Hariri revokes resignation after consensus deal

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri attends a cabinet meeting at the presidential palace of Baabda, east of the capital Beirut, on Dec. 5, 2017. (AFP/Joseph Eid)
Updated 05 December 2017
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Hariri revokes resignation after consensus deal

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has withdrawn his resignation, a month after his shock resignation announcement in Saudi Arabia.

Hariri's decision to rescind came after a consensus deal reached with rival political parties.

The announcement came at the end of the first Cabinet meeting since Lebanon was thrown into a political crisis after Hariri's stunning move a month ago.

The Cabinet assured in an emergency meeting "the commitment of the Lebanese government in all its political components to dissociate itself from any disputes, conflicts, wars or internal affairs of Arab countries in order to preserve Lebanon's political and economic relations with its Arab brothers."

The draft of the statement was agreed after numerous communications and meetings held quietly in the past few days, involving President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Hariri, Hezbollah and other parties.

In a statement, Hariri hoped that "the Cabinet meeting would present a new opportunity for solidarity to protect the country. We all can see how the region is boiling, and we should not have any illusions that any miscalculated step could lead the country down a dangerous path."

Hariri said in the statement: "I am the prime minister of Lebanon and today there is a death sentence against me in Syria, and Hezbollah has been classified as a terrorist (organization) in the Gulf countries. All I am saying is that we need to spare the country from getting involved in the regional conflicts and preserve our stability.”

He added: “However, this does not relieve us from realizing the current problem and the concerns of many brotherly countries, especially Gulf countries, which sent us many clear messages concerning interference in their internal affairs. This means that there is a problem which we cannot ignore, and which should not continue. Attacking the Gulf countries in the media and in politics threatens the interests of Lebanon, especially the Lebanese expatriates working in the Gulf."

Hariri stressed: “Our interest lies in the protection of our historical relations with Saudi Arabia and all the Gulf (countries), and depriving those who do not wish us well from a pretext to draw Lebanon into chaos."

Hariri noted that "we are not in the business of confirming Lebanon's Arabism. This is a settled issue, and the Taif agreement is as clear as the sun. But we want to send a message to our Arab brothers that Lebanon does not want to damage its relations Arab countries or harm any Arab country.

"The Lebanese government, in all its political components, has committed to distance itself from all conflicts, wars, and internal affairs of Arab states," according to the Cabinet statement read out by Hariri.

Minutes after Hariri's announcement, Paris said the Lebanese premier would attend talks on Friday in France on the situation in Lebanon, which US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will also attend.

"The aim is to support the political process (in Lebanon) at a crucial moment," the French Foreign Ministry said, according to Agency France-Presse. ”It will send a message both to the various parties in Lebanon and to countries in the region."​
 


US accepts Assad staying in Syria — but will not give aid

Updated 18 December 2018
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US accepts Assad staying in Syria — but will not give aid

  • James Jeffrey said that Assad needed to compromise as he had not yet won the brutal seven-year civil war
  • Trump’s administration has acknowledged, if rarely so explicitly, that Assad is likely to stay

WASHINGTON: The US said Monday it was no longer seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad but renewed warnings it would not fund reconstruction unless the regime is “fundamentally different.”

James Jeffrey, the US special representative in Syria, said that Assad needed to compromise as he had not yet won the brutal seven-year civil war, estimating that some 100,000 armed opposition fighters remained in Syria.

“We want to see a regime that is fundamentally different. It’s not regime change —  we’re not trying to get rid of Assad,” Jeffrey said at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.

Estimating that Syria would need $300-400 billion to rebuild, Jeffrey warned that Western powers and international financial institutions would not commit funds without a change of course.

“There is a strong readiness on the part of Western nations not to ante up money for that disaster unless we have some kind of idea that the government is ready to compromise and thus not create yet another horror in the years ahead,” he said.

Former President Barack Obama had called for Assad to go, although he doubted the wisdom of a robust US intervention in the complex Syrian war. and kept a narrow military goal of defeating the Daesh extremist group.

President Donald Trump’s administration has acknowledged, if rarely so explicitly, that Assad is likely to stay.

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned in October that the US would not provide “one single dollar” for Syria’s reconstruction if Iran stays.

Jeffrey also called for the ouster of Iranian forces, whose presence is strongly opposed by neighboring Israel, although he said the US accepted that Tehran would maintain some diplomatic role in the country.

Jeffrey also said that the US wanted a Syria that does not wage chemical weapons attacks or torture its own citizens.

He acknowledged, however, that the US may not find an ally anytime soon in Syria, saying: “It doesn’t have to be a regime that we Americans would embrace as, say, qualifying to join the European Union if the European Union would take Middle Eastern countries.”