Lebanon’s Hezbollah believes solution to government impasse ‘very close’

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The powerful Lebanese Shi'ite militia Hezbollah believes a solution to be "very close" for the country's impasse over forming a new government. (File/AFP)
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Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri speaks during a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon, November 13, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 03 January 2019
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Lebanon’s Hezbollah believes solution to government impasse ‘very close’

  • Lebanon has been without a government since an election almost eight months ago
  • A breakthrough to create a national unity government in line with Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system seemed close last month

BEIRUT: The powerful Lebanese Shi'ite militia Hezbollah believes a solution to be "very close" for the country's impasse over forming a new government, one of its senior officials said on Wednesday, following nearly eight months of political wrangling.
Lebanese politicians have been unable to agree a new government since a general election in May as rival parties have competed over the allocation of cabinet positions, further unsettling the country's fragile economy.
Hezbollah, a heavily armed, Iran-backed movement set up in the 1980s to combat Israeli occupation, started taking part in electoral politics in the 1990s and is the most powerful group in the country.
"We believe the solution is very close," said Mahmoud Qamati, deputy head of the group's political council, and suggested it could happen in time to be considered "a holiday gift". "The intentions held by everybody are positive and for the benefit of the country," he added.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri said he and President Michel Aoun had met and were "determined to form a government", state news agency NNA reported.
A breakthrough to create a national unity government in line with Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system seemed close last month, but it did not work out and the deadlock resumed. However, Hariri said on Sunday he still believed the government would form early in the new year.
The lack of a government has caused particular concern because Lebanon faces both structural economic problems and regional instability.
Lebanon has the world's third-highest level of debt to GDP and Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said on Sunday it faces an economic crisis that he warned could turn into a financial one.
Hariri has pledged to carry out economic reforms that could unlock billions of dollars of international investment in Lebanese power, transport and data infrastructure, aimed at boosting the economy after years of weak growth.
The International Monetary Fund has stressed the importance of Lebanon putting its debt on a sustainable footing, while bond yields and the cost of insuring against Lebanese sovereign debt have shown signs of stress in recent months.
Last month, Israel uncovered several tunnels it said Hezbollah had dug under the border, adding to tensions between the countries some 12 years after Israel and Hezbollah fought a war on Lebanese soil.
Qamati said the government formation was beneficial "particularly in light of the Israeli dangers".
The latest hitch in efforts to form a government came over Sunni Muslim representation in the cabinet. Hariri said on Tuesday that only one difficulty remained and that he and Aoun were working to solve it.


Dozens wounded as police break up Morocco teacher protest

Updated 11 min 5 sec ago
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Dozens wounded as police break up Morocco teacher protest

  • Teachers on temporary contracts launched a strike in March
  • The dispute concerns 55,000 teachers recruited since 2016 on fixed-term contracts

RABAT: Over 70 demonstrators were left wounded Thursday after Moroccan police used water cannon to disperse a rally in the capital by thousands of contract teachers protesting over their employment terms.
Teachers chanting “Social justice!” and “No to dismantling public schools!” attempted to camp out overnight in front of parliament in central Rabat to press their demands, but police broke up their rally.
The public-sector teachers, mostly wearing white coats, came from several cities around the country after a meeting with the education ministry was canceled on Tuesday.
Organizers of the event later said over 70 teachers were hospitalized, with varying injuries during the protest, with many beaten by batons.
Teachers on temporary contracts launched a strike in March and have held major demonstrations to press their demand for permanent employment arrangements to improve their conditions, especially over retirement.
After a first meeting with the education ministry in mid-April, representatives of the teachers suspended their strike.
But the education ministry Tuesday accused some teachers of not respecting that commitment and said it would not continue the dialogue until they resumed work.
For their part, the teachers say the ministry does not want to grant their main demand: to be granted civil servant status along with the job security that affords.
The dispute concerns 55,000 teachers recruited since 2016 on fixed-term contracts.
Teachers on temporary contracts enjoy the same salaries as their permanent colleagues — 5,000 dirhams ($520) a month — but unlike them, do not have access to a pension fund and other benefits.