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Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has been ordered by the High Court in London to provide a British record of more than 554 million pounds ($733 million) to settle a custody battle with his ex-wife over their two children.

The bulk of the massive award to Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, half-sister of Jordan's King Abdullah, and the couple's two children, is to ensure their lifetime security, not least to address the “grave risk” posed to them by the sheikh himself, said the judge, Philip Moor.

The judge said: “She is not asking for an award for herself other than for security” and to compensate her for the possessions she lost as a result of the marital breakdown.

He directed Mohammed to make a one-off payment of 251.5 million pounds within three months to Haya for the upkeep of her British mansions, to cover the money she said she was owed for jewellery and racehorses, and for her future security costs.

The sheikh, who is vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, was also told to provide three million pounds towards the education of Jalila, 14, and Zayed, 9, and 9.6 million pounds in arrears.

He was also asked to pay 11.2 million pounds a year for the children's maintenance, and for their security when they become adults.

These payments will be guaranteed via a 290 million pound security held by HSBC bank.

The final sum, despite being believed by some London lawyers to be the largest public award ever ordered by an English family court, is less than half of the 1.4 billion pounds that Haya had originally sought.

During almost seven hours of testimony, Haya, 47, said a large one-off payment would allow for a clean break and remove the sheikh's hold over her and their children.

“I really want to be free and I want them to be free,” she told the court.

Following the ruling, a spokesperson for the sheikh said he “has always ensured that his children are provided for” and asked for the media to respect their privacy.

A lawyer for Haya did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The settlement is the latest development in a legal saga that began when the princess fled to Britain in April 2019, fearing for her safety after she began an affair with one of her bodyguards, and a month after she had asked the sheikh for a divorce.

Later that year, the London court ruled Mohammed had carried out a campaign of threats and intimidation that made her fear for her life, and that he had also previously abducted and mistreated two of his daughters by another marriage.

Earlier this year, the President of the Family Division in England and Wales, a senior judge, also determined that Mohammed had ordered the phones of Haya and her lawyers, one of whom is a parliamentary lawmaker, to be hacked using the sophisticated “Pegasus” state security software.

Haya had not asked for any divorce settlement. She did not offer an explanation, but her lawyers said she would have been entitled to seek billions as the ex-wife of one of the world's richest men.

“The mother's financial claims, and the size of the relief that's being sought, are quite unprecedented,” the sheikh's lawyer, Nigel Dyer, told the court during hearings which could not be reported until Tuesday.

He said her demands were excessive and she was really claiming for herself under the guise of her children.

He also accused the princess of misusing the children's funds, saying that she had paid out 6.7 million pounds to blackmailers, who were part of her security team, to keep an affair quiet.

The court did not hear from the alleged blackmailers. Haya said she used money from the children's accounts because she was frightened.

Haya's lawyer, Nicholas Cusworth, said legal fees over two-and-a-half years had reached more than 70 million pounds, adding “the true extent of the colossal sums spent by (Mohammed) will never be known”.

The bulk of Haya's financial award will go on security, according to the details of the settlement. This was to keep the children safe from being abducted by their own father, the ruling said, including cash for a fleet of armoured cars which would be replaced every few years.

Moor said Haya and her children needed the extensive provision to protect them from the sheikh, as well as because of their royal status.

“Absolutely uniquely, the main threat they face is from (the sheikh) himself not from outside sources,” Moor said.

“There will remain a clear and ever present risk to (Haya) for the remainder of her life, whether it be from (Mohammed) or just from the normal terrorist,” he said, referring to security threats faced by someone in Haya's position.

Such were the concerns that Haya's head of security — known only as 'Director 1' — had to be brought into the courtroom to give evidence about her security needs with the windows blacked out, shielded with a curtain from all except Moor and two lawyers, and his name handed to the judge on a piece of paper.

Haya's lawyers told the judge the money available to the princess and the children in Dubai had been “limitless”, with access to more than a dozen luxurious homes, a 400 million pound yacht and a fleet of private planes.

She had an annual budget of more than 83 million pounds for her household in Dubai with another nine million pounds spending money, the ruling said.

Mohammed's lawyer acknowledged to the court he could raise 1.25 billion pounds in cash within three months.

“I remind myself that money was no object during the marriage,” Moor said in approving Haya's claim for 1.9 million pounds to be spent on a kitchen extension, pizza oven and kitchen curtains at her London home.

