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The Associated Press.
LONDON (AP) — Egyptian officials increased security Sunday around the British Embassy in Cairo, which was closed to the public because of security fears. Other Western governments warned their citizens of heightened danger in the Egyptian capital.
Britain’s Foreign Office said public services were suspended and people shouldn’t come to the embassy building. It gave no details of the threat and didn’t indicate when the embassy would reopen.
An Egyptian security official said the embassy had contacted the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of police, to request “stepped up security” around its premises, but that it did not elaborate on its security concerns.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.
Egypt has seen a surge in bombing blamed on Islamic militants fighting the government of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
On Saturday, the Australian government said travelers should reconsider their need to go to Egypt, citing reports “that terrorists may be planning attacks against tourist sites, government ministries and embassies in Cairo.”
The American government told U.S. Embassy staff Saturday to avoid universities in Cairo because of “potentially dangerous activities,” including violent protests and terrorist attacks, and said its employees were also barred from traveling by train and subway.
The British Embassy in Cairo is located in the quiet Garden City neighborhood beside the River Nile. It is across the road from the fortress-like U.S. Embassy on a street that has been closed to vehicle traffic for years.
Associated Press writer Hamza Hendawi in Cairo contributed to this report.
Human rights activists slammed the UK for its ‘silence’ over abuses.
Britain is establishing its first permanent military base in the Middle East for 43 years in Bahrain to bolster security against Isis.
Four Royal Navy ships are already permanently based at the Mina Salman Port but the deal will allow more destroyers and aircraft carriers to be moored in the area.
Britain closed all is major bases east of the Suez canal following major defence spending cuts in 1971 and while the return to the region has been welcomed by defence sources, it has been widely condemned by Bahraini activists who have a labelled it as “reward” for the British government’s for a “silence” over human right’s violations in the country.
Although military officials have reportedly been working towards the move for around two years, the threat from Isis in Iraq and Syria has heightened the focus on Britain’s presence in the region.
Philip Hammond signed the £15 million deal with Bahrain’s foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa.
The Foreign Secretary said: “This will guarantee the presence of the Royal Navy in Bahrain well into the future.
“The expansion of Britain’s footprint builds upon our 30-year track record of Gulf patrols and is just one example of our growing partnership with Gulf partners to tackle shared strategic and regional threats.”
A string of human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, have criticised Bahrain’s human rights record and anti-arms campaigners protested outside a This is Bahrain conference staged in Westminster earlier this year, demanding the Government and royal family sever all ties with the regime.
Activists gather outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in central London.
Observers have recorded “arbitrary” arrests of anti-government protesters, torture and deaths in custody, the persecution of political critics, crackdowns on the freedom of assembly and expression, forced labour and poor treatment of women in Islamic courts.
Nabeel Rajab, an opposition politician and president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, told The Independent: “This base is a reward to the British government for the silence they provided on human rights abuses in Bahrain, and for their continued support of this tyrannical and corrupt regime – the money to be paid by Bahrain to build these base, in fact, is for buying the silence of the British government and support for the regime and against our struggle for justice, democracy and human rights.”
The announcement follows a damming report last month by the influential House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, which found there was “little or no evidence that Bahrain has made enough progress in implementing political reform and safeguarding human rights.”
The report added that Foreign Office should have “bitten the bullet and designated Bahrain as country of concern”.
Thousands of Bahraini protesters march near Manama.
However last night the report’s chair seemed to distance himself from this conclusion and welcomed the base announcement.
Conservative MP Sir Richard Ottaway said the base was “an excellent decision”.
He added: “Its strategic value to Britain is tremendous. And hopefully the presence of our sailors and soldiers there at a permanent base will persuade Bahrain implement the outstanding Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry human rights reforms.”
Sheikh Khalid said Britain and Bahrain shared a “joint determination” to maintain regional security and stability and would enhance co-operation.
Under the deal, the existing facilities at the port will be expanded and a forward operating base established, with Bahrain paying most of the infrastructure costs.
Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, said the base was a “permanent expansion” for the Royal Navy that would allow the use of more, larger shifts to “reinforce stability”.
“We will now be based again in the Gulf for the long term,” he added.
A Bahraini anti-government protester throw a stone toward riot police during clashes in Daih.
Sir Nicholas Houghton, the Chief of the Defence Staff, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the move was strategically important.
“Rather than just being seen as a temporary deployment to an area for a specific operational purpose, this is more symbolic of the fact that Britain does enjoy interests in the stability of this region,” he added.
“And the fact that the Bahraini authorities and government agreed to fund infrastructure within the country to base our maritime capability forward, both is recognition from their perspective of the quality of the relationship with the United Kingdom, but also of our interest over time in maintaining the stability of this very important area.”
Additional reporting by PA.
Michael Holden, Reuters.
Britain said on Saturday it was investigating reports that a man believed to be a British national suspected of carrying out beheadings in videos released by Islamic State had been wounded in a U.S.-led air strike last week.
The man, dubbed “Jihadi John” by the British media, was believed to have been injured in an air attack on a summit of IS leaders in an Iraqi town close to the Syrian border last Saturday, Britain’s Mail on Sunday newspaper reported.
The group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was also said to have been wounded in the attack, the paper added.
