Germany can’t look away if Syria uses chemical weapons

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a session at the lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, September 12, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 12 September 2018
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Germany can’t look away if Syria uses chemical weapons

  • The conservative leader said it could not be Germany’s answer to reject military intervention

BERLIN: Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday Germany could not simply look away if chemical attacks took place in Syria, two days after her government said it was in talks with its allies about a possible military deployment in the war-torn country.
The conservative leader said it could not be Germany’s answer to reject military intervention, a direct rebuke of her Social Democratic coalition partners, who have rejected participation in military action against Syria.
“It cannot be the German position to simply say ‘no’, no matter what happens in the world,” she told the Bundestag lower house of parliament.
Germany, the world’s fourth largest economy, is under pressure from the United States to boost military spending and shoulder more responsibility within NATO. It did not participate in military strikes carried out by US, French and British forces on Syria in April after a chemical weapons attack.
But Merkel and her conservatives must win over the more pacifist Social Democrats (SPD), junior partners in the ruling coalition, and overcome massive public opposition to Germany’s participation in military combat missions.
SPD leader Andrea Nahles on Wednesday told lawmakers her party would not agree to military intervention in Syria unless the United Nations authorized such action.


Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence. (Reuters)
Updated 22 September 2018
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Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

  • By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011
  • Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has survived attempts by his own party and unions to force him out but, with elections looming, looks less and less able to enact the economic reforms that have so far secured IMF support for an ailing economy.

Last week, the Nidaa Tounes party suspended Chahed after a campaign by the party chairman, who is the son of President Beji Caid Essebsi.

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence by working with the co-ruling Islamist Ennahda party and a number of other lawmakers including 10 Nidaa Tounes rebels. But his political capital is now badly depleted.

By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011.

In that time, he has pushed through austerity measures and structural reforms such as cutting fuel subsidies that have helped to underpin a $2.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other financial support.

Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up, not least as a bulwark against extremism.

Yet the economy, and living standards, continue to suffer: inflation and unemployment are at record levels, and goods such as medicines or even staples such as milk are often in short supply, or simply unaffordable to many.

And in recent months, the 43-year old former agronomist’s main focus has been to hold on to his job as his party starts to look to its ratings ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls in a year’s time.

The breathing space he has won is at best temporary; while propping him up for now, Ennahda says it will not back him to be prime minister again after the elections.

And, more pressingly, the powerful UGTT labor union on Thursday called a public sector strike for Oct. 24 to protest against Chahed’s privatization plans.

This month, the government once more raised petrol and electricity prices to secure the next tranche of loans, worth $250 million, which the IMF is expected to approve next week.

But the IMF also wants it to cut a public wage bill that takes up 15 percent of GDP, one of the world’s highest rates.