Hariri to call on Lebanese patriarch during his Riyadh visit on Monday

Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi, Lebanese head of the Maronite Catholic church, leaves the Elysee Palace in Paris in this April 2016 file photo. (AFP)
Updated 12 November 2017
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Hariri to call on Lebanese patriarch during his Riyadh visit on Monday

BEIRUT: The Lebanese head of the Maronite Catholic church, Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi, will meet Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri when he embarks on a historic visit to Riyadh on Monday.
The Lebanese and Saudi sides both hailed the “momentous” visit, which comes at the invitation of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but it will be amid a blurred political climate in Lebanon after Hariri announced his resignation from Riyadh, where he has since been staying.
The patriarchate’s media spokesman, Walid Ghayyad, told Arab News that “the historic and exceptional visit comes at an exceptional time.” He revealed that the patriarch would be visited at his residence by Hariri, who resigned as prime minister on Nov. 4.
He said that the patriarch would ask Hariri about the reasons behind his resignation and will inform President Michel Aoun about the outcome of their talks.
Ghayyad, who will accompany the patriarch, said: “The visit has two sides: It is a dialogue and a communication visit for a man of peace. The patriarch represents all the Patriarchs and Christians of the East. He will carry a message of love and openness to Saudi Arabia, which is now witnessing further openness and positive changes. We thank the Kingdom for inviting the patriarch on this momentous visit, especially that it complements and activates historical relations between the two countries.”
Ghayyad added that “King Saud bin Abdulaziz had visited the Maronite Patriarchate in Bkirki, in Mount Lebanon, in 1953 and exchanged wonderful messages at the time. Thus, what is happening today is not new but rather a renewed step that has further aspects in light of the openness of the Kingdom.”
Al-Rahi’s visit to Riyadh is planned for one day only and a large media crew will accompany him. According to Ghayyad, “the visit will comprise a meeting with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Also, the Patriarch will meet with the Lebanese community in Saudi Arabia, to discuss their concerns and aspirations.
“The Patriarch’s role is getting more and more important in light of the escalating problems the region is now witnessing. He is worried about all the Lebanese concerns. At a time when the language of war, violence and terrorism prevails, we need to promote the interfaith dialogue. This is what the patriarch is looking forward to,” said Ghayyad, adding that “ever since Al-Rahi was elected as patriarch, he chose ‘Partnership and Love’ as the title of his mission, to spread it all over the world through openness and dialogue.”
Ghayyad pointed out that “the developments in the Arab region have taken Al-Rahi’s visit to a greater national dimension, especially after the resignation of Hariri. This visit now acts as a national mandate to be a continuation of the efforts initiated by President Michel Aoun after the eruption of the political crisis.”
As for Hariri’s resignation, Ghayyad said: “The patriarch will not interfere in the political matter. The Lebanese State should handle this issue and not the patriarch.”
The Maronite Patriarchate’s spokesman stressed that “the visit will reinitiate the relations between the Patriarchate and Saudi Arabia. All the Lebanese are keen on the preserving the good relations with the Kingdom that have long been standing with Lebanon. Not to forget, a lot of Lebanese are working there and are loyal to the Saudi Kingdom.”
Ghayyad said: “We should all stand against terrorism; Patriarch Al-Rahi has repeatedly demanded to differentiate between Islam and terrorism, especially during his recent visit to the United States. Therefore, we have to show the real picture of Islam. Christians can play a major role in bringing together the divergent views of Muslims, as well as in highlighting and strengthening moderate Islam.
“The message of peace is a must at any time and place, otherwise people will resort to the language of weapons. We should all have a united vision regarding this issue and should all reject violence.”
Regarding the meeting between the patriarch and the Lebanese community in the Kingdom, Ghayyad said that “this is a father meeting with his sons.”
In Washington, the White House has called on “all states and parties to respect Lebanon’s sovereignty, independence, and constitutional processes.”
A statement released on Saturday said: “In this sensitive time, the United States also rejects any efforts by militias within Lebanon or by any foreign forces to threaten Lebanon’s stability, undermine Lebanese government institutions, or use Lebanon as a base from which to threaten others in the region.”
The White House said Hariri “has been a trusted partner of the United States in strengthening Lebanese institutions, fighting terrorism, and protecting refugees.”


Retired Lebanese soldiers in tense standoff with army during benefit cuts protest

Updated 19 July 2019
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Retired Lebanese soldiers in tense standoff with army during benefit cuts protest

  • Dressed in military uniforms, large numbers of veterans attempted to force their way through barricades set up to stop demonstrators reaching the city’s parliament building where a final vote on a controversial draft austerity budget was taking place
  • The meeting to vote on the 2019 draft budget came after a marathon three days of discussions

BEIRUT: Retired Lebanese soldiers on Friday came close to clashing with the country’s army when weeks of protests over planned benefit cuts reached boiling point in the capital Beirut.
Dressed in military uniforms, large numbers of veterans attempted to force their way through barricades set up to stop demonstrators reaching the city’s parliament building where a final vote on a controversial draft austerity budget was taking place.
A military source told Arab News that the Lebanese army leadership had decided to block access to Najma Square, in Beirut’s Central District, where Parliament members were sitting.
But former soldiers, joined by the parents of army martyrs and activists from the Sabaa and Communist parties, surrounded the building in nearby streets before attempting to push through barbed wire, concrete and metal barriers erected by the Lebanese army and the Internal Security Forces.
The protesters, waving Lebanese and army flags, got as far as the entrance to Maarad Street, on which Parliament is located, putting them in direct confrontation with the Lebanese troops.
Ten brigades of reinforcements were drafted in to help push back the veterans before protest leaders eased tensions by calling for a retreat to a nearby square to avoid any further clashes.
The meeting to vote on the 2019 draft budget came after a marathon three days of discussions. Before entering the parliamentary session, Lebanese Minister of Defense Elias Bou Saab said that “misleading the retired soldiers” would be “harmful to the image and demands of the protesters” and called on them to carry out “peaceful demonstrations.” He added that there had been mixed and confused messages regarding benefit cuts.
However, retired Brig. Gen. Georges Nader had vowed that protesters would not back off until the vote on their benefits was dropped.
Discussing the protests in Parliament, Samy Gemayel, president of the Phalange party, objected to the reduction in the army budget, to which Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said: “This has been concluded on the bases of an understanding with the army and the military establishment.”
MP Paula Yacoubian said that “retired soldiers are trying to storm Parliament,” to which Berri said: “Those who want to storm Parliament have not yet been born.”
The row had centered on a controversial article concerning amendments to the country’s income tax act, and Lebanese Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil insisted on defending it. He said: “It does not cost the retired soldiers, for instance, more than 3,000 Lebanese pounds ($2) per month. This amount rises to 400,000 pounds for brigadiers.” He added: “Which country in the world gives a retiree 85 percent of his salary?”
After a meeting between the minister and Nader in Parliament, the retired brigadier general went out to reassure the veterans that cuts from their salaries in respect of medicine and income tax would be reduced. Less intense protests continued for more than three hours before Parliament approved the relevant article in the budget.
Meanwhile, Berri had started the Parliament session by reading a resignation submitted by Hezbollah MP Nawaf Musawi.