Lebanon protesters block MPs as street battles erupt

A protester waves a Lebanese flag during a protest in Beirut. (Reuters)
Updated 20 November 2019

Lebanon protesters block MPs as street battles erupt

  • Protesters in Riad Al-Solh and Martyrs’ squares banged metal pots and chanted anti-government slogans

BEIRUT: Lebanese protesters set up roadblocks to prevent MPs reaching Parliament on Tuesday, accusing lawmakers of planning legislation that could offer amnesty to corrupt officials.
Amid angry scenes, protesters fought running skirmishes with riot police and formed human shields as they succeeded in shutting down Parliament for a second week.
Protesters took to the streets on Oct. 17 amid widespread anger over tax increases and government corruption, forcing Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign 12 days later despite backing for the Lebanese leader from President Michel Aoun and Hezbollah.
Since then the country’s powerful political blocs have been reluctant to form a new government of nonpolitical experts, as protesters have demanded. No new prime minister has been selected to form a government.
In order to accept his reappointment to form a government, Hariri stipulated that the new leadership should consist only of technocrats — a key protesters’ demand — while Aoun and his allies insist that the government should be techno-political.
After Tuesday’s clashes outside Parliament, Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri said: “The situation is very dangerous. We are facing deadlock in the formation of the government.”
Army and internal security forces were deployed at road junctions leading to the Parliament on Tuesday amid unprecedented control measures.
Security forces established camouflaged corridors to allow deputies access. Hezbollah deputy Ali Ammar arrived on motorcycle after passing through a throng of protesters chanting “thieves.”
MP Mohamed Nasrallah from the Berri bloc also arrived on foot.
Escorts for Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil’s convoy fired shots in the air to keep protesters at bay. He managed to reach Parliament, but the shooting angered demonstrators, who hurled rocks at the car.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Army and internal security forces were deployed at road junctions leading to the Parliament on Tuesday amid unprecedented control measures.

• Escorts for Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil’s convoy fired shots in the air to keep protesters at bay. He managed to reach Parliament, but the shooting angered demonstrators, who hurled rocks at the car.

Protesters tried to remove barbed wire barricades in an attempt to break into Parliament’s perimeter, but were fought back by security forces.
“How can they not hear our demands until now?” shouted one protester, Marwa. “We have been on the street for more than a month and they do not see us. They want to continue exercising power as usual. We will not allow them, even if it leads to our death.”
Protesters in Riad Al-Solh and Martyrs’ squares banged metal pots and chanted anti-government slogans.
“They are thieves and looters of public money. They want to take refuge in a general amnesty law that we will not allow them to pass,” said one.
Some parliamentary blocs decided to boycott the session “out of respect for the will of the people,” MP Dima Jamali said on Twitter.
More than 60 deputies from the Future Movement, Lebanese Forces, Phalange, Marada Movement, former leader Najib Mikati’s bloc and the Democratic Gathering bloc joined the boycott.
With only four deputies present, Secretary-General of the Parliament Adnan Daher announced the postponement of the session after two hours.
MP Nasrallah said the Parliament was “doing its duty to serve the protesters through an agenda of draft laws and proposals to serve the demands of the movement.”
Activist Mahmoud Fakih told Arab News that protesters will continue to push the authorities to set a date for “binding parliamentary consultations to appoint a prime minister and form a national salvation government from technocrats and not from known political faces.”
He said: “The movement is under pressure and may be exposed to more pressure over time,” he said. “We know the authorities may try to turn us against each other. We should be aware of this.”

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Iraq’s foreign minister makes first visit to Iran

Updated 26 September 2020

Iraq’s foreign minister makes first visit to Iran

  • Iran sees neighboring Iraq as a possible route to bypass US sanctions that President Donald Trump re-imposed in 2018

TEHRAN: Iraq’s foreign minister arrived Saturday in Tehran for bilateral talks with senior Iranian officials, according to the state-run news agency.
IRNA reported that Fuad Hussein planned to meet his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani, in what marked his first visit to the Iranian capital.
Zarif visited Baghdad in mid-July, when he met with Hussein and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. It was Zarif’s first visit to Iraq since a US airstrike in January killed a top Iranian general, Qassim Soleimani, outside Baghdad’s international airport. The strike catapulted Iraq to the brink of a US-Iran proxy war that could have destabilized the Middle East.
After Zarif’s trip, the Iraqi premier visited Iran in July.
The report did not elaborate on the main reasons behind the top Iraqi diplomat’s two-day trip to Tehran.
Iran sees neighboring Iraq as a possible route to bypass US sanctions that President Donald Trump re-imposed in 2018 after pulling the US out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
Last year, Iran’s exports to Iraq amounted to nearly $9 billion, the official IRNA news agency reported on Tuesday. It said the two nations will discuss increasing the amount to $20 billion.
Before the current global pandemic, some 5 million Iranian pilgrims annually brought in nearly $5 billion visiting Iraq’s Shiite holy sites.
Iran has seen the worst outbreak in the region, with more than 443,000 thousand confirmed cases and at least 25,300 deaths.
A news website affiliated with Iranian state TV, yjc.ir, reported that Iran canceled all its flights to Iraqi cities until the religious holiday of Arbaeen, due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. The holiday marks the end of the forty days of mourning that follow annually on the death anniversary of the seventh-century Muslim leader Hussein, who was killed at the Battle of Karbala during the tumultuous first century of Islam’s history.
Iran fought an eight-year war with Iraq that killed nearly 1 million people on both sides, after former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded in the early 1980s.