found that the Chinese commercial hub Shanghai “has subsided up to three metres over the past century,” and if combined with the sea-level rise, the estimation suggests that the urban area equal to triple in size could be under the sea level by the year 2120.

The most affected cities include Tianjin which is largely threatened by climate change

Professor Nicholls, from the University of East Anglia, said: “Subsidence jeopardises the structural integrity of buildings and critical infrastructure and exacerbates the impacts of climate change in terms of flooding, particularly in coastal cities where it reinforces sea-level rise.”

Scientists expect that their new study will highlight the need for a national response to the crucial problem.

1- Header image: The East Asian giant has witnessed a robust urbanisation in recent decades. — Reuters

Courtesy: Geo News/Reuters As climate change continues to unravel its miseries around the world with harsh weather conditions and forcing people to leave their areas, a new study has revealed that Chinese cities are sinking, putting millions of people at risk, reported Metro UK. The cause behind the scary phenomenon is because of the sheer weight of buildings and the extraction of groundwater, which is anticipated to affect around one-third of the Chinese urban population. The East Asian giant has witnessed a robust urbanisation in recent decades which has never been observed in history. The observing 82 urban places showed that over half of them are sinking, and 16% are standing at a rate of 10mm a year or more – labelled China’s ‘sinking belt’,
5 Japanese nationals unhurt in suicide attack on vehicle in Karachi: police

Courtesy: Dawn News/Reuters

Police said on Friday that five Japanese nationals were unhurt after their vehicle was targeted by a suicide bomber in Karachi’s Landhi area on Friday. Police also said that two terrorists involved in the attack were also killed.

Deputy Inspector General (DIG) East Azfar Mahesar told Dawn.com that the incident took place near Murtaza Chorangi in Landhi, adding that the five foreign nations were travelling in a Hiace van.

“All five Japanese remained safe. However, the private security guard with them was injured,” he said, adding that one terrorist was killed.

“The Japanese nationals were on the way to Export Processing Zone from their residence in Zamzama, clifton,” he said.

Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) DIG Asif Aijaz Shaikh told Dawn.com that the Japanese nationals were travelling in a van along with two security guards when a suicide bomber on a motorcycle hit them.

“All five Japanese nationals are safe,” DIG Shaikh said. He further said that another “suicide bomber” who was there for “back up” was gunned down by the a Sharafi Goth police party patrolling the area at the time of the blast.

“No one has claimed responsibility so far,” the DIG said, adding that the vehicle carrying the Japanese nationals was bullet-proof.

More to follow……

1- Header image: View of a damaged car after a suicide blast in Karachi on April 19, 2024. — Reuters

Courtesy: Dawn News/Reuters Police said on Friday that five Japanese nationals were unhurt after their vehicle was targeted by a suicide bomber in Karachi’s Landhi area on Friday. Police also said that two terrorists involved in the attack were also killed. Deputy Inspector General (DIG) East Azfar Mahesar told Dawn.com that the incident took place near Murtaza Chorangi in Landhi, adding that the five foreign nations were travelling in a Hiace van. “All five Japanese remained safe. However, the private security guard with them was injured,” he said, adding that one terrorist was killed. “The Japanese nationals were on the way to Export Processing Zone from their residence in Zamzama, clifton,” he said. Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) DIG Asif Aijaz Shaikh told Dawn.com that the Japanese nationals were
Explosions in Iran as US media reports Israeli strikes

Courtesy: Dawn News/AFP

Iran’s state media reported explosions in the central province of Isfahan on Friday, as US media quoted officials saying Israel had carried out retaliatory strikes on its arch-rival.

Air defence systems over several Iranian cities were activated, state media reported, after the country’s official broadcaster said explosions were heard near the city of Isfahan.

Israel had previously warned it would hit back after Iran fired hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel over the weekend. Most of them were intercepted.

Iran’s Fars news agency reported “three explosions” were heard near Qahjavarestan, near Isfahan airport and the Shekari army airbase, while Iran’s space agency spokesman Hossein Dalirian said “several” drones had been “successfully shot down”.

Dalirian said on social media platform X there were “no reports of a missile attack”.

“Reports indicate there was no major damage or large explosions caused by the impact of any air threat,” the official IRNA news agency said.

Nuclear facilities in Isfahan were reported to be “completely secure”, Iran’s Tasnim news agency said.

