Iraq parliament holds emergency talks as Basra burns

Iraq parliament holds emergency talks as Basra burns
Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi described the unrest as “political sabotage” as he joined the session with several ministers. (File/AFP)
Updated 08 September 2018

Iraq parliament holds emergency talks as Basra burns

Iraq parliament holds emergency talks as Basra burns
  • Basra has been rocked by protests since Tuesday, with demonstrators setting ablaze government buildings, the Iranian consulate and the offices of pro-Tehran militias and political parties
  • Iraq suffers from persistent corruption and many Iraqis complain that the country’s oil wealth is unfairly distributed

BAGHDAD: Iraqi lawmakers met Saturday in emergency session Saturday to discuss the crisis in public services in main southern city Basra after 12 protesters were killed, the Iranian consulate torched and the airport hit by rockets.
Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi described the unrest as “political sabotage” as he joined the session with several ministers.
Basra has been rocked by protests since Tuesday, with demonstrators setting ablaze government buildings, the Iranian consulate and the offices of pro-Tehran militias and political parties.
The anger flared after the hospitalization of 30,000 people who had drunk polluted water, in an oil-rich region where residents have for weeks complained of water and electricity shortages, corruption among officials and unemployment.
At least 12 demonstrators have been killed and 50 wounded in clashes with security forces, according to the interior ministry.

Iraqi officials announced Saturday a citywide curfew for Basra starting at 4pm local time, a military statement said.
Hours before parliament met, four rockets fired by unidentified assailants struck inside the perimeter of Basra airport, security sources said.
Staff at the airport, which is located near the US consulate in Basra, said flights were not affected.
The attack came after a day of rage in the southern city where hundreds of protesters stormed the fortified Iranian consulate, causing no casualties but sparking condemnation.
Abadi said he had instructed security forces to “act decisively against the acts of vandalism that accompanied the demonstrations”.
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, which includes the army and police, vowed a “severe” response with “exceptional security measures”, including a ban on protests and group travel.
The foreign ministry called the attack on the consulate “an unacceptable act undermining the interests of Iraq and its international relations”.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi denounced the “savage attack”, Iran’s Fars news agency reported.
A spokesman for the consulate said that all diplomats and staff had been evacuated from the building before the protesters attacked, and that none were hurt.
Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Iraj Masjedi, said the consulate was “totally demolished” and charged that “foreign agents close to the US, Zionists and some Arab countries are trying to sabotage Iran-Iraq relations”, Iran’s ILNA news agency reported.
The wave of protests first broke out in Basra in July before spreading to other parts of the country, with demonstrators condemning corruption among Iraqi officials and demanding jobs.
Since then at least 27 people have been killed.
“We’re thirsty, we’re hungry, we are sick and abandoned,” protester Ali Hussein told AFP on Friday after another night of violence.
“Demonstrating is a sacred duty and all honest people ought to join.”
The anger on Basra’s streets was “in response to the government’s intentional policy of neglect” of the oil-rich region, the head of the region’s human rights council Mehdi Al-Tamimi said.
Iraq has been struggling to rebuild its infrastructure and economy after decades of bloody conflicts, including an eight-year war with Iran in the 1980s, the US-led invasion of 2003 and the battle against Daesh.
In August, the oil ministry announced that crude exports for August had hit their highest monthly figure this year, with nearly 112 million barrels of oil bringing $7.7 billion to state coffers.
Iraq, however, suffers from persistent corruption and many Iraqis complain that the country’s oil wealth is unfairly distributed.
Parliament said lawmakers will hear speeches by Abadi and key ministers and discuss the water contamination crisis, the latest breakdown in public services to spark public anger.
The meeting was demanded by populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose political bloc won the largest number of seats in May elections although a new government has yet to be formed.
“If the situation remains unchanged we will be heading toward the formation of an emergency government,” warned Intissar Hassan, an MP elected to represent Basra.
She was referring to a constitutional provision that would give the prime minister full powers to act.
Sadr has called on politicians to present “radical and immediate” solutions at Saturday’s session or step down.
Abadi pledged in July a multi-billion dollar emergency plan to revive infrastructure and services in southern Iraq, one of the country’s most marginalized regions.
The prime minister is trying to hold onto his post in the next government and has formed an alliance with Sadr, a former militia chief who has called for Iraq to have greater political independence from both neighboring Iran and the United States.


Lebanon approves law to import vaccines as coronavirus hits new record

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri heads a legislative session, as Lebanon's parliament approved a law that paves the way for the government to ink deals for coronavirus vaccinations, at UNESCO Palace in Beirut, Lebanon January 15, 2021. (Reuters)
Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri heads a legislative session, as Lebanon's parliament approved a law that paves the way for the government to ink deals for coronavirus vaccinations, at UNESCO Palace in Beirut, Lebanon January 15, 2021. (Reuters)
Updated 15 January 2021

Lebanon approves law to import vaccines as coronavirus hits new record

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri heads a legislative session, as Lebanon's parliament approved a law that paves the way for the government to ink deals for coronavirus vaccinations, at UNESCO Palace in Beirut, Lebanon January 15, 2021. (Reuters)

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s parliament approved a draft law allowing imports of coronavirus vaccines as the tiny nation hit a new record in case numbers Friday and more hospitals reported they were at full capacity.
The new daily toll of 6,154 cases and 44 deaths came on the second day of a nationwide 11-day curfew that the government and doctors hope will reign in the dramatic surge of the virus.
Lebanon, a country of about 6 million people, has witnessed a sharp increase of cases in recent weeks, after some 80,000 expatriates flew in to celebrate Christmas and New Year.
During the holiday season, restrictions were eased to encourage spending by expatriates amid a suffocating economic and financial crisis, the worst in Lebanon’s modern history.
On Friday, the American University Medical Center, one of Lebanon’s largest and most prestigious hospitals, said in a statement that its health care workers were overwhelmed. The hospital’s ICUs and regular coronavirus units have reached full capacity and so did the emergency room, it said.
“We are unable to find beds for even the most critical patients,” the hospital said, urging people in Lebanon to help by taking extreme precautionary measures to “overcome the catastrophe we are facing.”
Mazen El-Sayed, an associated professor in the department of emergency medicine, described the situation as “tragic,” anticipating that the next two weeks would be even more dire.
In southern Lebanon, the Ragheb Harb Hospital also said that its COVID-19 units were now. “We are working beyond our capacity. The situation is very dangerous,” the hospital said in a statement.
The curfew, which began Thursday, is the strictest measure Lebanon has taken since the start of the pandemic. But many have expressed concern the measures have come too late — many hospitals have already reached maximum capacity for coronavirus patients, some have run out of beds, oxygen tanks and ventilators while others have halted elective surgeries.
Lebanon was able to contain the virus in its early stages but the numbers started climbing after measures were eased in early July and following the massive deadly blast at Beirut’s port in August.
Following bureaucratic delays, the country now is putting hopes on vaccines that are expected to start arriving next month.
Parliament’s approval opens the way for imports of vaccines from around the world, including the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Health Minister Hamad Hassan, who is hospitalized with the coronavirus, had said that once the draft law is approved, the first deliveries of vaccines should start arriving in February.
Lebanon has reserved 2.7 million doses of vaccines from multiple international companies and 2.1 million to be provided by Pfizer, Diab’s office says.
Lebanon has registered nearly 243,000 coronavirus cases and some 1,825 confirmed deaths.