Don’t ruin summer, Lebanon tourism minister pleads after shootout

Lebanese minister of tourism Avedis Guidanian gestures as he talks during an interview with Reuters, at Beirut International Airport, Lebanon July 3, 2019. Picture taken July 3, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 09 July 2019

Don’t ruin summer, Lebanon tourism minister pleads after shootout

  • Tourism minister warned that the summer forecast would take a hit if political tensions persisted

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s tourism minister urged politicians on Tuesday not to wreck the country’s best tourist season in years, after a deadly shooting in a popular mountain region stirred fears of strife.
Avedis Guidanian said more tourists came to Lebanon in the first half of this year than in the same period any year since 2010. But he warned the president in a meeting that the summer forecast would take a hit if political tensions persisted.
“I told him, in case this incident cannot be contained, there are fears. There are many questions from people planning to come,” the minister told a press conference at the presidential palace.
He added that there were no big cancelations so far.
“His excellency (President Michel Aoun) assured me that things are on the right track. God willing, soon, we will have really overcome this.”
The government has vowed to restore security after the shootout on July 1 killed two aides of a minister in the Chouf mountains, one of the bloodiest theaters of Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war.
The tourism industry, once a mainstay of Lebanon’s now-battered economy, has been in the doldrums since 2011 — the year conflict erupted in neighboring Syria.
Political paralysis in Lebanon and travel warnings from Gulf Arab states also added to the sector’s woes.
The slump in tourism has played a part in years of weak economic growth and a hike in the huge public debt, which the government now pledges tough reforms to bring under control.
As relations with Gulf Arab states and security improved, officials including Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri have predicted a promising summer for tourism this year.
“The numbers of people traveling to Lebanon in first six months of 2019 are very encouraging,” Guidanian said on Tuesday.
More people were arriving from Europe and Gulf states including Saudi Arabia, which lifted its travel warning against citizens going to Lebanon this year, the minister said.
Guidanian said the expected rise in tourists would bring in big revenues which Lebanon direly needed. “Imagine if we stopped shooting ourselves in the foot — the politicians I mean.”


Sudan’s deposed Bashir questioned over 1989 coup: lawyer

Updated 15 min 48 sec ago

Sudan’s deposed Bashir questioned over 1989 coup: lawyer

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s former president Omar Al-Bashir appeared on Tuesday before a prosecutors’ committee over the 1989 coup that brought him to power, his lawyer said.
Bashir was “brought to be investigated in the case of the alleged 1989 coup,” said his lawyer, Mohamed Al-Hassan, who did not attend the hearing.
The lawyer also told reporters that in his view the hearing was “not a judicial matter, it’s a political matter.”
In 1989, Bashir, a brigadier at the time, seized power in an Islamist-backed coup that toppled the elected government of prime minister Sadiq Al-Mahdi.
The former president was himself ousted by the army in April of this year after months of nationwide protests against his iron-fisted rule of three decades.
On November 12, Sudanese authorities filed charges against Bashir and some of his aides for “plotting” the 1989 coup. The prosecution established a special committee for the case.
If found guilty, he could face the death penalty or life imprisonment under Sudanese law.
Sudan is now ruled by a joint civilian and military sovereign council, which is tasked with overseeing a transition to civilian rule as demanded by the protest movement.
Bashir is being held in Kober prison in a separate case, for which he has been on trial since August, on charges of illegally acquiring and using foreign funds.
A verdict is due in that case on Saturday.
On Tuesday, Bashir was taken from Kober prison to the prosecutor’s office in a convoy under strong armed protection.
After the hearing, which lasted about an hour, a crowd gathered in front of the prosecutor’s office, chanting “Kober prison — the best place for you!” and “you killed people!“
Wearing the traditional white Sudanese jalabiya and turban, Bashir raised his hands to the crowd, before he set off back toward Kober in the convoy.
The veteran leader is also wanted by The Hague-based International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity over his role in the war in Sudan’s western Darfur region.
To date, Sudanese transitional authorities do not want to extradite the former leader to The Hague.