ABC and CBS News reported the strikes had been carried out by Israel, quoting US officials. There was no immediate comment from the White House or Pentagon.

CNN quoted an official as saying the target of the Israeli attack was not nuclear.

The Israeli military told AFP: “We don’t have a comment at this time.”

Flights suspended

Over the weekend, Iran carried out its first attack to directly target regional foe Israel.

Israel, backed by its allies, intercepted most of the 300 missiles and drones launched by Iran, and suffered no deaths.

It launched its attack in retaliation for an April 1 strike on its consulate in the Syrian capital Damascus. In that attack, seven of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards including two generals were killed.

Fears of a major regional spillover from the Gaza conflict have soared since the Iran attack on Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has vowed to destroy Hamas over its October 7 attack that started Israel’s offensive in Gaza, has stressed that Israel “reserves the right to protect itself” against Iran.

The United States, Israel’s main ally and military supplier, has made clear it would not join a reprisal attack on Iran, but unveiled sanctions against people and entities involved in producing the drones deployed in the Iranian assault.

“We are holding Iran accountable,” US President Joe Biden said on Thursday, announcing the measures after the European Union said it would also sanction Iran’s drone programme.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian had warned that Tehran would make Israel “regret” any attack on the Islamic republic.

The explosions in Iran coincided with the 85th birthday of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Flights were suspended across swathes of Iran on Friday, with the UAE-based flydubai airline cancelling flights to the country.

“Iran’s air defence has been activated in the skies of several provinces of the country,” IRNA said.

Mehr news agency reported that “flights to Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz, and airports in the west, northwest and southwest have been suspended.”

Flight-tracking software showed commercial flights avoiding western Iran, including Isfahan, and skirting Tehran to the north and east.

Mideast ‘on a precipice’

Blasts were also reported in southern Syria, according to a local activist group. “There were strikes on a Syrian army radar position,” said Rayan Maarouf, who runs the Suwayda24 anti-government website that covers news from Sweida province in the south.

On Thursday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres painted a dark picture of the situation in the Middle East, warning that spiralling tensions over the conflicy in Gaza and Iran’s attack on Israel could devolve into a “full-scale regional conflict.”

“The Middle East is on a precipice. Recent days have seen a perilous escalation — in words and deeds,” Guterres told the Security Council.

“One miscalculation, one miscommunication, one mistake, could lead to the unthinkable — a full-scale regional conflict that would be devastating for all involved,” he said, calling on all parties to exercise “maximum restraint”.

Oil prices surged more than three percent in early Asian trade on Friday following the reports of explosions.

Courtesy: Dawn News/AFP Iran’s state media reported explosions in the central province of Isfahan on Friday, as US media quoted officials saying Israel had carried out retaliatory strikes on its arch-rival. Air defence systems over several Iranian cities were activated, state media reported, after the country’s official broadcaster said explosions were heard near the city of Isfahan. Israel had previously warned it would hit back after Iran fired hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel over the weekend. Most of them were intercepted. Iran’s Fars news agency reported “three explosions” were heard near Qahjavarestan, near Isfahan airport and the Shekari army airbase, while Iran’s space agency spokesman Hossein Dalirian said “several” drones had been “successfully shot down”. Dalirian said on social media platform X there were “no
Donald Trump discusses Ukraine, Middle East, NATO with Polish President Duda

Courtesy: Geo News/Reuters

Former United States president Donald Trump met with Polish President Andrzej Duda on Wednesday and had a discussion about Ukraine and the Middle East.

According to Reuters, during the discussion, the Republican presidential candidate told Duda that he was “behind Poland all the way”.

Duda, whose term in office expires in 2025, was one of Trump’s preferred international partners during his presidency and they have described themselves as “friends”.

Many other European leaders are concerned about the potential decrease in US support for Ukraine and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military alliance if Trump wins a second presidency.

“The people of Poland love him (Duda)… and that’s not an easy thing to accomplish, but he’s done a fantastic job and he’s my friend,” Trump told reporters as Duda arrived at Trump Tower.

“We’re behind Poland all the way,” he added.

According to a Trump campaign readout of the meeting, both “friends” had discussed a proposal from Duda suggesting NATO members spend at least 3% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defence as the current minimum target is 2%.

