Protests grow as Aoun, Hariri seek end to Lebanon impasse

Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri looks on as he speaks at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon Sep. 3, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 04 September 2018
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Protests grow as Aoun, Hariri seek end to Lebanon impasse

  • According to the sources close to Hariri, prospects for forming a government “are not blocked”
  • Aoun’s position was seen by the political forces in disagreement on the number of portfolios

BEIRUT: A Lebanese man demonstrating outside the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs in Beirut inflicted cuts on his body in protest against his “bad living situation.”

The man, in his 60s, sat in front of security forces guarding the ministry offices as he made his protest.

An employee at the ministry told Arab News that “it is not the first incident of its kind, but this phenomenon has begun to multiply and is caused by poverty.”

A political dispute in Lebanon on the formation of the government is deepening following disagreement on the distribution of portfolios among political rivals.

Lebanon is waiting for the government to be finalized so the decisions of the Cedar Conference can be activated. The decisions — related to economic reforms badly needed by Lebanon — cannot be activated after six months.

The pace of contacts and meetings between Saad Hariri, the prime minister-designate, and the political factions accelerated on Tuesday.

According to the sources close to Hariri, prospects for forming a government “are not blocked.”

Sources told Arab News that “the atmosphere is positive, Prime Minister Hariri presented his formula and the president of the republic (Michel Aoun) reviewed and made his remarks on them and things are open to negotiation.”

On the 102nd day of his appointment, Hariri presented a “formula for a national unity government in which no one wins,” as he said after meeting with Aoun on Monday night. Hariri described the “presented formula” as “preliminary, and let’s see if we can reach a result.”

Aoun’s response came a few hours later, stressing that it was a “preliminary formula.” A statement issued by his office said that “President Aoun made some remarks on this formula based on the principles and criteria he set for the government’s form, which Lebanon’s interests dictate. Aoun will continue to consult with Hariri in preparation for the agreement on the government formula.”

Aoun’s position was seen by the political forces in disagreement on the number of portfolios that they demand as a “negative attitude,” prompting sources familiar with Aoun’s position to tell Arab News: “It does not mean that President Aoun rejected it definitively or blocked the way in front of it, but he showed a series of negotiable observations on it.”

These sources reiterated Aoun’s position that the government structure should reflect “the results of the parliamentary elections.”

The first to be affected by Aoun’s comments on the formula appeared to be the Lebanese Forces party. A member of the Forces parliamentary bloc, George Adwan, talked about a rejection by the president and the Free Patriotic Movement for the Forces to have “four cabinet ministries in the future government.”

Adwan said that “the Forces have conceded to the minimum of their rights, but some thought that it was a ‘Bazaar.’ However, after what happened, we will return to our demand for five ministers with a sovereign portfolio.”

The Lebanese Forces delegated Information Minister Melhem Riashi to meet with Hariri on Tuesday. The Progressive Socialist Party also delegated MP Timur Jumblatt to meet with Hariri. Hariri chaired a meeting of his parliamentary bloc, which was attended by members of the Political Bureau of the Future Movement.

This political confusion prompted the Lebanese Phalange Party to stress that “all those obstructing the formation (of the government) who are steeped in quotas, sizes and gains bear the responsibility of the political instability prevailing in the country.”

The party warned in a statement of “the danger of wasting time.”


Iranian extremism ‘reinforcing instability’

MWL's Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa said Iran’s regional meddling would cause irreparable harm to its reputation. (Reuters)
Updated 8 min 50 sec ago
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Iranian extremism ‘reinforcing instability’

  • Muslim World League to counter sectarianism with interfaith summit in Beirut
  • Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa said the interfaith summit had particular relevance because of the pernicious influence of Iran in the region

BEIRUT: The Muslim World League (MWL) will hold an international Muslim-Christian summit in Beirut next year to combat hate speech and promote cultural and religious and diversity, the organization’s secretary-general said on Wednesday.

Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa said the interfaith summit had particular relevance because of the pernicious influence of Iran in the region.

“The extremist sectarian policy adopted by Iran is causing more trouble and reinforcing instability,” he said.
“We have always said that we are not against Shiism; Shiites are our citizens, neighbors, and brothers. We are against sectarian extremism.

“Intervening in the affairs of states and attempting to impose sectarian domination and a political agenda will only make things worse.”

The MWL had chosen Beirut for the summit because of its “religious diversity and great civilization,” Al-Issa said.

“We aim through the summit to achieve cooperation in initiatives that achieve common goals to serve humanity and promote love.”

Al-Issa said Iran’s regional meddling would cause irreparable harm to its reputation. 

“Calls for moderation have reached Iran from every advocate of peace and stability, but it refused to listen,” he said.

“Saudi Arabia and other peace-loving countries are doing their utmost to ensure stability and security, but Iran continues to defy the lessons of history.”

Al-Issa held talks on Wednesday with Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.