Moor said he would not give “carte blanche” to Haya's financial claims, but would consider her demands “with a very clear eye to the exceptional circumstances of this case, such as the truly opulent and unprecedented standard of living enjoyed by these parties in Dubai”.

Haya told the court it was not excessive for her to ask for millions to pay for five housekeepers, clothing, upkeep of her two mansions, one estimated to be worth about 100 million pounds, and regular holidays.

Her jewellery, in total valued at some 20 million pounds, would fill the courtroom if spread out, she said.

Moor ordered Mohammed to pay her one million pounds for missing haute couture garments which she said had disappeared and five million to cover nine weeks of vacations for her and family members every year.

“She is not, in the context of this case, wealthy,” her lawyer, Cusworth, said.

The ruling said she had been forced to sell 15.6 million pounds of assets — including horses worth 10 million and 2.1 million pounds worth of jewellery — to make ends meet while she waited for the final settlement.

He said her demands should be seen in the context that Mohammed had a two million pound bill for buying strawberries one summer for his country estate, northeast of London.

However, the sheikh's lawyer, Dyer, described many of Haya's claims as “absurd” or “ridiculous”, and said they were totally at odds with her stated desire for her children to lead a normal life.

He said the judge's ruling was likely to be “the largest financial remedy award certainly ever ordered and I imagine ever made by a family court”.

The previous largest sum ever thought to have been ordered by a British court was the 453.6 million pounds that Russian billionaire Farkad Akhmedov was instructed to pay for his 2016 divorce settlement.

Mohammed, 72, had offered to pay regular maintenance sums of 10 million pounds a year, and provide a 500 million pound guarantee which Dyer said would “hang like a sword of Damocles” over his head and that of his family.

In his conclusion, Moor said he found Haya's evidence to be “palpably honest”.

To Mohammed, the princess's lawyer Cusworth said, “the actual value of money is very different to any normal mortal involved in this case or any litigant who normally comes before this court”.

Turkey's troubled lira shed a further five per cent against the dollar on Monday after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cited Muslim teachings to justify not raising interest rates to stabilise the currency.

Erdogan has pushed the central bank to sharply lower borrowing costs despite the annual rate of inflation soaring to more than 20pc.

Economists believe the policy could see consumer price increases reach 30pc or higher in the coming months.

But Erdogan said in remarks aired by state television late on Sunday that his Muslim faith prevented him from supporting rate hikes.

“They complain we keep decreasing the interest rate. Don't expect anything else from me,” he said in the televised comments.

“As a Muslim, I will continue doing what our religion tells us. This is the command.”

Islamic teaching forbids Muslims from receiving or charging interest on loaned or borrowed money.

Erdogan has previously cited his Muslim faith in explaining why he believes interest rates cause inflation instead of tamping it down.

High interest rates are a drag on activity and slow down economic growth.

But central banks raise their policy rates out of necessity when inflation gets out of hand.

The Turkish lira has now lost nearly half its value in the past three months.

It was trading down nearly 6pc on Monday morning.

A dollar could buy 7.4 liras on January 1. It was worth 17.4 liras on Monday.

“You cannot run a modern economy integrated into the global economy on this basis,” economist Timothy Ash of BlueBay Asset Management said in a note to clients.

“Even Saudi Arabia really does not attempt full shariah compliant macro[economic] management.“

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations joined Pakistan on Sunday in appealing to the world to help prevent Afghanistan’s economic collapse as 39 US lawmakers also backed the call.

In a message to the 17th Extraordinary Session of the OIC foreign ministers, Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths reminded the world that “now is the time” to save Afghanistan from a total collapse.

“The need for liquidity and stabilisation of the banking system is now urgent – not only to save the lives of the Afghan people but also to enable humanitarian organisations to respond,” he said.

In Washington, 30 lawmakers put their signatures to a letter to US secretaries of state and treasury on Saturday, asking them to help rebuild Afghanistan’s failing economy and to unfreeze the country’s assets.

The letter includes four proposals: Releasing frozen Afghan assets of more than $9 billion to an appropriate UN agency, expanding sanction exemptions for international organisations dealing with Afghanistan, assisting multilateral organisations to pay salaries of essential workers, and allowing international financial institutions to “inject the necessary economic capital into Afghanistan to stave off the economic meltdown”.

In his virtual message, Mr Griffiths warned that Afghanistan’s economy was in “free fall” and if decisive and compassionate action was not taken immediately, it may “pull the entire population with it.”