“They also discussed the war between Russia and Ukraine, the conflict with Israel in the Middle East, and many other topics having to do with getting to world peace,” the campaign said.

After their dinner Duda said it was “a friendly meeting in a very nice atmosphere”.

Furthermore, Trump, 77, who is caught up in his “hush money” trial in New York, is likely to face a tight race against Democrat and President Joe Biden in the November presidential election.

Meanwhile, Duda is in New York to attend a United Nations conference and is scheduled to travel to Canada on Friday.

Courtesy: Geo News/Reuters Former United States president Donald Trump met with Polish President Andrzej Duda on Wednesday and had a discussion about Ukraine and the Middle East. According to Reuters, during the discussion, the Republican presidential candidate told Duda that he was “behind Poland all the way”. Duda, whose term in office expires in 2025, was one of Trump’s preferred international partners during his presidency and they have described themselves as “friends”. Many other European leaders are concerned about the potential decrease in US support for Ukraine and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military alliance if Trump wins a second presidency. “The people of Poland love him (Duda)… and that’s not an easy thing to accomplish, but he’s done a fantastic job and he’s
Iran launches unprecedented strikes on Israel ‘in response’ to attack on consulate in Syria

Courtesy: Dawn News

Iran launched an unprecedented drone and missile attack on Israel late on Saturday, the Israeli army announced, in a major escalation of the long-running covert war between the regional foes.

Blasts were heard in the skies above Jerusalem early on Sunday, AFP journalists said.

Iran had repeatedly threatened to strike Israel in retaliation for a deadly April 1 air strike on its Damascus consular annexe and Washington had warned repeatedly in recent days that the reprisals were imminent.

“Iran launched UAVs from its territory towards the territory of the state of Israel,” military spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a televised statement.

“We are working in close cooperation with the United States and our partners in the region in order to act against the launches and intercept them,” Rear Admiral Hagari said.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards confirmed a retaliatory drone and missile attack was under way against Israel in retaliation for the Damascus strike which killed seven Guards, two of them generals. The Guards said its ballistic missiles were fired almost an hour after the slower-moving drones.

An Israeli army official said Iran had launched more than 100 attack drones at Israel and said he expected more to follow.

“We expect the drones to be here in the following hours and we might see some more waves of drones as time progresses,” the official said.

Iran’s allies in the region joined the attack with Yemen’s Houthi rebels also launching drones at Israel, according to security agency Ambrey, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement announcing rocket fire at Israeli positions in the annexed Golan Heights.

‘Unfolding’ attack

The White House said it expected the attack — which comes against the backdrop of the six-month Israel-Hamas fighting in Gaza — to “unfold over a number of hours”. It said Washington would “stand with the people of Israel”.

The Iranian mission to the United Nations warned Washington to keep out of Iran’s conflict with Israel. “It is a conflict between Iran and the rogue Israeli regime, from which the US MUST STAY AWAY!” it said.

President Joe Biden cut short a weekend trip to his home state of Delaware for urgent consultations, the White House said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz postponed a planned visit to Hungary and Austria while the prime minister convened his war cabinet in Tel Aviv.

An adviser to Iran’s supreme leader said that Israel was in “complete panic” over Tehran’s looming response. “They don’t know what Iran wants to do, so they and their supporters are terrified,” senior adviser Yahya Rahim said.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemned Iran’s “reckless” action and pledged that his government would “continue to stand up for Israel’s security”.

France echoed its commitment to Israel’s security. “In deciding to take this unprecedented action, Iran has reached a new level of destabilisation,” Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said.

Airspace closing

Shortly before the launches, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was prepared for a “direct attack from Iran”.

“Our defence systems are deployed, we are prepared for any scenario, both in defence and attack,” the Israeli premier said in a televised statement, adding Israel had the backing of the United States and “many” other countries.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards had already seized an Israeli-linked container vessel in the Gulf earlier on Saturday, putting the whole region on alert. Israel said it was closing schools nationwide while Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon announced they were temporarily closing their airspace.

Israel said it was closing its own airspace from 9:30pm GMT. The Israeli military warned Iran it would suffer the “consequences for choosing to escalate the situation any further” and an act of piracy”, she said.

Gaza truce stalemate

The Gaza crisis began with the unprecedented October 7 attack by Hamas against Israel which resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,686 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry. Israel’s military said on Saturday it had struck more than 30 Hamas targets across Gaza.

