Lebanese government faces first public dispute between Future Movement and Hezbollah

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora speaks during a press conference in Beirut on Friday. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 01 March 2019

Lebanese government faces first public dispute between Future Movement and Hezbollah

  • Hezbollah is behind smuggling operations from narcotic drugs production to trafficking, says Future TV

BEIRUT: Former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has responded to a campaign launched by Hezbollah accusing him of corruption and demanding that he should be brought to justice. 

He said: “The campaign aims to demonize all the governments headed by Rafic Hariri and attack him as well as all the prime ministers who followed him, including Saad Hariri.” 

“This campaign against Siniora, and therefore against Hariri’s axis, has commenced before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon issues its ruling on the assassination of former PM Rafic Hariri, which five Hezbollah members are accused of and are escaping from prosecution,” a source close to Siniora said.

Siniora broke his silence in a press conference on Friday, during which he attacked Hezbollah: “The biggest corruption is political corruption, and everyone who establishes smaller states within the state, controls the state’s facilities, disrupts the constitutional deadline, and denies the course of law is politically corrupt.” 

He said: “We are looking these days at something similar to what happened during the days of the security regime 20 years ago when I was framed.”

Siniora’s speech reminded the Lebanese people of a campaign launched by the Lebanese-Syrian security regime against Rafic Hariri in 1998-2000. 

This campaign was repeated before the assassination of Rafic Hariri in 2004-2005 and after Israel’s aggression against Lebanon in 2006.  The decision issued last week by the Constitutional Council to withdraw the Parliament membership of Future MP Dima Jamali was the first attempt to weaken the parliamentary bloc of PM Saad Harari.

The campaign against Siniora reached its peak when a Hezbollah MP reopened the file on the $11 billion spent during Siniora’s premiership, a move that the Future Movement described in a statement as paving the way to target Saad Hariri.

Siniora stressed that “the spending, whether from the budget appropriations or the treasury, was not illegal.” He added: “It was fully legal under the acts of Parliament. The spending was subject to the same mechanisms stipulated in the Public Accountancy Act, beginning with the prior and subsequent monitoring and approval of the expenditure controller and the Audit Court.”

He said: “Every disbursement is recorded, audited and available. Expenditures are fully recorded in the records of their ministries, in addition to being recorded in the Ministry of Finance’s records, published on its website.”

He revealed that the amounts Iran said it had paid to Lebanon had not been disclosed to the Lebanese state, and that when he met with Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon more than once during his premiership, he asked the ambassador, but he had refused to say how much had been paid. 

Siniora said: “Those who got involved in regional and international conflicts that jeopardized the interests of Lebanon and its people, took the state hostage and exposed it to risks, disrupted institutions and their constitutional deadlines, and interrupted the economic process have no right to hide in their impasse in dust that does not last and which we have enough light to dispel.”

Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah presented financial documents two days ago to the financial prosecutor, Judge Ali Ibrahim, who initiated an investigation by summoning an employee from the Ministry of Finance to listen to her testimony, even though this file has nothing to do with the fight against corruption or financial waste. This file is associated with “zeroing” the state’s financial accounts to allow the government to begin its work and carry out projects by approving the 2019 budget law. 

MP Fadlallah said in a press conference at the time: “We want to hear what the judiciary says about those who have manipulated the state’s finances and its financial restrictions.” 

Hariri’s Future TV channel launched an attack on Hezbollah on Thursday evening, referring to the corruption and wasted money linked to Hezbollah, from the smuggling operations carried out through the airport, ports and land borders.

They are estimated at billions of dollars, to being behind the production and trafficking of narcotic drugs such as Captagon, and establishing dummy companies registered with guarantor institutions, leading to the loss of billions of dollars in public money.

Saudi Arabia: Kushner’s Palestinian initiative ‘a great opportunity to bring prosperity and opportunities’

Updated 5 min 16 sec ago

Saudi Arabia: Kushner’s Palestinian initiative ‘a great opportunity to bring prosperity and opportunities’

  • UAE’s Minister of State for Financial Affairs Obaid Humaid Al-Tayer said "we should give this initiative a chance."
  • Tony Blair insists to Jared Kushner that there must be a two-state solution

MANAMA: Saudi Arabia's Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said Wednesday the Kingdom will support whatever economic plan will bring prosperity to the Palestinians.

Speaking on the second day of an international conference on a US initiative to improve the economic plight of Gaza and the West Bank, Al-Jadaan said he was “very, very optimistic” about the plan. 

“The region is in desperate need of prosperity and hope and we and our colleagues share the view that whatever brings prosperity to this region, we will support it,” he said, alongside US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin and the Bahraini and Emirati finance ministers.

“We have been a great supporter of Palestine for decades … so its not something we are going to shy away from and we will continue supporting the Palestinians,” Al-Jadaan added.

The initiative was outlined by Donald Trump's senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner on Tuesday as the conference in Bahrain got under way. The $50 billion economic formula would see investment in infrastructure, tourism and education.

Palestinian leaders have accused the plan of legitimising Israel’s occupation of their territory and for being secondary to a political resolution to the conflict. But on the second day of the conference, both Arab and western political leaders, ministers and  business chiefs discussed what needed to be done to make the plan work.

Al-Jadaan said the plan was a “great opportunity” and that there was a “significant international commitment” to support the people of Palestine to bring prosperity and opportunities.

“You need political commitment, you need clear transparency, you need predictability for the private sector to join, you need the rule of law … and you want to make sure that there is proper governance in place,” he said. 

The UAE’s Minister of State for Financial Affairs Obaid Humaid Al-Tayer said "we should give this initiative a chance."

Earlier, Jared Kushner discussed the initiative with the former British prime minister Tony Blair, who insisted there still must be a two-state solution to the conflict. The White House has not said it backs the principle, and the political element of its plan has not yet been revealed.

"It's absolutely foolish to believe you can have economics without sound politics, but it's likewise completely futile to think politics will work without economics buttressing it," Blair told the gathering.

The foreign minister of Bahrain also reiterated the need for a two-state solution but said the plan was an "opportunity not to be missed".

"I think if we take this matter seriously it could be a very important game-changer," Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa said.

In an earlier panel, Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas said the initiative “will definitely require a lot of work but it is definitely achievable.”

Bahrain’s Labor Market CEO Osama Al-Absi, told the panel, entitled Empowering the People, “we must look at how post-war economies were built” in order to make the plan work.

International Monetary Fund managing director, Christine Lagarde, said generating economic growth in conflict-riven countries can be a struggle.

The IMF puts unemployment at 30 percent in the West Bank and 50 percent in Gaza, which has suffered years of Israeli and Egyptian blockades and recent foreign aid cuts and sanctions by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas' rival in the Israeli-occupied West bank.

"Gaza right now is feeling a lot of pain because of bad leadership and the sanctions that have been imposed on them because of it," Kushner said. "So the question that (Hamas)leadership has to ask themselves is...do they hate their neighbour in Israel more than they love their citizens and their people?"

The 179 proposed infrastructure and business projects in the plan include a $5 billion transportation corridor to connect the West Bank and Gaza, which has been floated before and stalled for lack of underlying political or security agreements.

Palestinian businessman Ashraf Jabari, chairman of the Palestinian Business Network, told the gathering it is difficult to build an economy with a "siege and unstable situation".

"Frankly, we demand an independent Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967," said the businessman from Hebron who has co-founded a trade group to boost business between Palestinians and Israeli settlers."

*With Reuters