The message depicted a grim picture of the current situation in Afghanistan: 23 million people facing hunger; malnourished children overflowing in health facilities; 70 percent of teachers working without salaries; and millions of students out of school.

Mr Griffiths warned that the plummeting value of the Afghani currency, a lack of confidence in the financial sector, ever-decreasing trade and the narrowing space for borrowing and investment had further complicated the situation.

The UN official welcomed the decision by the World Bank’s Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund to transfer $280 million by the end of December to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

“This step should be followed by reprogramming of the whole fund to support the Afghan people this winter,” he said. “Families simply do not have the cash for everyday transactions, while prices for key commodities continue to rise.”

In Washington, Pakistan’s ambassador Asad Majeed Khan also urged the international community to understand the seriousness of the situation.

“We are deeply concerned over the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan that threatens millions of Afghans with hunger, disease and death,” he said.

He said that Pakistan convened the OIC conference to demonstrate the Islamic world’s solidarity with the Afghan people and to “mobilise international support for a coordinated global response to prevent the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan.”

At the UN, Mr Griffiths warned that within a year, “30 percent of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product could be lost altogether, while male unemployment may double to 29 per cent. He said that in 2022, the UN would launch its largest-ever funding appeal of $4.5 billion “to help the most vulnerable in Afghanistan”.

The plan is a stopgap measure for over 21 million people who need life saving assistance and must be funded as “a matter of priority,” he said.

LONDON: Nations across Europe are moving to reimpose tougher measures to stem a new wave of Covid-19 infections spurred by the highly transmissible omicron variant, triggering calls for protests from Paris to Barcelona.

As case numbers escalated, alarmed ministers in France, Cyprus and Austria tightened travel restrictions. Paris canceled its New Year’s Eve fireworks. Denmark closed theaters, concert halls, amusement parks and museums. Ireland imposed an 8pm curfew on pubs and bars and limited attendance at indoor and outdoor events.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan underscored the official concern about the climbing cases and their potential to overwhelm the health care system by declaring a major incident on Saturday, a move that allows local councils in Britain’s capital to coordinate work more closely with emergency services.

Irish Prime Minister Michel Martin captured the sense of the continent in an address to the nation, saying the new restrictions were needed to protect lives and livelihoods from the resurgent virus.

"None of this is easy," Martin said on Friday night. "We are all exhausted with Covid and the restrictions it requires. The twists and turns, the disappointments and the frustrations take a heavy toll on everyone. But it is the reality that we are dealing with."

The World Health Organisation reported on Saturday that the omicron variant of the coronavirus has been detected in 89 countries, and Covid-19 cases involving the variant are doubling every 1.5 to 3 days in places with community transmission and not just infections acquired abroad.

Major questions about omicron remain unanswered, including how effective existing Covid-19 vaccines are against it and whether the variant produces severe illness in many infected individuals, WHO noted.

Yet omicrons substantial growth advantage over the delta variant means it is likely to soon overtake delta as the dominant form of the virus in countries where the new variant is spreading locally, the UN health agency said.

Dutch government ministers were meeting on Saturday to discuss advice from a panel of experts who are recommending a toughening of the partial lockdown that is already in place and has led to a recent decline in infections.

Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge didn’t say what measures the government might impose as he headed into the meeting. There are very serious concerns, he told reporters in The Hague. That’s why were meeting on Saturday to see what we need to do.

Some stores opened earlier than usual Saturday and shoppers flocked into city center shopping areas, fearing it could be their last chance to shop before Christmas.

Rotterdam municipality tweeted that it was too busy in the center of the port city and told people: Dont come to the city.

Amsterdam also warned that the city’s main shopping street was busy and urged people to stick to coronavirus rules.

SHREWSBURY: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday faced questions about his leadership after weeks of controversy culminated in a crushing by-election defeat in a constituency never previously lost by his Conservative Party.

His ruling Tories had held the seat in North Shropshire, central England, by a massive majority just two years ago, but saw that wiped out by the Liberal Democrats in a vote on Thursday, a historic defeat set to intensify the mutinous mood among Conservative MPs.

Johnson, 57, was already reeling from a series of scandals and setbacks and around 100 of his lawmakers rebelled in parliament Tuesday against the government’s introduction of vaccine passes for large events.

