Lebanese leaders meet to stem crisis over mountain shoot-out

Lebanese PM Saad Hariri, right, meets with President Michel Aoun to discuss political crisis. (Reuters/File)
Updated 08 August 2019

Lebanese leaders meet to stem crisis over mountain shoot-out

  • This development, that is expected to end the political impasse in Lebanon

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri expressed optimism about the chances of putting an end to the political crisis that has paralyzed the Cabinet for more than five weeks.

After meeting with President Michel Aoun in the presence of Lebanon’s Security Chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, Hariri said: “Solutions are near to fruition and I am more optimistic than before. The meeting was very positive. We must just wait a little and we will be hearing good news soon.”

Maj. Gen. Ibrahim conducted the mediation between the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) and the Lebanese Democratic Party (LDP) to find a solution to the crisis caused by a shoot-out between Druze factions in the Chouf Mountains on June 30. He simply said: “The atmosphere is excellent.”

This development, that is expected to end the political impasse in Lebanon, took place one day after the strong statement issued Wednesday by the US Embassy in Beirut, warning against “any attempt to exploit the tragic incident that took place in Kabreshmoun to promote political objectives” and stressing “the need for the Lebanese authorities to handle the case in a way that achieves justice without inciting sectarian and regional conflicts with political backgrounds.”

PM Hariri is expected to visit to the US shortly, where he may meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

While the positive results reached by the Aoun-Hariri meeting remained unknown, an adviser to Hariri, Dr. Ammar Houri, told Arab News that the “atmosphere was positive,” expecting a Cabinet session to be held “soon.”

Lebanese media outlets said the session’s agenda “will not include referring the Kabreshmoun incident to the Judicial Council,” the subject that sparked the inter-Druze clash and then the disagreement between the PSP and Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) in the first place.

The Hezbollah parliamentary bloc condemned what it considered “any foreign interventions in the internal affairs, whatever their source was, as they do not serve the national interest and do not want to do the country any good.”

“Sparring and fighting cannot lead to a solution nor resolve the problem, and amid the ongoing economic bleeding, we demand to find a solution for the political deadlock.”    

Lebanon’s English-language daily newspaper, the Daily Star, expressed in its Thursday’s issue the impasse of political, economic and social situation in a very stark form.

The front page of the print edition was completely black, with the word “Lebanon” written across the middle in white. The 10 inside pages were bare except for a black strip across the middle bearing the following phrases: Government deadlock; Sectarian rhetoric increasing by the day; Trash continues to pile up in the streets; Pollution at alarming levels; Unemployment rate at 25 percent; Illegal weapons abound in the country; Public debt close to $100 billion; Bankruptcy threatens businesses; and Local currency in jeopardy.

The last page read: “Wake up before it is too late.”

The Daily Star’s Joseph Haboush told AFP: “We wanted to deliver a message to politicians and officials about the dangerous level the situation has reached.”

In October, Lebanon’s most renowned newspaper, Annahar, protested at the deteriorating situation in the country, where contending parties had failed to form a government, and published 11 blank pages.

Migrant workers still exploited in World Cup host Qatar: Amnesty

Updated 19 September 2019

Migrant workers still exploited in World Cup host Qatar: Amnesty

PARIS: Qatar is not fulfilling all its promises to improve the conditions of migrant workers in the country in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup, Amnesty International said Thursday.
In a report entitled "All Work, No Pay", the rights group said: "Despite the significant promises of reform which Qatar has made ahead of the 2022 World Cup, it remains a playground for unscrupulous employers."
The report came as French President Emmanuel Macron and Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani were due to meet in Paris on Thursday.
Sheikh Tamim also attended Wednesday's high-profile clash between Paris Saint-Germain -- owned by Qatar's state-owned investment fund -- and Real Madrid.
Doha has made efforts since being named World Cup hosts to improve the conditions of the migrant workers who make up a majority of the Gulf emirate's population.
In November 2017, a temporary $200 monthly minimum wage was introduced for most categories of workers with a permanent level expected to be set before the end of the year.
Exit visas granted at the discretion of employers, required by some workers to leave the country, should be entirely scrapped by the end of 2019 according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).
But Amnesty reported challenges faced by hundreds of workers at three construction and cleaning companies in Qatar who went unpaid for months.
"Migrant workers often go to Qatar in the hope of giving their families a better life; instead many people return home penniless after spending months chasing their wages, with too little help from the systems that are supposed to protect them," said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty's deputy director of global issues.
After coming under fire over the treatment of migrant workers, Qatar agreed with the ILO in 2017 to undertake labour reforms, including establishing new dispute resolution committees.
"We are urging the Qatari authorities to fully deliver what has been promised and end the shameful reality of labour exploitation," Cockburn said.
Amnesty cited the case of a Kenyan employee of United Cleaning who said he had to rummage for food in garbage bins after receiving no salary for five months.
The man said he had worked for two years and five months for the company without taking any holidays and was owed "a lot of money".
The companies all cited financial difficulties for the non-payment of wages, according to the report.
A Qatar government spokesman said the country had "made substantial progress on labour reforms".
"We continue to work with NGOs, including the ILO, to ensure that these reforms are far-reaching and effective," he said in a statement.
"Any issues or delays with our systems will be addressed comprehensively. We have said, from the outset that this would take time, resources and commitment."