Hezbollah leader Nasrallah: Lebanon’s next government must heed protesters

Supporters of Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Lebanon's militant Shiite Hezbollah movement, watch him speak through a giant screen at a mosque in the Lebanese capital Beirut's southern suburbs on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 01 November 2019

Hezbollah leader Nasrallah: Lebanon’s next government must heed protesters

  • Massive protests pushed PM Hariri to resign
  • Group urges forming new cabinet quickly

BEIRUT: The leader of Shiite group Hezbollah said on Friday a new Lebanese government must listen to the demands that fueled protests against the country’s rulers and led Saad Al-Hariri to quit as prime minister.

Hariri’s resignation has left Lebanon without a government as it faces the worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war. Hezbollah, a heavily armed group backed by Iran, had opposed the resignation of the coalition of which it was part.

“A new government must be formed as soon as possible ... and the new government must listen to the demands of the people who took to the streets,” Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address.

“There must be serious work because time is tight and so is people’s patience,” he said, adding that the government’s goal must be to restore confidence.

The unprecedented, nationwide protests that erupted on Oct. 17 tipped Lebanon into political turmoil at a time when it was already grappling with dire economic conditions and strains in its financial system.

Lebanese banks, which had been closed since Oct. 18, reopened on Friday, with queues building and customers encountering new curbs on transfers abroad and withdrawals from US dollar accounts.

Though no formal controls were imposed, banks told customers they could only transfer funds abroad in particular circumstances such repaying loans, education, health, family support or commercial commitments.

An hour after doors opened, dozens people of people were waiting at some banks in Beirut and other cities, Reuters witnesses said. At others, fewer were waiting.

The Association of Banks in Lebanon praised the public for acting “responsibly.” The Lebanese pound strengthened against the dollar on the parallel market that has emerged in recent months, three dealers said.

The central bank had promised not to impose capital controls when banks re-opened, measures that could hamper the currency inflows and investment that Lebanon badly needs.

Asked about steps being taken by banks, banking association chief Salim Sfeir said: “I would not call it restrictions but rather efforts by the banks to accommodate all customers, given the pressure resulting from closing for two weeks.”

“We stand ready to adjust any measure taken, once the situation in the country is back to normal,” he told Reuters.


Libya’s Tripoli government seizes last LNA stronghold near capital

Updated 1 min 34 sec ago

Libya’s Tripoli government seizes last LNA stronghold near capital

  • Military sources in Haftar’s Libyan National Army said their forces had withdrawn from the town of Tarhouna
  • The advance extends the control of the Government of National Accord

TRIPOLI: Forces loyal to Libya’s internationally recognized government captured the last major stronghold of eastern commander Khalifa Haftar near Tripoli on Friday, capping the sudden collapse of his 14-month offensive on the capital.
Military sources in Haftar’s Libyan National Army, LNA, said their forces had withdrawn from the town of Tarhouna. They headed toward Sirte, far along the coast, and the air base of Al-Jufra in central Libya. The LNA made no immediate official comment.
The advance extends the control of the Government of National Accord, GNA, and allied forces across most of northwest Libya, reversing many of Haftar’s gains from last year when he raced toward Tripoli.
The United Nations has started holding talks with both sides for a cease-fire deal in recent days, though previous truces have not stuck. The GNA gains could entrench the de facto partition of Libya into zones controlled by rival eastern and western governments whose foreign backers compete for regional sway.
Turkish military support for the GNA, with drone strikes, air defenses and a supply of allied Syrian fighters, was key to its recent successes. Ankara regards Libya as crucial to defending its interests in the eastern Mediterranean.
However, the LNA still retains its foreign support. Washington said last week Moscow had sent warplanes to LNA-held Jufra, though Russia and the LNA denied this.
The United Nations says weapons and fighters have flooded into the country in defiance of an arms embargo, risking a deadlier escalation. Meanwhile, a blockade of oil ports by eastern-based forces has almost entirely cut off energy revenue and both administrations face a looming financial crisis.
Stronghold

Located in the hills southeast of Tripoli, Tarhouna had functioned as a forward base for Haftar’s assault on the capital. Its swift fall suggests Haftar’s foreign supporters were less willing to sustain his bid to take over the entire country once Turkey intervened decisively to stop him.
The GNA operations room said in a statement that its forces had captured Tarhouna after entering from four sides. Abdelsalam Ahmed, a resident, said GNA forces had entered the town.
Videos and photographs posted online appeared to show GNA forces inside Tarhouna cheering and hugging each other and firing into the air.
“The Libyan government forces are rapidly moving in an organized manner and with armed drones. There could be a solution at the table, but Haftar’s forces are losing ground in every sense,” said a Turkish official.