Lebanon anticipates Hariri’s return; Aoun’s adviser says that ties with KSA ‘have not reached point of no-return’

Posters showing resigned Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri are seen in Beirut on November 15, 2017. Words on poster reads "We are all with you". (REUTERS/Jamal Saidi)
Updated 16 November 2017

Lebanon anticipates Hariri’s return; Aoun’s adviser says that ties with KSA ‘have not reached point of no-return’

BEIRUT: The political anxiety that Lebanon has been through after the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Riyadh and his stay in the Saudi capital has become anticipation for his return to Beirut.

A proposed French solution to the crisis may have helped the political dialogue in Lebanon change from discussion of the justifications Hariri gave in his resignation statement to a focus on the way they were presented, which led to tension in the relations between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.

President Michel Aoun expressed hope that “Hariri’s acceptance of French President Macron’s invitation to visit Paris with his family would constitute a gateway for (finding) a solution to the crisis, which was caused by Hariri’s announcement of his resignation from Riyadh, with all the ambiguity that has caused about his situation.”

Aoun added, “Prime Minister Hariri accepted the invitation of Macron."

President Aoun said that he would “wait for Hariri’s return to Beirut to discuss with him the issue of resignation, which hasn’t been accepted up to now, and when he comes he’ll decide whether he still wants to resign or resume his position as prime minister. The resignation must be presented in Lebanon, and he has to stay in Lebanon until a new government is formed, because a caretaker prime minister is supposed to be in Lebanon.”

Elias Bou Saab, President Aoun’s adviser for international affairs, said that the president’s statements on Wednesday were not meant to escalate the situation with Saudi Arabia but to get it back to "dialogue and communication.” He stressed that relations between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia “have not reached the point of no-return.”

Likaa Al-Joumhouria (Forum of the Republic), under the leadership of former President Michel Suleiman, called for “calm on the Saudi-Lebanon line, and for waiting for the return of Hariri to avoid raising tension between the two brotherly countries.” The forum hoped that the causes that forced Hariri into this situation would be “dealt with in a way that would guarantee the neutrality of Lebanon away from conflicts.”

Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, the grand mufti of Lebanon, said that “the relationship between Lebanon and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been strong and deeply rooted since the independence of Lebanon, and it should be preserved, maintained and fortified, no matter what conditions Lebanon may experience. Lebanon needs the help of its Arab brethren, primarily Saudi Arabia, to solve the crisis it has been going through following the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and to review the causes of the resignation."

Mustapha Allouch, member of the Politburo of the Future Movement, said in a statement to Al-Markazia news agency that “a superficial treatment of the crisis would not contribute to the solution but rather lead to repercussions complicating the situation even further.” Allouch said that “the return of Hariri is certainly linked to specific understandings between the Kingdom and European countries.”

Allouch said that the meeting of Arab foreign ministers on Sunday would “form a landmark event for Lebanon,” and stressed that the Lebanese foreign minister “should have a clear and frank position with the Arab consensus, which believes in the Lebanese interest and protects it from the repercussions of the huge tempest blowing through the region.”

He said that Lebanon should “stress its support for the Kingdom against Iranian aggression, not just adopt a self-distancing policy, but the insistence of the [Hezbollah] party on its policies means the continuation of the problem.”

Sudan protesters plan march on parliament, more demos

Updated 19 January 2019

Sudan protesters plan march on parliament, more demos

KHARTOUM: A group that is spearheading anti-government protests across Sudan on Saturday said it plans to launch more nationwide rallies over the next few days, including a march on parliament.
Protests have rocked Sudan since December 19, when the government raised the price of bread, and since then have escalated into rallies against President Omar Al-Bashir’s three-decade rule.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, an umbrella group of trade unions, in a statement called for a march on parliament Sunday to submit to lawmakers a memorandum calling for Bashir to step aside.
“We are calling for a march to parliament in Omdurman on Sunday,” it said referring to Khartoum’s twin city where parliament is located.
“The protesters will submit to parliament a memorandum calling on President Bashir to step down,” added the association, which represents the unions of doctors, teachers and engineers.
Over the past month, protesters have staged several demonstrations in Omdurman, on the west bank of the Nile.
Officials say at least 26 people, including two security personnel, have died during a month of protests, while rights group Amnesty International last week put the death toll at more than 40.
The group spearheading the protests said there will also be rallies in Khartoum on Sunday, to be followed by night-time demonstrations on Tuesday in the capital and in Omdurman.
“And on Thursday there will be rallies across all towns and cities of Sudan,” the statement added.
On Friday, hundreds of mourners leaving the funeral of a protester had staged a spontaneous demonstration in the capital’s Burri district, while crowds of Muslim worshippers had launched another rally in a mosque in Omdurman, witnesses said.
Protesters chanting “freedom, peace, justice” have been confronted by riot police with tear gas at several rallies since the first protest erupted in the eastern town of Atbara on December 19 after the rise of bread price.
The government’s tough response has sparked international criticism, while Bashir has blamed the violence on unidentified “conspirators.”
Analysts say the protests have emerged as the biggest challenge to the veteran leader’s rule who swept to power in 1989 in an Islamist-backed coup.
The protests come as Sudan suffers from an economic crisis driven by an acute shortage of foreign currency and soaring inflation that has more than doubled the price of food and medicines.