Lebanese government in race against clock to resolve crisis

Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri. (REUTERS)
Updated 03 November 2019

Lebanese government in race against clock to resolve crisis

  • Information appearing online said Hariri had “prepared a tax-free economic paper, which includes strict reform measures, to present it to the representatives of the blocs”

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his coalition partners are in a race against the clock as they try to meet a deadline to resolve the turmoil engulfing the country.
Anti-government protests broke out last week, with demonstrators demanding that politicians resign over the dire state of the economy.
In response Hariri gave his fractious coalition a 72-hour deadline, ending Monday evening, to agree on reforms and has hinted he may resign if no deal is reached.
Hariri held a meeting at his residence that was attended by ministers from the Amal Movement, Hezbollah, the Free Patriotic Movement, and the Marada Movement. Progressive Socialist Party ministers were absent, and ministers from the Lebanese Forces parties said they were resigning.
Information appearing online said Hariri had “prepared a tax-free economic paper, which includes strict reform measures, to present it to the representatives of the blocs.”


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But his media office denied that the handwritten paper circulating on social media was Hariri’s document.
“What is happening in Lebanon is unprecedented, and PM Hariri has presented a paper of 10 reform items, and he insists on implementing it. It was received with preliminary acceptance,” Future Movement MP Samir Jisr told Arab News. “The most important of the items is approving a tax-free budget and sending it immediately to Parliament.”
He warned that the repercussions of the government’s resignation were more significant than could be imagined, stressing that people had the right to reject the paper if they were not convinced of its seriousness and timeline.

“If the paper is not fully realized, Hariri will step down and there will be a calm transfer of power,” he added. 

HIGHLIGHTS

• PM has set deadline to agree economic reform package.

• Protesters want resignations over country’s economic rot.


Development expert Dr. Nasser Yassin said the current events were the result of accumulated government mismanagement, its failure to launch reforms, in addition to the condescending attitude of some of those in the government.
“Officials spoke during these two days as if they were in denial. As if they are unaware that the case is now in a different place,” he told Arab News.
“It is frightening that what will come next will be more painful if those in power are not convinced of retreating to make way for the launch of a transitional phase through clean people, who shall establish a path to the solution.”


Iraqi protesters block commercial ports, split capital

Updated 19 November 2019

Iraqi protesters block commercial ports, split capital

  • Iraqi civilians are increasingly relying on boats to ferry them across the Tigris River as ongoing standoffs shut key bridges in Baghdad
  • The Jumhuriya, Sinak and Ahrar bridges connect both sides of the city by passing over the river

BAGHDAD: Anti-government protesters blocked access to a second major commercial port in southern Iraq on Tuesday, as bridge closures effectively split the capital in half, causing citizens to rely on boats for transport to reach the other side of the city.
Since anti-government protests began Oct. 1, at least 320 people have been killed and thousands wounded in Baghdad and the mostly Shiite southern provinces. Demonstrators have taken to the streets in the tens of thousands over what they say is widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities and poor basic services, despite the country’s oil wealth.
Security forces have used live ammunition, tear gas and stun guns to repel protesters, tactics that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday would be punished with sanctions.
“We will not stand idle while the corrupt officials make the Iraqi people suffer. Today, I am affirming the United States will use our legal authorities to sanction corrupt individuals that are stealing Iraqis’ wealth and those killing and wounding peaceful protesters,” he said in remarks to reporters in Washington.
“Like the Iraqi people taking to the streets today, our sanctions will not discriminate between religious sect or ethnicity,” he added. “They will simply target those who do wrong to the Iraqi people, no matter who they are.”
Over a dozen protesters blocked the main entrance to Khor Al-Zubair port, halting trade activity as oil tankers and other trucks carrying goods were unable to enter or exit. The port imports commercial goods and materials as well as refined oil products.
Crude from Qayara oil field in Ninewa province, in northern Iraq, is also exported from the port.
Khor Al-Zubair is the second largest port in the country. Protesters had burned tires and cut access to the main Gulf commercial port in Umm Qasr on Monday and continued to block roads Tuesday.
Iraqi civilians are increasingly relying on boats to ferry them across the Tigris River as ongoing standoffs between demonstrators and Iraqi security forces on three key bridges has shut main thoroughfares connecting east and west Baghdad.
The Jumhuriya, Sinak and Ahrar bridges, which have been partially occupied by protesters following days of deadly clashes, connect both sides of the city by passing over the Tigris River. The blockages have left Iraqis who must make the daily commute for work, school and other day-to-day activities with no choice but to rely on river boats.
“After the bridges were cut, all the pressure is on us here,” said Hasan Lilo, a boat owner in the capital. “We offer a reasonable transportation means that helps the people.”