Palestinian leader’s health scares spark succession talk

Abbas, a heavy smoker with long-standing heart problems who turns 83 next week, insists he is fine. (AP)
Updated 22 March 2018

Palestinian leader’s health scares spark succession talk

RAMALLAH, West Bank: A series of recent health scares have raised new concerns about octogenarian President Mahmoud Abbas, reviving anxiety about a potentially chaotic, and even bloody, succession battle that is bound to further weaken the Palestinian cause.
In the latest sign of Abbas’ health troubles, officials and medical sources say a cardiologist has moved into the presidential compound in Ramallah to monitor the longtime leader.
The move follows a mysterious hospital visit in the US after Abbas appeared weak in an address to the UN Security Council.
Abbas, a heavy smoker with long-standing heart problems who turns 83 next week, insists he is fine. But after more than a decade of avoiding discussion of the post-Abbas era, Palestinian officials acknowledge that they are concerned, and potential successors are quietly jockeying for position.
The topic of succession has been taboo in Palestinian official circles since Abbas took office 14 years ago. Abbas took over as a caretaker leader following the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 2004, and was elected for what was supposed to be a five-year term the following year. He has remained in firm control since then, refusing to designate a successor while a political split with rival Hamas prevented new elections.
Abbas has a long history of health issues, ranging from his heart troubles to a bout with prostate cancer a decade ago. Last summer, he underwent a health checkup at a Ramallah hospital and separately, dispelled rumors he had suffered a stroke. Two years ago, he underwent an emergency heart procedure after suffering exhaustion and chest pains. He suffers from arterial plaque and has had stents implanted.
Concerns deepened after Abbas’ Feb. 20 appearance before the UN Security Council, where he appeared to struggle for breath at times.
After the speech, he traveled to Baltimore for a series of tests at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Feeling fatigued, Abbas then decided to return to the West Bank rather than continue on to Venezuela, as initially planned, according to three Abbas aides who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are under strict orders not to discuss his health.
It was rare for the globetrotting Abbas to cancel a planned trip.
Abbas said after his return that the medical tests conducted in the US yielded “positive and reassuring” results, but did not elaborate.
A Palestinian official and two medical sources said a heart specialist is now present at the presidential compound whenever Abbas is there. Abbas’ regular physician visits the compound every day as well.
The medical sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Abbas’ health. One said he requires medication and close attention.


Dispute over new Lebanese govt. escalates

A handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra on September 17, 2020 shows Lebanon's President Michel Aoun (L) meeting with Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut. (AFP)
Updated 31 min 18 sec ago

Dispute over new Lebanese govt. escalates

  • The former prime ministers said that the French initiative “constitutes an important opportunity that must be exploited by expediting the formation of the government to keep Lebanon away from collapse, seditions and evils surrounding it”

BEIRUT: The dispute over who will be in charge of the Ministry of Finance in the Lebanese government escalated on Sunday with the end of the deadline to form a government of specialists separate from the parties in power.

The disagreement showed that those who were formerly allies of Hezbollah in power have now become its opponent in forming the government.

The Lebanese are waiting to see whether the prime minister-designate, Mustapha Adib, will go to the presidential palace on Monday to present a draft of his government formation, regardless of the disagreement — or to apologize for not completing the task he was assigned to do on Aug. 31.

In his Sunday sermon, the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rai continued his criticism of the insistence of the Amal Movement and Hezbollah in holding on to the finance portfolio.

Rai asked: “In what capacity does a sect claim a certain ministry as if it were its own, and disrupt the formation of the government until it achieves its goal? It thus causes political paralysis and economic, financial and livelihood damage. What has become of the political forces’ agreement for reform: A miniature salvation government, independent specialists with political experience and portfolio rotation?”

Rai referred to the constitution, which stipulated that jobs be divided equally between Christians and Muslims. “Has the constitution been amended suddenly, or are matters imposed by some force or bullying? This is unacceptable.”

Rai called on the prime minister-designate Adib to “abide by the constitution, form a government and not be subject to conditions, nor to delay, or to apologize.”

The Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) attacked the conditions of the Amal Movement and Hezbollah.

The FPM, which is Hezbollah’s ally in power, also rejected “that one party should dominate all the Lebanese, regardless of their strength.”

In a meeting on Saturday evening, former prime ministers urged Adib to “adhere to his full powers in terms of forming the government as soon as possible, in consultation with the president of the republic and under the ceiling of the rules stipulated in the constitution.”

The former prime ministers said that the French initiative “constitutes an important opportunity that must be exploited by expediting the formation of the government to keep Lebanon away from collapse, seditions and evils surrounding it.”

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry called on Lebanon on Sunday to “distance itself from regional conflicts and to accelerate the formation of a government on constitutional grounds.”

The spokeswoman for the French Foreign Ministry, Agnes von der Mol, regretted “the Lebanese politicians’ failure to abide by the pledges they made on the first of September, in accordance with the announced timeframe.” She urged “all the Lebanese forces to fulfil their responsibilities and agree without delay to the formation nominated by Mustapha Adib for a missionary government capable of implementing the reforms necessary to fulfill the aspirations of the Lebanese people.”

As politicians continued to wrangle over power, the Lebanese Army and Maritime Rescue Units in the Civil Defense recovered the bodies of Lebanese migrants who had died during a boat journey destined for Cyprus.

The boat set off on Sept. 7 from Burj Beach in northern Lebanon with 50 people on board, although it could only accommodate 30 people. The boat stopped hours after sailing and the passengers were told that the boat’s fuel had run out. They were abandoned and their food, drink and mobile phones were taken. The boat was cut off from the world for five days.

The body of a child, Mohammed Nazir Mohammed, who was 20 months old, was found on the beach of Batroun, and the child’s grandfather recognized the body of his grandson. His son had told him that he had shrouded his child in black jeans and a white belt before throwing him into the sea two days after his death.

The body of Mohammed Hassan Assaf was also found off the beach of Sarafand, and another body was recovered off the coast of Zouk. There are still nine people missing.

The Internal Security Forces in Tripoli subsequently arrested a man called Burhan Q. “for being one of those who took money as a mediator between migrants and smugglers on the death boat.”