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BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has withdrawn his resignation, a month after his shock resignation announcement in Saudi Arabia.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


Russia says drone attacks on its Syria base have increased

Updated 18 August 2018
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Russia says drone attacks on its Syria base have increased

  • Idlib has become the main base for President Bashar Assad’s foes, who moved there after being forced out from other areas across Syria
  • A recent UN report warned that Daesh, which once boasted of commanding a caliphate stretching across northern Syria and Iraq

DAMASCUS: Russian air defense assets in Syria have downed 45 drones targeting their main base in the country, its military said, after an attack by Daesh on a Syrian army base a day earlier killed seven troops.

The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said that five of them were shot down in the last three days near the Hemeimeem air base. The base in the province of Latakia serves as the main hub for Russian operations in Syria.

Konashenkov said that while the drones appear primitive, they use sophisticated technologies and have a range of up to 100 km. 

He charged that the militants would not have been able to assemble the drones without outside help, but didn’t specify who might have assisted them.

The Russian general noted that the number of drone attacks have increased recently, adding that all of them were launched by militants based in the northern province of Idlib.

Idlib has become the main base for President Bashar Assad’s foes, who moved there after being forced out from other areas across Syria as part of surrender deals often negotiated with the Russians on behalf of the Syrian regime. With Russia’s support, Assad’s forces have regained control over key cities, like Aleppo, Homs and Daraa, the southern city where the uprising against the government began in March 2011. 

The authorities also have restored control over key highways, allowing safe travel all the way form the Jordanian border in the south to the central province of Hama.

In Homs, regional Gov. Talal Barazi told international reporters during a trip organized by the Russian Defense Ministry that a key bridge on a highway linking the Homs and Hama provinces that was destroyed in 2012 has been restored.

Barazi said that later this year his administration plans to start restoring the old part of Homs that was ravaged by fierce fighting in 2014.

He said that about 650 fighters who had left the province and moved to Idlib had come back to Homs and agreed to lay down their arms.

Barazi said that the historic city of Palmyra, home to one of the Middle East’s most spectacular archaeological sites, could be open for tourist visits by next summer. 

Many of the city’s archaeological treasures were badly damaged by Daesh in 2015. Palmyra is a world heritage site protected by the UN’s cultural agency.

In Aleppo, Hazem Ajan, the director of the city’s industrial cluster, said that about 500 companies have resumed operations in the area since the government reclaimed control in 2016.

Meanwhile, in eastern Syria, at least seven soldiers were killed with Daesh attacked an army position near the city of Deir Ezzor, a monitoring group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack on Wednesday near the Taim oil field was the militants’ closest approach to the Deir Ezzor air base since the government recaptured it from the group last year.

Mohammed Hassan, a media coordinator for the activist-run Deir Ezzor 24, said at least 12 soldiers and five IS militants were killed in the clashes.

A recent UN report warned that Daesh, which once boasted of commanding a caliphate stretching across northern Syria and Iraq, is adopting a guerrilla profile.

The group may still have up to 30,000 members distributed between Syria and Iraq, according to the UN report.

Also on Thursday, Assad and his wife Asma visited one of the tunnels once used by fighters outside Damascus to move vehicles, weapons, and fighters while they were under siege, the president’s office said. Regime forces have uncovered a network of tunnels underneath the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of the capital since they seized the area from opposition forces in a fierce campaign earlier this year.

The tunnel visited by the Assads was decorated with reliefs sculpted by a team of artists supervised by the government showing soldiers fighting and triumphing over their opponents.