US voices concern over Hezbollah’s role in Lebanese Cabinet

In this photo released by Lebanon's official government photographer Dalati Nohra, United States Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard, left, speaks with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, at the government House, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Feb 19, 2019. (AP)
Updated 19 February 2019
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US voices concern over Hezbollah’s role in Lebanese Cabinet

  • Hezbollah, which also takes part in elections, has named a health minister and two other posts in Lebanon’s Cabinet

BEIRUT: The US ambassador to Lebanon expressed concerns Tuesday over the militant Hezbollah group’s growing role in the new Cabinet, saying it does not contribute to stability.
Hezbollah, which also takes part in elections, has named a health minister and two other posts in Lebanon’s Cabinet. US officials have called on Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s new government to ensure the group does not receive support from public resources.
At a meeting with Hariri on Tuesday, Ambassador Elizabeth Richard said the Iran-backed Hezbollah continues to violate Lebanon’s policy of non-involvement in regional conflicts by fighting in “at least three countries.” She was apparently referring to Syria, where the group fights alongside the government, and Iraq and Yemen, where Iran supports local armed groups.
“I was also very frank with the prime minister about US concern over the growing role in the Cabinet of an organization that continues to maintain a militia that is not under the control of the government,” Richard told reporters after the meeting.
She added that Hezbollah continues to make its own “national security decisions” that “endanger the rest of the country.”
The US views Hezbollah as a terrorist group, but is a strong supporter of Lebanon’s national army, supplying it with arms worth hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years. Last week, the American Embassy said the US had delivered laser-guided rockets valued at more than $16 million to the Lebanese army.
Richard said last year alone, the United States provided more than $825 million in assistance, an increase from the year before. She said the US has also supported education and development programs to help Lebanese communities “deal with the unprecedented demands placed on them when their Syrian neighbors fled.”
Lebanon is home to about a million Syrian refugees — a quarter of the tiny Mediterranean country’s population — putting pressure on its crumbling infrastructure.
Minister of State for Refugee Affairs Saleh Gharib briefed President Michel Aoun and Hariri on Tuesday about his visit to Syria the previous day, telling reporters that Syrian officials “were very positive and showed interest in facilitating” refugees’ return.


Sudan army rulers, protesters plan more talks after no agreement

Updated 7 min 19 sec ago
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Sudan army rulers, protesters plan more talks after no agreement

  • Both sides have been at loggerheads over the new governing body that would rule Sudan for a three-year transitional period
  • The latest discussions were launched Sunday evening following pressure from world powers to install a civilian-led governing body

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s army rulers and protest leaders said more talks were planned for Monday on finalizing the makeup of a new ruling body, after hours of negotiations through the night ended without agreement.
Both sides have been at loggerheads over the new governing body that would rule Sudan for a three-year transitional period after the ouster last month of longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir.
The latest discussions were launched Sunday evening following pressure from world powers to install a civilian-led governing body — a key demand of demonstrators.
After continuing into the early hours of Monday, the ruling military council announced the talks would resume at 9:00 p.m. (1900 GMT).
“The structure of the sovereign authority has been discussed,” Lt. Gen. Shamseddine Kabbashi, spokesman of the military council, told reporters.
“It’s agreed to resume negotiations today (Monday) evening... hoping to reach a final deal.”
The Sudanese Professional Association — the group that initially launched the protest campaign against Bashir in December, said Monday that it was in no rush to finalize the deal.
“We are not in a hurry for the crucial victory... whatever be the outcome, it will be a step forward,” it wrote on Twitter without elaborating.
The agreement had been expected on Wednesday, but the military council suspended the negotiations for 72 hours.

Ahead of Sunday’s talks, the umbrella protest movement — the Alliance for Freedom and Change — raised the ante by insisting that the country’s ruling body be “led by a civilian as its chairman and with a limited military representation.”
The existing military council is headed by General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, and the generals insist that the overall new body be military-led.
On the eve of the talks, hundreds of supporters of Islamist movements rallied outside the presidential palace in Khartoum warning they would reject any deal that would exclude sharia — Islamic law — from the country’s political roadmap.
“The main reason for the mobilization is that the alliance is ignoring the application of sharia in its deal,” said Al-Tayieb Mustafa, who heads a coalition of about 20 Islamic groups.
“This is irresponsible and if that deal is done, it is going to open the door of hell for Sudan,” he told AFP.
Bashir came to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989 and Sudanese legislation has since been underpinned by Islamic law.
The protest leaders have so far remained silent on whether sharia has a place in Sudan’s future, arguing that their main concern is installing a civilian administration.
Saudi Arabia meanwhile on Sunday deposited $250 million in Sudan’s central bank as part of an aid package it announced following Bashir’s ouster.
The UAE said on April 28 it would also deposit $250 million in Sudan’s central bank.
The oil-rich Gulf states have pledged a further $2.5 billion in aid to help provide food, medicine and petroleum products.

It was Sudan’s worsening economic crisis that triggered nationwide protests against Bashir.
Before talks were suspended earlier this week, the generals and protest leaders had agreed on several key issues, including a three-year transition period and the creation of a 300-member parliament, with two thirds of lawmakers to come from the protesters’ umbrella group.
But those talks were marred by violence after five protesters and an army major were shot dead near the ongoing sit-in outside the military headquarters in central Khartoum, where thousands have camped out for weeks.
Initially, the protesters gathered to demand Bashir resign — but they have stayed put, to pressure the generals into stepping aside.
The protesters had also erected roadblocks on some avenues in Khartoum to put further pressure on the generals during negotiations, but the military rulers demanded that they be removed.
Protesters duly took the roadblocks down in recent days — but they said they will put them back up, if the army fails to transfer power to a civilian administration.
The generals have allowed protesters to maintain their sit-in outside army headquarters.