The UK leader’s authority has also been hit repeatedly in recent weeks by claims of corruption and reports that he and his staff broke coronavirus restrictions last Christmas, while a new surge in Omicron cases have added to a sense of crisis.

e direction to get us through this difficult period.”

The atmosphere before the North Shropshire vote was a far cry from May, when the Conservatives swept to their own unprecedented by-election victory in the northeast England seat of Hartlepool on the back of a successful vaccine rollout.

But the virus is once again dominating British life and the arrival of the Omicron variant has again deepened the gloom before Christmas, just when the prime minister’s authority has been weakened.

Britain is also suffering spiralling inflation as a result of big borrowing during lockdowns, high energy prices and bottlenecked supply chains. Tax rises also loom from next April.

PARIS: France said on Thursday that it would ban non-essential travel to and from Britain in a bid to keep the Omicron Covid-19 variant in check, as European leaders urged coordinated action and more booster shots to counter the more highly contagious threat.

Countries worldwide have begun advising against foreign travel while ramping up domestic restrictions to battle Omicron, even though scientists remain uncertain how dangerous it is.

Britain has seen case levels explode in recent weeks to record levels amid fears the variant could overwhelm hospitals during the dinners and parties for the year-end holidays.

Starting at midnight, the French government said, travellers will need “an essential reason to travel to, or come from, the UK, both for the unvaccinated and vaccinated... People cannot travel for touristic or professional reasons.” It added that French citizens and EU nationals could still return to France from the UK, but they will now need a negative Covid test less than 24 hours old, and a blanket quarantine will be enforced upon their return.

The Spanish government said meanwhile that boosters would soon be available for everyone aged 40 and older, down from 65 and older currently.

EU drug regulators on Thursday also approved Pfizer’s Covid pill for emergency use by member states struggling with the new coronavirus wave.

In France, the “drastic” new limits on travel to Britain aim to give the country time to give 20 million booster jabs by Christmas — and the country may soon open up vaccinations to children aged 5 to 11.

“People (coming back) will have to register on an app and will have to self-isolate in a place of their choosing for seven days — controlled by the security forces — but this can be shortened to 48 hours if a negative test is carried out in France,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal said.

Britain on Thursday recorded a record 88,376 laboratory-confirmed Covid cases, with scientists predicting even higher rates as Omicron is believed to spread much faster than the currently dominant Delta variant.

MADRID: Europe step­ped up vaccinations of children aged five to 11 against Covid-19 on Wednesday, as the EU’s health agency warned that immunisation alone would not stop the rapid rise of the Omicron variant of the virus.

Croatia, Germany, Greece, Hungary and Spain were among those opening up their inoculation drives to younger kids, with other nations still weighing their approach.

At Hospital Principe de Asturias in Alcala de Henares near Madrid, nurses wearing Christmas antler headbands welcomed children and gave them stickers after their shots.

“It only hurt a little,” said 11-year-old Magdalena Lazo Vitoria as she left the vaccination centre, a plaster on her left shoulder.

“I wasn’t nervous because I wanted to get vaccinated for a long time now, so I am really happy.”

The push was lent fresh urgency by the rapid spread of the heavily mutated Omicron variant, which EU chief Ursula von der Leyen warned could be dominant in Europe by mid-January.

Even as children lined up to get jabs, the EU health agency ECDC said measures like mask-wearing, distance working and the prevention of crowds were essential to reduce the burden on healthcare systems in the time available, with vaccines alone taking too long.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he hoped his country, which already has one of Europe’s highest Covid-19 vaccination rates, would become an “example for the world” with its immunisation campaign for five- to 11-year-olds.

The country has around 3.3 million children in that age group. Doctors across Europe reported strong initial demand from parents.

“As soon as we offered the vaccine appointments, they were pretty much all snapped up,” said Jakob Maske, a Berlin-based doctor and spokesman for Germany’s association of paediatricians.

Germany’s STIKO vaccine commission has officially only recommended the jab for children with pre-existing conditions, but even healthy children will be inoculated if the parents request it.

Some German cities plan to administer kids’ jabs in museums and zoos, while others are considering mobile vaccination teams outside schools.

While serious illness and death from Covid among children are rare, those infected can pass the virus to other people at higher risk of serious illness, such as the elderly.

The EU’s medicines wat­chdog last month approved the Pfizer-BioNTech shot for five- to 11-year-olds, an age group experiencing high coronavirus infection rates.

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