Iraq slams Exxon for evacuating staff amid Gulf tensions

Iraqi workers walk in West Qurna oilfield in Iraq’s southern province of Basra. (File/Reuters)
Updated 19 May 2019
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Iraq slams Exxon for evacuating staff amid Gulf tensions

BAGHDAD: Iraq on Sunday slammed as “political” a decision by US energy giant ExxonMobil to evacuate staff from a southern oil field after Washington ordered personnel to quit its Baghdad embassy.
“The temporary withdrawal of employees has nothing to do with security in southern Iraqi oil fields or any threats,” Oil Minister Thamer Al-Ghadban said.
“The reasons are political and probably linked to tensions in the region,” he added in a statement released by the oil ministry.
Ghadban called the move to pull out staff from the West Qorna oil field west of the southern port city of Basra “unacceptable and unjustified.”
Exxon did not confirm the withdrawal.
“We are closely monitoring. As a matter of practice, we don’t share specifics related to operational staffing at our facilities,” a spokeswoman said.
“ExxonMobil has programs and measures in place to provide security to protect its people, operations and facilities. We are committed to ensuring the safety of our employees and contractors at all of our facilities around the world,” she added.
On Wednesday the United States ordered the evacuation of non-emergency staff from its Baghdad embassy and Irbil consulate, citing an “imminent” threat from Iranian-linked armed groups in Iraq.
It came 10 days after the Pentagon deployed an aircraft carrier task force and B-52 bombers to the Gulf to fend off an unspecified alleged plot by Tehran to attack US forces or allies.


Lebanon’s Hariri calls for cabinet solidarity in budget debate

Updated 22 min 40 sec ago
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Lebanon’s Hariri calls for cabinet solidarity in budget debate

  • The PM said cabinet ministers need to be united and responsible
  • Lebanon’s debt is almost 150% of its GDP
BEIRUT, June 18 : Lebanon Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri on Tuesday called for parliament to quickly approve the country’s 2019 budget and urged his coalition government to avoid internal disputes.
The cabinet this month agreed a budget plan that shrinks the projected fiscal deficit by 4 percentage points from last year to 7.6% by cutting spending and raising taxes and other fees.
“What I want during the debate is for us to be responsible and united, and not contradictory,” Hariri said in a statement, addressing cabinet ministers as to their comportment during the parliament debate.
Parliament’s finance committee is debating the draft budget and has suggested amendments, local newspapers reported. It will then put the budget to the full assembly to ratify it.
Parliament is mostly composed of parties that are also present in the coalition government and which supported the budget there.
Since the budget was agreed there have been fierce arguments between parties in the coalition over several subjects, though these have not targeted the budget.
Lebanon has one of the world’s heaviest debt burdens, equivalent to about 150% of GDP, and the International Monetary Fund has urged it to cut spending.
“We have held 19 cabinet meetings to agree on this draft budget and these sessions were not for fun, but for deep, detailed debate over every clause and every idea,” Hariri said.
“For this reason, I consider it the responsibility of each of us in government to have ministerial solidarity...to defend in parliament the decision that we have taken together,” he added.
After the 2019 budget is agreed, the cabinet must quickly start working on the 2020 budget and on approving the first phase of a program of investments toward which foreign donors have offered $11 billion in project financing. (Reporting by Angus McDowall, editing by Ed Osmond)