In the main central city of Deir al-Balah, fire burned in the rubble of a destroyed mosque. Israel’s military “demanded that the whole area be evacuated” before it was “wiped out in minutes”, said Abdullah Baraka, a witness.

In nearby Nuseirat refugee camp, Abd Thabet said residents had been warned to evacuate on Friday evening ahead of a large explosion that caused “massive destruction”.

“All of the houses were demolished, including my home,” the 35-year-old told AFP.

Hamas said it had submitted its response to a Gaza truce plan presented by US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators at talks in Cairo this week.

The Palestinian group said it was sticking to its previous demands, insisting on “a permanent ceasefire” and the “withdrawal of the occupation army from the entire Gaza Strip”.

During the October attack, Hamas seized about 250 hostages, 129 of whom Israel says remain in Gaza, including 34 the army says are dead.

The Israeli prime minister’s office accused Hamas of torpedoing efforts for an exchange of hostages for prisoners. “Hamas to this day has refused any deal and any compromise proposal,” it said.

Courtesy: Dawn News Iran launched an unprecedented drone and missile attack on Israel late on Saturday, the Israeli army announced, in a major escalation of the long-running covert war between the regional foes. Blasts were heard in the skies above Jerusalem early on Sunday, AFP journalists said. Iran had repeatedly threatened to strike Israel in retaliation for a deadly April 1 air strike on its Damascus consular annexe and Washington had warned repeatedly in recent days that the reprisals were imminent. “Iran launched UAVs from its territory towards the territory of the state of Israel,” military spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a televised statement. “We are working in close cooperation with the United States and our partners in the region in order to act against the launches and intercept them,” Rear
Ailing Pope Francis to embark on Asia trip, his longest ever, in September

Courtesy: Dawn News/Reuters/AFP

Pope Francis will travel to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and Singapore from September 2-13, the Vatican said on Friday, announcing his first overseas trip of the year and the longest of his 11-year papacy.

The Asia trip has been on the papal agenda for some time, but there had been doubts on whether the 87-year-old pontiff would embark on it given his increasing frailty, with a record of skipping engagements due to health problems.

His last international journey was a two-day stay in Marseille, France in September. In November, he pulled out of a trip to the COP28 climate conference in Dubai because of a lung inflammation.

Francis is now scheduled to be in Jakarta between Sept 3-6, Port Moresby and Vanimo between Sept 6-9, Dili September. 9-11 and Singapore Sept 11-13, his spokesman said in a statement.

Vietnam, which had been suggested by the pope and Vatican officials as a possible further destination during the nearly two-week long Asia trip, was not mentioned.

In recent months, the pope has been suffering on and off from what have been described as a cold, bronchitis and influenza, and he needs a wheelchair or a cane to move around due to a knee ailment.

His agenda this year also foresees Italian day trips to Venice on April. 28, Verona on May 18 and Trieste on July 7, and a visit to Belgium whose dates have not been confirmed, but expected in the second half of September.

The Argentine pope, the first from the so-called Global South, has made reaching out to Asia one of the priorities of his pontificate, during which the Vatican has struck a historic, yet contested, deal with China on bishop appointments.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation and its 8 million Catholics represent about 3 per cent of the total population. Timor-Leste, along with the Philippines, are Asia’s only predominantly Catholic countries.

In Singapore, Catholics comprise about 7pc of residents aged 15 or above, according to a 2020 census, while in Papua New Guinea about 26pc of the population are Catholics, according to a religious freedom report by the US State Department.

1- Header image: Pope Francis greets the crowd from the popemobile at the end of the Palm Sunday mass at St Peter’s square in the Vatican on March 24. — AFP
Courtesy: Dawn News/Reuters/AFP Pope Francis will travel to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and Singapore from September 2-13, the Vatican said on Friday, announcing his first overseas trip of the year and the longest of his 11-year papacy. The Asia trip has been on the papal agenda for some time, but there had been doubts on whether the 87-year-old pontiff would embark on it given his increasing frailty, with a record of skipping engagements due to health problems. His last international journey was a two-day stay in Marseille, France in September. In November, he pulled out of a trip to the COP28 climate conference in Dubai because of a lung inflammation. Francis is now scheduled to be in Jakarta between Sept 3-6, Port Moresby and

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