Hezbollah calls for talks on Lebanon state debt

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, reads the government policy statement in the Lebanese parliament. (AP)
Updated 13 February 2019
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Hezbollah calls for talks on Lebanon state debt

  • Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government last month categorically ruled out restructuring and pledged to repay debt at existing interest rates

BEIRUT: Hezbollah urged Lebanon’s new government on Tuesday to negotiate with banks to restructure the country’s massive national debt.

The unprecedented call by a Hezbollah member of Parliament suggests that the group, which for the first time controls three ministries, is ready to flex its muscles in the new administration.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government last month categorically ruled out restructuring and pledged to repay debt at existing interest rates. Lebanon has one of the largest debt-to-GDP ratios in the world, at about 150 percent.

“I call on the government to hold dialogue with the banks, serious and constructive dialogue to reduce the cost of the debt,” Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah said.

“Yes we are all in one boat, and the banks are with us in this boat. God forbid if the financial and monetary situation is shaken, what will happen to these banks?”

Fadlallah said his group would wage a “battle” against corruption, and government reforms should “start at the top and not the bottom.”

Hezbollah “is going to engage in the difficult fight against corruption because the people’s money is like the people’s blood,” he said. “Our opponent is the corrupt and we are ready to cooperate with anyone who wants to fight corruption.”

Hariri asked Parliament to support his government’s reform program “because we want a government of deeds, not a government of words.”

He said: “The government wants to address these problems, the most important of which are … financial corruption and tax evasion.

“Bold and specific decisions, legislation and reforms are needed. That may be difficult and painful, but it is necessary to avoid the deterioration of economic, financial and social conditions toward more difficult and painful situations.”

The debate on the government’s policy statement continues on Wednesday, after which it is expected to be approved in a parliamentary vote of confidence.


Saudi Arabia, the UAE, UK and US hold Yemen talks in London

Updated 37 min 38 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia, the UAE, UK and US hold Yemen talks in London

  • Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir took part in the meeting of the Yemen Quartet
  • Meeting discussed how best to support the efforts of UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths

LONDON: Saudi Arabia and the UAE met in London on Friday to discuss with the UK and US the next steps in the Yemen peace process.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir took part in the meeting of the Yemen Quartet.

The UK Foreign Office said the meeting discussed how best to support the efforts of UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths.

A ceasefire between Yemeni government troops and Houthi militants was agreed for the key port of Hodeidah in December during talks in Sweden. But the implementation of the truce has stalled and the Arab Coalition supporting Yemeni forces has accused the Iran-backed Houthis of dozens of violations. The coalition includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“I called this meeting so that we keep doing everything we can to move forward on the hard road to peace in Yemen,” UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said. “This is a horrendous conflict and it is taking too long to turn the ceasefire agreed in Stockholm into a durable path to peace.”

The meeting was also attended by the UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nayan, and David Satterfield, a US acting assistant secretary of state.