“We are aware of reports,” a British Foreign Office spokeswoman said. “We cannot confirm these reports.”
A speech purporting to be by Baghdadi was released on Thursday following contradictory accounts out of Iraq that he had been wounded last Friday in U.S. air strikes.
U.S. officials said on Tuesday they could not confirm whether Baghdadi was hit in a strike near Falluja in Iraq.
According to the Mail on Sunday, which said its source was an unnamed nurse, “Jihadi John”, Baghdadi and other wounded IS figures were taken to hospital and then driven to the Syrian city of Raqqa.
The paper said it was not clear how serious their injuries were.
In videos released by Islamic State, the masked, black-clad militant brandishing a knife and speaking with an English accent appears to have carried out the beheadings of two Americans and two Britons.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Andrew Hay)
Fracking’s potential has been ‘overhyped’ by politicians and shale gas will not reduce energy prices or reliance on gas imports, says UK Energy Research Centre.
The fracking site at Barton Moss, Greater Manchester. “Any talk of shale gas making the UK self-sufficient again … is far-fetched,” says the UKERC report. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA
Politicians have overhyped fracking’s potential and the prospect of shale gas making Britain self-sufficient in gas again is far-fetched, according to government-funded researchers.
The UK became a net importer for gas in 2004 as North Sea production declined, and the coalition has heavily promoted shale gas on the grounds of energy security and economic growth. David Cameron says the UK is “going out all for shale” and on Wednesday the government announced the first ‘national shale gas colleges’.
But a new report by academics at the Imperial College-based UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) says significant shale gas production in the UK is unlikely to get underway until next decade and will not reproduce the American ‘shale revolution’ that has put the US on course to energy self-sufficiency.
Jim Watson, an author of the report and professor of energy policy at the University of Sussex, said that industry and politicians had “overhyped” the impact shale will have on prices and energy security.
“Looking at the evidence base, it’s very hard to support some of the statements made both by industry and some politicians that it’s going to bring down prices, strengthen energy security or create jobs through cheaper energy any time soon. It may have an impact. But a lot depends on how fast shale develops,” he said.
The authors are unambiguous that shale gas will not reduce energy prices or reduce the UK’s reliance on gas imports, which are mostly supplied by Norway and Qatar today.
“Any talk of shale gas making the UK self-sufficient again, let alone allowing significant exports, is far-fetched,” says the report, The UK’s Global Gas Challenge. It also cautioned against “a blind belief that a future UK shale gas revolution will solve all our problems”.
A second report by UKERC warns that by 2025, the time any such shale gas industry is up and running in the UK, global gas consumption must have peaked and begin rapidly tailing off to avoid dangerous levels of global warming.
With the development of widespread technology to capture and store the carbon emissions from those gas plants, that deadline moves back to 2035.
But carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is so far largely unproven at scale and the world’s first major CCS power plant only switched on last month. UKERC’s report says “whether CCS will actually be commercialised or not is currently far from certain”, though Watson says recent developments in North America mean he is more optimistic than two years ago.
The report, A Bridge to a Low-Carbon Future? Modelling the Long-Term Global Potential of Natural Gas, suggests gas’s role as a quick fix to cut carbon emissions – gas emits significantly less CO2 than coal when burned – could be short-lived.
Gas has been hailed by some advocates as a ‘bridge’ or ‘transition’ fuel as economies move to renewable energy and nuclear power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change.
If CCS doesn’t take off, to keep temperature rises under 2C as governments have agreed to do, the report’s modelling showed “gas consumption peaked in 2025 and declined terminally thereafter: the role that gas can play as a transition fuel was thus substantially reduced”.
However, despite the short window of opportunity, the authors say the amount of coal that could be displaced by gas is significant in terms of cutting emissions.
Dr Christophe McGlade of UCL, who led the modelling work, said: “Gas could play an important role in tackling climate change over the next 10 to 20 years.”
Watson added: “In those countries which a have a lot of coal in their energy systems, China being the prime example, gas has a role to play with or without CCS.” He said ensuring gas consumption peaked and declined rapidly in 2025 or 2035 would “require significant policy intervention” from governments.
Separately on Tuesday, the Department of Energy and Climate Change announced the creation of the UK’s first specialist colleges for training people for the shale gas industry. Headquartered in Blackpool, the National College for Onshore Oil and Gas National College will be linked to colleges in Chester, Redcar and Cleveland, Glasgow and Portsmouth.
Matthew Hancock, the new Tory energy minister, said: “Families, villages and towns across the UK could benefit from this new industry and its supply chain which could create 64,500 jobs. That’s why we are investing in the people behind project. Only by arming people with the skills they need to be shale specialists can we provide career opportunities for thousands of young people, boost the power and competitiveness of our firms and help the UK economy remain strong and competitive.
“To make a world-class cluster of expertise in the North West of England, just as Aberdeen is a world class cluster of expertise for offshore oil and gas.”
Helen Rimmer, Friends of the Earth north west campaigner said in response: “The north west deserves investment in jobs and skills, but this should be in energy sectors of the future such as tidal, wave and solar which the region has in abundance – not dead-end fossil fuels.”
Gas consumption in the UK has already peaked, and development of UK shale gas has been slower than expected. Hydraulic fracturing to extract shale gas will not resume until 2015, the first exploratory fracking in the country since 2011.