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LANCE ARMSTRONG LEADS BEIRUT BIKE TOUR: Former American professional cyclist Lance Armstrong led a bike tour around Beirut on Sunday to raise awareness and funds for organizations helping residents affected by a massive explosion that struck the Lebanese capital in August. Dozens of cyclists took part in the ``Bike for Beirut" tour as Lebanon marked two months since the blast at Beirut's port, where some 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrates were stored for six years before exploding on Aug. 4. It was one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded. ``Today we're starting here, I guess not very far from the actual explosion site,'' Armstrong said outside the port. He added that the bike tour aimed to ``try to bring some awareness to this community, to the people affected.'' The blast killed 193, wounded about 6,500 and caused billions of dollars in damage. It decimated the port facility and thousands of apartments in the city. It also came as Lebanon is grappling with its worst economic and financial crisis in decades, made worse by the spread of the coronavirus
Image Credit: AP
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SAUDI ARABIA ISSUES FIRST POLYMER BANKNOTE: The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) announced on Sunday. SAMA said the new five-riyal note marks a step towards the kingdom developing a new national currency. A video released by SAMA on Twitter described the move as a "pioneering shift in currency printing" for the kingdom. The new issue is also dirt-resistant and able to withstand moisture and changes in temperature. The new note displays pictures of Saudi monarch King Salman bin Abdulaziz and the Shaybah oil field in the Empty Quarter.
Image Credit: SAMA
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OMAN TO REINSTATE AMBASSADOR IN SYRIA: Oman has sent an ambassador to Syria, becoming the first Gulf Arab state to do so after they downgraded or shut missions in Damascus in 2012 over attacks by the government there on protests at the start of what turned into a war. Oman is one of the rare Arab countries that kept diplomatic relations with the Syrian government of President Bashar Al Assad after the 2011 uprising, despite pressure from the United States and other Gulf allies.
Image Credit: Reuters
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EGYPTS AL AZHAR SLAMS MACRON’S ISLAM REMARKS AS ‘RACIST’: Scholars at Egypt's prestigious Sunni Islamic institution, Al Azhar, have denounced remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron on "Islamist separatism" as "racist" and spreading "hate speech". Macron on Friday unveiled plans to defend France's secular values against radical Islam, describing Islam as a religion "in crisis" worldwide. "He made false accusations against Islam, that have nothing to do with the true essence of this religion," Al Azhar's Islamic Research Academy said in statement late Saturday. "Such racist statements will inflame the feelings of two billion Muslim followers" around the world, and block the path to constructive dialogue, the statement added.
Image Credit: AFP
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IRAN HITS RECORD HIGH VIRUS DEATHS: Iran on Monday announced 235 new fatalities from the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, a figure equalling the record high set nearly 10 weeks ago. The Islamic republic also announced a new record for the number of Covid-19 infections in a single day, for the second time in less than a week. Tehran has been struggling to contain what is the Middle East's worst coronavirus outbreak since it reported its first cases in February. Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said the 235 deaths - equal to the high announced on July 28 - had brought the total number of fatalities to 27,192.