Negotiations increasingly uncomfortable for Hariri

Lebanon’s prime minister-designate Saad Hariri prays at the grave of his father in Beirut. Reuters
Updated 30 May 2018
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Negotiations increasingly uncomfortable for Hariri

  • The Future Movement called for the formation of a “national integration government that includes no more than 30 ministers
  • The Hezbollah bloc asked for “an important ministry because it is our right, and the revival of the ministry of planning”

BEIRUT: Amid the five hours of meetings between the Lebanese prime minister designate and the leaders of the various political factions of the new Parliament, one stood out in particular.

Saad Hariri, who was nominated to keep his position last week, came face to face with the man once accused of being involved in the assassination of his father — the pro-Syrian MP Jamil Al-Sayyed.
Al-Sayyed was Lebanon’s intelligence chief during the years that Syria dominated the country after the civil war ended in 1990.
He resigned in 2005, shortly after former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed in a massive car bomb, and was imprisoned for four years until the case against him collapsed. Al-Sayyed, who is close to Bashar Assad, was released without charge.
While he officially stood as an independent candidate, he made clear that he was supportive of Hezbollah — the Iranian-backed movement also allied with Assad and whose members are on trial at the UN-backed Special Tribunal over Rafik Hariri’s murder.
The meeting between Hariri and Al-Sayyed on Monday lasted less than 10 minutes, but highlighted the prime minister’s weakened position after his Future Movement performed badly in the election while Hezbollah’s allies made significant gains.
After the meeting, the first between the two, Al-Sayyed said that he was keen to talk at length about his “political detention.”

He said Hariri “showed a full understanding of the previous stage and the circumstances that accompanied it, and tried to tell me that we are drawing a line between the past and the present regardless of the existing political dispute, which will remain.”
During the non-binding parliamentary consultations on forming the next government, the different parliamentary blocs presented their requests to Hariri for ministerial positions.
The bloc led by Amal leader Nabih Berri, the Parliament’s speaker, insisted on the finance ministry along with three other ministers.
The Future Movement called for the formation of a “national integration government that includes no more than 30 ministers, with fair representation of regions” and for the inclusion of women ministers in the government.
The Strong Lebanon bloc, headed by Gebran Bassil, the leader of the Christian Free Patriotic Movement, asked for either the finance or interior ministry. The Hezbollah bloc asked for “an important ministry because it is our right, and the revival of the ministry of planning.”
After the meetings, Hariri appeared unconcerned that the government could not be formed as soon as possible. He said he was optimistic and “we want a national unity government and everyone has agreed to speed up its formation because of the challenges we face.”
The formation of the previous government headed by Hariri took 22 days at the end of 2016 and was composed of 30 ministers. It was called “the government of trust.”
If Hariri manages to form a government that satisfies the parliamentary blocs, the new administration would then have to prepare a statement that adopts a position on various issues, including the weapons of Hezbollah, defense strategy and economic reforms.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s report on the implementation of a 2004 Security Council resolution on Lebanon criticized “the maintenance by Hezbollah of sizable and sophisticated military capabilities outside the control of the government of Lebanon.”
“It remains a fundamental anomaly that a political party maintains a militia that has no accountability to the democratic, governmental institutions of the state, but has the power to take that state to war.”
In further international pressure on Hezbollah’s increased prominence in Lebanon, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that the US would review its financial and military assistance to Lebanon because of the election and the growing role of Hezbollah in Syria.
For Hariri, the coming weeks of negotiations will only become increasingly uncomfortable.


Sudan’s military council, opposition coalition agree political accord

Updated 17 July 2019
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Sudan’s military council, opposition coalition agree political accord

  • The constitutional declaration is expected to be signed on Friday
  • The deal aims to help the political transition in Sudan

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s ruling military council and an opposition alliance signed a political accord on Wednesday as part of a power-sharing deal aimed at leading the country to democracy following three decades of autocratic rule.

The agreement, which ended days of speculation about whether a deal announced earlier this month would hold, was initialed in Khartoum in the presence of African mediators following a night of talks to iron out some details of the agreement.

Sudan’s stability is crucial for the security of a volatile region stretching from the Horn of Africa to Libya that is riven by conflict and power struggles.

The deal is meant to pave the way to a political transition after military leaders ousted former President Omar Al-Bashir in April following weeks of protests against his rule.

At least 128 people were killed during a crackdown that began when security forces dispersed a protest camp outside the Defense Ministry in central Khartoum in June, according to medics linked to the opposition. The Health Ministry had put the death toll at 61.

A political standoff between Sudan’s military rulers and protesters threatened to drag the country of 40 million toward further violence before African mediators managed to bridge the gap between the two sides.

General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the deputy head of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council, hailed the agreement as the start of a new partnership between the armed forces, including the paramilitary forces he leads, and the opposition coalition of Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC).

Ibrahim Al-Amin, an FFC leader, said the accord signaled a new era of self-reliance for Sudan’s people.

“We want a stable homeland, because we have suffered a great deal,” Amin said in a speech after the ceremony.

Ethiopian mediator Mahmud Dirir said Sudan, long under international isolation over the policies of Bashir’s Islamist administration, needed to overcome poverty and called for the country to be taken of a US list of states that support terrorism.

The sides are still working on a constitutional declaration, which is expected to be signed on Friday.

Power-sharing deal

Under the power-sharing deal reached earlier this month, the two sides agreed to share power in a sovereign council during a transitional period of just over three years.

They also agreed to form an independent government of technocrats to run the country and to launch a transparent, independent investigation into the violence.

The power-sharing agreement reached earlier this month called for a sovereign council comprised of 11 members — five officers selected by the military council, five civilians chosen by the FFC and another civilian to be agreed upon by both sides.

The constitutional declaration will now decide the duties and responsibilities of the sovereign council.

The military was to head the council during the first 21 months of the transitional period while a civilian would head the council during the remaining 18 months.

But the agreement was thrown into doubt when new disputes surfaced last week over the military council’s demand for immunity for council members against prosecution.

The military council also demanded that the sovereign council would retain ultimate decision-making powers rather than the government.