Diplomacy in overdrive to resolve Lebanon’s crisis

Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun, center right, meets with US Undersecretary of the Air Force for International Affairs Heidi Grant and US Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard at the Lebanese Defense Ministry in Yarzeh near Beirut on Wednesday. (AP)
Updated 09 November 2017
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Diplomacy in overdrive to resolve Lebanon’s crisis

BEIRUT: There was a flurry of diplomatic talks and phone calls on Wednesday as Lebanon strove to deal with the crisis caused by the sudden resignation of Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri.
Al-Hariri, who is in Riyadh, stood down on Saturday because of Iranian influence in Lebanon, and said he feared for his life. On Wednesday he discussed the crisis by phone with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Nabih Berri, the Lebanese parliamentary speaker, insisted that government business would continue. “The government still stands and Hariri’s resignation … will not change the government’s capacities.”
Fouad Siniora, former prime minister and head of the Future Movement parliamentary bloc, discussed the issue by phone with the Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit. Siniora also held talks with foreign diplomats in Lebanon, including German Ambassador Martin Hugh, Egyptian Ambassador Nazih Al-Najjari, UAE Ambassador Hamad Al-Shamsi and Turkish Ambassador Cagatay Erciyes.
British Ambassador Hugo Shorter visited the Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt to discuss the crisis.
Meanwhile, the US, France and the EU called for a calm resolution to the government crisis and pledged their support for the stability of Lebanon’s political institutions.
“The US is still committed to a stable, safe, democratic and prosperous Lebanon,” said US Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard.
Lebanon was a strong US partner, the State Department said on Tuesday. “The United States strongly supports the legitimate institutions in the Lebanese state,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. “We expect all members of the international community to fully respect those institutions and the sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon.”
France’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Agnes Romatet-Espagne said: “France stands with Lebanon and reaffirms its strong commitment to the country’s unity, sovereignty and stability. It believes that the smooth functioning of institutions is an important condition. This is the message France is sending to all the Lebanese parties and the international community.”
The ambassadors of the EU to Lebanon pledged their “strong support for the unity, stability, sovereignty, security and people of Lebanon.”
The EU mission to Lebanon called on “all parties to pursue an instructive dialogue and rely on the work done during the past 11 months to strengthen Lebanese institutions and prepare for parliamentary elections in 2018.”
The ambassadors pledged their “continued commitment to stand by Lebanon and help it within the framework of a strong partnership that ensures its stability and sustained economic recovery.”
Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Group’s senior director for the Fragility, Conflict and Violence Group, said the crisis would not affect the organization’s support for Lebanon.
“The Bank’s partnership with Lebanon is on a long-term basis and it is committed to working with its government,” he said. “The World Bank has a wide program to support the Lebanese government to focus on the economic development agenda.”


Iraqi PM faces protests over power shortages and graft

A handout photo released by Iraq's Prime Minister's Media Office on January 20, 2019 shows Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi (C) during his trip to the southern city of Basra. (AFP)
Updated 58 min 13 sec ago
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Iraqi PM faces protests over power shortages and graft

  • Security services in Basra were on high alert on Sunday after the circulation of an image of a leaflet with the slogan of Daesh on it calling for support for the protests

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s exclusion from US sanctions on Iran and allowing it to import gas and electricity will not ease the pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government, Iraqi politicians and officials told Arab News on Sunday.
Mass demonstrations are planned for later this week in the Shiite-dominated southern provinces to protest about the lack of basic daily services including electricity and drinking water, high rates of unemployment and corruption in ministries and government departments, activists told Arab News.
Iranian energy and natural gas imports amount to about 4,000 megawatts per day, equivalent to 20 percent of Iraq’s total production.
The US three-month extension waiver allowing Iraq to import Iranian gas and electricity is expected to dampen some of the anger and give Abdul Mahdi’s government a chance to find more radical solutions to the electricity shortage caused by terrorist actions, lack of planning and government corruption over the past 15-16 years.
People in Basra plan to take to the streets on July 20, activists told Arab News.
“Unemployment, scarcity of electricity and potable water and corruption are all still in place and none have been addressed despite the fact we have been protesting every year,” Sheikh Raied Al-Fraijai, the head of Basra tribal council and one of the Basra’s key activists, told Arab News.
“We will demand the dismissal of Abdul Mahdi and his government,” he said.
Electricity supply from the national grid does not exceed a 12-hour-a-day average during the summer, when temperatures exceed 50 degrees Celsius. This is one of the most powerful engines of the demonstrations, which usually turn violent and lead to clashes between protesters and security forces.
Last summer demonstrations extended to most of the southern provinces and Baghdad. There were massive riots, especially in Basra and Amara, where government and party headquarters were set on fire, as well as the Iranian Consulate. At least 22 demonstrators and security personal were killed.
Controlling the demonstrations and preventing Iraqi political forces from exploiting them is one of the challenges facing both local governments and activists.
Security services in Basra were on high alert on Sunday after the circulation of an image of a leaflet with the slogan of Daesh on it calling for support for the protests and inciting demonstrators to attack members of the “Savage army,” a term used by Daesh to describe the Iraqi army.
“This game (the circulation of the leaflet) aims to give the necessary cover for the local government in Basra to target us,” an activist told Arab News.
“Now they (local officials) have a good pretext to come after us. They can easily say that we are belong to Daesh or just say these are aimed to provide the cover for sabotage and targeting security forces.”