Hariri to officially resign after Lebanese Independence Day

French President Emmanuel Macron and Saad Hariri, who announced his resignation as Lebanon’s prime minister, walk together in the courtyard of the Elysee Palace in Paris on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 19 November 2017

Hariri to officially resign after Lebanese Independence Day

BEIRUT: Saad Hariri, who resigned as Lebanon’s prime minister on Nov. 4, said he will join President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in Independence Day celebrations on Wednesday.
Berri’s press office said Hariri told him in a phone call from Paris on Saturday that he will return to Lebanon before Independence Day and will join the president and the Parliament speaker in a military parade to mark the occasion.
Aoun received a phone call from French President Emmanuel Macron just before Hariri’s arrival at the Élysée Palace.
The press office of the Lebanese presidential palace said they discussed developments following Hariri’s resignation, and Aoun thanked Macron “for the interest he has shown in Lebanon.”
The spokesman for the Lebanese presidential palace, Rafiq Shalala, told Arab News that Hariri “will attend the military parade as prime minister because he didn’t submit his resignation to the president.”
Shalala added: “The step of submitting the resignation to President Aoun isn’t clear until the return of Hariri to Beirut. We haven’t been informed of its date yet.”
Khaled Kabbani, a former member of the Constitutional Council and former minister, told Arab News that Hariri could attend the celebration either as prime minister or as premier of a caretaker government if his resignation is accepted.
The Independence Day ceremony is usually headed by the president, prime minister and Parliament speaker, and Hariri’s presence could help calm uncertainties.
Hariri, along with his wife and son, landed before dawn Saturday at an airport used for private jets in Le Bourget north of Paris, and came in a convoy to his Paris residence in a high-end neighborhood, where police stood guard. The security arrangements prevented reporters from reaching their home.
Hariri’s press office said he later went to the Elysee Palace, where he was received “warmly” by Macron.
They held a private meeting, “discussed recent developments and public affairs,” and then they were joined by Hariri’s wife Lara Al-Azm and elder son Hussam and Macron’s wife Brigitte for lunch.
After the meeting, Hariri thanked France and Macron for their support, saying: “France is playing a positive role in the region, and we are always interested in their support for us.”
Hariri added that he will “announce all my political positions” from Lebanon after meeting with Aoun. “I resigned and we’ll talk in Lebanon.”
Lebanese Forces MP Fadi Karam said there was a “need for understanding” between Aoun and Hariri after the latter’s return to Beirut.
Karam warned about “current attempts to harm the brotherly relations between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia with the incitement of Iran and Hezbollah.”
Saudi Arabia on Saturday asked its citizens for the second time in less than two weeks to leave Lebanon “as soon as possible” given the “circumstances” there, according to The Associated Press (AP).  
The Arab League is due to hold a meeting on Sunday in Cairo at Saudi Arabia’s urging where the Lebanon crisis and Iran’s role in the region are expected to be discussed, the agency added.


Water-scarce Gulf states bank on desalination, at a cost

Updated 12 December 2019

Water-scarce Gulf states bank on desalination, at a cost

  • For Oman and other Gulf states dominated by vast deserts, obtaining fresh water from the sea comes at a high cost
  • In Sur, water for residents and businesses comes from a large desalination plant

SUR, OMAN: “We have water, and it’s the most important thing in a house,” says Abdullah Al-Harthi from the port city of Sur in Oman, a country that relies on desalination plants.
But for Oman and the other Gulf countries dominated by vast and scorching deserts, obtaining fresh water from the sea comes at a high financial and environmental cost.
In Sur, south of the capital Muscat, water for residents and businesses comes from a large desalination plant that serves some 600,000 people.
“Before, life was very difficult. We had wells, and water was delivered by trucks,” the 58-year-old told AFP. “Since the 1990s, water has come through pipes and we’ve had no cuts.”
But these benefits — relying on energy intensive processes that produce carbon emissions — do not come without a cost, particularly as global temperatures rise.
The United Nations says 2019 is on course to be one of the hottest three years on record.
And there is another impact: the desalination plants produce highly concentrated salt water, or brine, that is often dumped back into the ocean.
Researchers say more than 16,000 desalination plants around the globe produce more toxic sludge than freshwater.
For every liter of freshwater extracted from the sea or brackish water, a liter-and-a-half of salty slurry is deposed at sea or on land, according to a 2019 study in the journal Science.
All that extra salt raises the temperature of coastal waters and decreases the level of oxygen, which can conspire to create biological “dead zones.”
The super-salty substance is made even more toxic by the chemicals used in the desalination process.
Oman’s bigger neighbors produce the bulk of the brine.
More than half comes from just four countries — Saudi Arabia, at 22 percent, United Arab Emirates with 20 percent, and smaller shares by Kuwait and Qatar, according to UN data.
“Brine production in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Qatar accounts for 55 percent of the total global share,” according to the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health.
It said new strategies are needed “to limit the negative environmental impacts and reduce the economic cost of disposal.”
This would help “to safeguard water supplies for current and future generations.”
At the Sur plant, “almost no chemicals” are used during the pre-treatment phase, as the water is naturally filtered through the cracks of karst rocks, said Mahendran Senapathy, operations manager at French company Veolia which runs the plant along with an Omani firm.
There are other ways to safeguard freshwater supplies, from encouraging savings and efficiently to recycling wastewater.
Antoine Frerot, chief executive of Veolia, said wastewater recycling will help resolve the problem of water scarcity.
He also pointed out that “reused water is less costly,” nearly one third less than that won through desalination.
Omani authorities continue to mount campaigns urging people to use water wisely, mindful that other demands — especially the energy sector — also guzzle up large amounts.
Across the Gulf, huge amounts of water are used not just for homes, gardens and golf courses, but also for the energy sector that is the source of the region’s often spectacular wealth.
On the edge of the Arabian peninsula’s “Empty Quarter,” the world’s largest expanse of sand, lies the Khazzan gas field, operated by BP and the Oman Oil Company.
The method used to extract the gas here is hydraulic fracturing — more commonly known as fracking — said Stewart Robertson, operations manager at the site.
The method requires huge amounts of water. The site is supplied by a facility that provides 6,000 cubic meters of water a day, extracted from an underground aquifer 50 kilometers (30 miles) away.
Fracking involves directional drilling and then pumping water, sand and chemicals at high pressure to fracture rock and release the hydrocarbons.
The rock formations that hold the gas are “like a big sponge with lots of little holes in it,” said Robertson, explaining that fracking is the process “to open those holes slightly to take the gas out.”
So the more the region extracts oil and natural or shale gas, “the more they need water,” said Charles Iceland of the World Resources Institute.
“The Middle East is projected to need more and more energy,” he said. “So that means the situation is going to get worse.”
“On the other hand,” he said, “if they can produce power using solar photovoltaic technologies, which are getting reasonably priced in the Middle East, that would take care of a lot of the problem because solar PV doesn’t need much water.
“You need just some water to clean the solar panels.”