Lebanon to complain to UN about Israeli violation of airspace

In this photo released by Lebanon's official government photographer Dalati Nohra, Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun, right, and Spanish Defense Minister Yacoub Sarraf, left, listen to Lebanese President Michel Aoun, speaking to journalists at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, in this Aug. 30, 2017 photo. (AP)
Updated 10 September 2017

Lebanon to complain to UN about Israeli violation of airspace

BEIRUT: Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil has directed his country’s permanent representative to the UN to file an “urgent complaint against Israel for breaching Lebanese airspace.”
Israel this week admitted carrying out “a raid against targets on Syrian territory from Lebanese airspace.”
Lebanon’s Higher Defense Council, chaired by President Michel Aoun, met on Friday in the presence of Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, other ministers and heads of the security forces. The council directed Bassil to submit a complaint to the UN Security Council.
“The presentation made by the security leaders during the meeting of the council confirmed that the Israelis used Lebanese airspace to launch a raid on Syria,” Interior Minister Nohad Al-Mashnouq told Arab News.
“It’s normal for Lebanon to lodge a complaint to the Security Council because we don’t accept any strike from Lebanese airspace, whether from the Israelis or anyone else. Strikes will exacerbate the situation without any valid justification. Lebanon should play no part in the ongoing regional tension.”
State Minister for Combatting Corruption Nicolas Tueni said in a statement: “The Israeli enemy using Lebanese airspace to launch its raids is a clear violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty.”
He added: “What the enemy has done is mainly to evade Russian air defenses; it is another attempt to drag Lebanon into the midst of wars in the region and an attempt to undermine the victories of our army and our slain soldiers.
“It is living proof of Israeli violence, knowing that Lebanon and its people have defeated the enemy several times which led to the collapse of Israeli military deterrence forces. The Israeli leaders will not dare to venture again into Lebanon.”
Meanwhile, a meeting was held between the commander in chief of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Gen. Michael Perry, and the heads of the municipalities of villages in Tyre.
He said UNIFIL is “working day and night” to defuse tensions along the Lebanese-Israeli border, “in cooperation with our colleagues and strategic partners in the Lebanese Army.”
The American Embassy in Lebanon said the US Central Command’s director of strategy, plans and policy, Maj. Gen. George Smith, met with Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun and congratulated the army on its recent success in border operations against militants.
Smith “met with senior Lebanese military counterparts to discuss areas of cooperation to further develop the army’s capabilities as the sole defender of Lebanese territory and Lebanese borders,” the embassy said in a statement.

Tehran mayor sees ‘threat’ in Iranians’ dissatisfaction

Updated 49 min 5 sec ago

Tehran mayor sees ‘threat’ in Iranians’ dissatisfaction

  • The International Monetary Fund predicts Iran’s economy will shrink by 6 percent this year

TEHRAN: Iran’s low voter turnout reflects a wider malaise in a country long buckling under sanctions and more recently also hit hard by the coronavirus, spelling “a threat for everyone,” Tehran’s mayor Pirouz Hanachi told AFP.

“The turnout at the ballot box is a sign of people’s satisfaction level,” said Hanachi, mayor of Iran’s political and business center and largest city, with more than 8 million people.

“When there is dissatisfaction with the government or the state, it then reaches everyone and that includes the municipality too,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.

Iran has suffered the double blow of a sharp economic downturn caused by US economic sanctions over its contested nuclear program, and the region’s most deadly COVID-19 outbreak.

Reformists allied with moderate President Hassan Rouhani lost their parliamentary majority in a landslide conservative victory in February, in a major setback ahead of presidential elections next year.

Voter turnout hit a historic low of less than 43 percent in the February polls after thousands of reformist candidates were barred from running by the Islamic republic’s powerful Guardian Council.

Such voter fatigue “can be a threat for everyone, not just reformists or conservatives,” warned the mayor, a veteran public servant with a background in urban development who is tied to the reformist camp.

The conservative resurgence reflects dissatisfaction with the Rouhani camp that had sought reengagement with the West and the reward of economic benefits — hopes that were dashed when US President Donald Trump in 2018 pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal and reimposed crippling sanctions.

The International Monetary Fund predicts Iran’s economy will shrink by 6 percent this year.

“We’re doing our best, but our situation is not a normal one,” Hanachi said. “We are under sanctions and in a tough economic situation.”

As he spoke in his town hall office, the shouts of angry garbage truck drivers echoed from the street outside, complaining they had not received pay or pensions for months.

The mayor downplayed the small rally as the kind of event that could happen in “a municipality in any other country,” adding that the men were employed not by the city itself but by contractors.

Iran’s fragile economy, increasingly cut off from international trade and deprived of crucial oil revenues, took another major blow when the novel coronavirus pandemic hit in late February.

Since then the outbreak has killed more than 12,000 people and infected over 248,000, with daily fatalities reaching a record of 200 early this week, according to official figures.

A temporary shutdown of the economy in recent months and closed borders sharply reduced non-oil exports, Iran’s increasingly important lifeline.

This accelerated the plunge of the Iranian rial against the US dollar, threatening to further stoke an already high inflation rate.

In just one impact, said Hanachi, the Teheran municipality lost 2 trillion rial ($9 million) because of sharply reduced demand for public transport in recent months.

As many Tehran residents got back into their cars to avoid tightly packed subways and buses, this has done nothing to help solve Tehran’s long-standing air pollution issue.

Tehran has had only 15 “clean” air quality days since the March 20 Persian New Year, according to the municipality.

One of Hanachi’s tasks is to fight both the virus and air pollution — a tough juggling act as car travel is safer for individuals but also worsens the smog that often cloaks the capital.

The mayor said he worried that, after restrictions on car travel were reimposed in May to reduce air pollution, subways are once again packed during peak hours, as is the bustling city center.

Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, which is now crowded with shoppers, warned Hanachi, “can become a focal point for the epidemic.”