Two Iraq ministers risk sack over Saddam-era posts

Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Adel Abdel-Mahdi speaks to Parliament in Baghdad. (Reuters)
Updated 08 November 2018
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Two Iraq ministers risk sack over Saddam-era posts

  • Two Iraqi ministers may lose their jobs after found that they were members of Saddam Hussein’s regime
  • The endangered officials were Minister of Youth and Sports and Minister of Communications

BAGHDAD: Two ministers approved by Iraq’s parliament may lose their jobs before the rest of cabinet is agreed, officials said Thursday, after a commission found they were members of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
The Accountability and Justice Commission is responsible for the policy of “de-Baathification,” or ensuring no Saddam-era officials or senior members of his Baath party play a role in Iraq’s government.
Commission spokesman Fares Abdul Sattar said that the body had sent a letter to parliament over two nominees to the 22-minister government — a third of which has yet to be confirmed by parliament.
“Two names will be subject to procedures by the Accountability and Justice Commission,” Abdul Sattar said, without specifying who.
A parliamentary source said that the endangered officials were Minister of Youth and Sports Ahmad Al-Obeidi and Minister of Communications Naim Al-Rubaye, who were only approved by lawmakers last month.
If sacked, it would be the first time the policy of “de-Baathification” unseats a minister confirmed by parliament since the 2003 ouster of Saddam by a US-led invasion.
Rubaye was reportedly a member of the intelligence services and a mid-level Baath party official, said a security source, but it was unclear what role Obeidi had.
Both received parliament’s vote of confidence on October 25 along with 12 other ministers, including those in charge of finance, foreign affairs, and oil.
Due to deep divisions, the remaining eight portfolios, including the interior and defense ministers, have not been put to a vote.
Parliament has met twice since then, but a confirmation vote did not feature on either session’s agenda and it has not set a new date to approve the remaining ministers.
Government formation has dragged on since Adel Abdel Mahdi, 76, was appointed prime minister in early October.
He had launched a website to allow Iraqis to apply for a ministerial position online and more than 15,000 sent in bids, but most of the names that were approved on October 25 were well-known political figures.


Hariri: “Promising summer” for Lebanon after Saudi travel warning lifted

Updated 58 sec ago
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Hariri: “Promising summer” for Lebanon after Saudi travel warning lifted

  • Saudi Arabia started warning its citizens of the instability in Lebanon in 2011
  • Lebanese PM Al-Hariri hopes for a series of agreements with Saudi Arabia

BEIRUT: More people have visited Lebanon since Saudi Arabia lifted its travel warning in February, pointing to a “promising summer” ahead, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri said on Wednesday.
A fall in visitors from Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies has hit Lebanon’s tourism industry, once a mainstay of a now-battered economy that Hariri’s new government has pledged to revive.
Saudi Arabia was once a major supporter both of its political allies in Beirut, chiefly Hariri, and of the Lebanese state. However, mindful of its overarching rivalry with Iran, Riyadh stepped back as Iran’s Lebanese ally, the political and military Hezbollah movement, grew in strength.
Saudi Arabia had been advising its citizens since 2011 to avoid Lebanon, citing Hezbollah’s influence and instability from the war in neighboring Syria.
“Without doubt the Saudi leadership’s decision ... had the most impact in increasing the number of visitors to Lebanon recently, which gives the best proof of a promising summer,” Hariri said at a Beirut conference attended by the head of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman humanitarian center.
Hariri also said he hoped that a pledge from Riyadh to help Lebanese families in need would spark a series of agreements between the two countries.
With pillars of the economy such as tourism and real estate in the doldrums, Lebanon has suffered years of low economic growth, and run up one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens.
Saudi ties with Lebanon hit a low in November 2017, when Hariri was held against his will in Riyadh, announcing his resignation in a TV statement.
After French intervention, Hariri returned to Lebanon and withdrew the resignation, resolving the crisis. Though Hariri has always denied having been held in Saudi Arabia, French President Emmanuel Macron publicly confirmed it last year.