Row erupts between Lebanese president, Parliament speaker

A supporter of Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, carries tires as he passes in front of a roadblock, during a protest against Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil, in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (AP)
Updated 30 January 2018
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Row erupts between Lebanese president, Parliament speaker

BEIRUT: A dispute between Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has led to anger on the streets of the capital.
Supporters of Berri and his Amal Movement on Monday burned tires and cut off roads in Beirut, but the army quickly restored order and Amal elements withdrew.
The dispute between Aoun and Berri stems from a decree to promote certain officers. The finance minister, a member of Berri’s parliamentary bloc, refused to sign it on the grounds that it constitutes a financial burden on the treasury.
The dispute escalated following a campaign launched on Saturday by OTV, a station belonging to Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), against Berri and Amal, without naming them. But the president’s adviser Elias Bou Saab said the campaign “does not represent us.”
The situation deteriorated further following a leak on Sunday of a video of Aoun’s son-in-law and head of the FPM, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, telling party supporters at a closed meeting that Berri “is a thug, not a parliamentary speaker.”
Bassil said: “The solution is that we break his head and not (allow him to) break our heads. When a person tries to dominate you, you have to confront him.”
The video caused anger on social media and condemnation by MPs from Berri’s bloc. Bassil “has no manners, and his words… are the rhetoric of degeneration and the cries of sectarian political dwarfs who think that by insulting leaders, they can book a place among them,” said Minister Khalil.
“The red lines have fallen. They are taking the country into a confrontation we do not want. But we are ready for it in any shape or form.”
Prime Minister Saad Hariri rushed to the presidential palace to meet Aoun. After the meeting, Hariri said he would implement an “initiative to calm the atmosphere.”
Lebanon “does not need an escalation, and we all aim to manage this country in the best way possible for the benefit of citizens, and I will continue my efforts on this issue,” he added.
Hariri sent Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk to visit Berri. Machnouk said after the visit: “I came seeking national calm and to prevent wrong words said by anyone.” Bassil “does not lack the courage to apologize,” Machnouk added.
Works Minister Youssef Fenianos of the Marada Movement visited Berri and handed him a letter from Marada leader Suleiman Frangieh declaring his support for the Parliament speaker.
Fenianos urged Bassil to “apologize publicly to the Lebanese, and there is no problem if he apologizes.”
He said “no Lebanese would tolerate” Bassil’s words against Berri. “Things are really getting out of hand.”
In a statement, Hezbollah on Monday rejected “categorically the offensive words against Speaker Berri in form and substance from any party.”
Hezbollah called for “the quick handling of this situation with the highest degree of wisdom and responsibility.”
Meanwhile, the army continued to separate supporters of Amal and the FPM. Bullets were fired in the air around Mirna El-Chalouhi Street, where there is an FPM center. Each party accused the other of firing first.
Hariri urged “all those concerned to try to overcome the storm that struck the country and to rectify its repercussions, especially as the challenges facing us are more serious than the verbal violence we are witnessing.”
He said: “It is very sad that the political discourse has deteriorated to the levels it has reached in the last few hours.”
Hariri added: “It is regrettable that the echoes of this discourse are reflected in the street, the means of communication and social media in a way that no Lebanese betting on the safety and stability of the country wants.”


Egyptian voters urged to allow El-Sisi rule until 2030

Updated 5 min 13 sec ago
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Egyptian voters urged to allow El-Sisi rule until 2030

  • Egyptian officials said the results should be ready in a week after the elections
  • Opposition parties asked voters to refuse the suggested changes

CAIRO: Egyptian pro-government media are urging a "Yes" vote on the second day of a nationwide referendum that would allow President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to stay in power until 2030.
Polls reopened at 0700 GMT on Sunday. Voting will continue through Monday to allow maximum turnout, which the government hopes will lend the referendum legitimacy.
Election officials say results are expected within a week.
Opposition parties have called on voters to reject the changes, blasted by critics as a major step back to authoritarianism.
Voting comes amid an unprecedented crackdown on dissent since the 2013 military ouster of an elected but divisive president.
El-Sisi came to power in 2014 and was re-elected for a second four-year term last year.
Trucks with loudspeakers drove around central Cairo Sunday morning urging high turnout.