Hariri refuses to head new Lebanon government as tensions rise

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri, right, urged President Michel Aoun to hold consultations to designate a new leader. (Reuters)
Updated 27 November 2019

Hariri refuses to head new Lebanon government as tensions rise

  • ‘I am sticking by the rule ‘not me, rather someone else’ to form a government’

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Tuesday struck his name off a list of candidates to head a new Lebanese government.

Hariri, who recently resigned as premier under pressure from protesters, said he refused “to be falsely held responsible for delaying the formation of the new government.”

His sudden announcement will come as a blow to President Michel Aoun, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, which together were pinning their hopes on having Hariri’s support to help establish a techno-political administration in the country.

The former PM’s decision came as national protests throughout Lebanon against the political elite entered their 41st day and followed rioting in Beirut between anti-government demonstrators and Hezbollah and Amal supporters.

Russia pledged its support for the Lebanese state during the current “delicate” period, while the UN Security Council called on “all actors to conduct intensive national dialogue.”

In a statement, Hariri said he was “sticking to the rule ‘not me, but someone else’ to form a government that meets the aspirations of young men and women. The state of chronic denial seemed to use my positions and proposals of solutions as a pretext to continue its intransigence and maneuvers and its refusal to listen to the people’s voices and their rightful demands.”

He reiterated his commitment to a government of technocrats to end “the severe economic crisis” gripping Lebanon and urged Aoun to “immediately call for binding parliamentary consultations, to designate a new prime minister to form a new government.”

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Meanwhile, Amal and Hezbollah supporters on Monday evening returned to challenge street protesters by organizing provocative motorcades through central Beirut and near to protest squares in the capital. Groups chanted, “the people want a new May 7,” in reference to the armed operation that Hezbollah carried out against the Future Movement in Beirut in 2008.

Mohammed Kabbara, a member of the Future bloc in Parliament, said: “What is happening in Lebanon has become beyond reason and puts Lebanon in a dangerous circle at all levels.”

Researcher in social movements and an activist in the Lebanese civil movement, Nizar Hassan, told Arab News: “The pressure from the political authority on the movement is not surprising. This scenario has been expected since the resignation of the government.

“This authority has limited options. The first is to form a government that meets the aspirations of the people, but it cannot form such a government because it wants a government that meets the political ambitions of Hezbollah, Aoun and Hariri.”

“The second option is to extend the period of the resigned caretaker government to cause confusion and incite against the revolution to minimize its momentum in the street and to bring fear into the hearts of the people by assaulting them.

“Hezbollah and the Amal Movement were shocked by the fact that people from their environment joined the civil movement. So, they tried, with other parties, to respond by dividing the street along sectarian lines.”

He added: “Our next step is to target the banks with our insistence on an independent government whose project is to save the country economically and not save capital.

“The authority is trying to fight the battle of public discourse, after the revolution took control of this discourse, and the authority is trying, through its political discourse, to stress that things cannot be solved in the street and that the authority cannot be held accountable in the street.

BACKGROUND

Hariri’s decision will come as a blow to President Aoun, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, which together were pinning their hopes on having his support to help set up a techno-political administration.

“We are redirecting the discourse. The issue is not security or sectarian. It is an economic discourse. People came down for their living demands.”

Political activist, Ibrahim Mneimneh, told Arab News: “The civil movement continues regardless of the events and pressures it is subjected to, based on the development of political awareness among people and away from sectarianism and the movement’s commitment that the people want to hold everyone accountable without exception.”

Russia’s Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin conveyed to Aoun the Russian leadership’s support for the Lebanese state in the face of developments and assured him that Moscow would “not hesitate to meet what Lebanon asks for in these delicate circumstances.”

The Russian backing came hours after the UN Security Council unanimously issued a statement calling on “all actors to conduct intensive national dialogue and to maintain the peaceful character of the protests by avoiding violence and respecting the right to peaceful assembly in protest.”

It also stressed “the importance of the timely formation of a new government able to respond to the aspirations of the Lebanese people and to restore the stability of the country within the constitutional framework.”


Yemen’s terrifying, severely damaged road to Taiz on brink of collapse

Vehicles are pictured on a damaged road, the only travel route between Yemen’s cities of Taiz and Aden. Yemen has been left in ruins by six years of war, where over 24 million people are in need of aid and protection. (AFP)
Updated 2 min 56 sec ago

Yemen’s terrifying, severely damaged road to Taiz on brink of collapse

  • Convoys of vehicles big and small move at a snail’s pace as they squeeze past each other on the narrow road that has been severely damaged over the years by heavy rainfall

TAIZ: Lorries filled to the brim with goods labor up and down the dangerously winding and precipitous road of Hayjat Al-Abed, the mountainous lifeline to Yemen’s third largest city.
Unlike all other routes linking southwest Taiz to the rest of the war-torn country, the road — with its dizzying drop-offs into the valley below — is the only one that has not fallen into the hands of the Houthi rebels.
Some 500,000 inhabitants of the city, which is besieged by the Iran-backed Houthis, depend on the 7-km stretch of crater-filled road for survival, as the long conflict between the insurgents and the government shows no signs of abating.
Convoys of vehicles big and small move at a snail’s pace as they squeeze past each other on the narrow road that has been severely damaged over the years by heavy rainfall.
“As you can see, it is full of potholes, and we face dangerous slopes,” Marwan Al-Makhtary, a young truck driver, told AFP. “Sometimes trucks can no longer move forward, so they stop and roll back.”
Makhtary said nothing was being done to fix the road, and fears are mounting that the inexorable deterioration will ultimately bring the supply of goods to a halt.
Dozens of Taiz residents on Tuesday urged the government to take action, forming a human chain along the road — some of them carrying signs saying: “Save Taiz’s Lifeline.”

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500,000 inhabitants of Taiz, which is besieged by the Iran-backed Houthis, depend on the 7-km stretch of crater-filled road for survival.

“We demand the legitimate government and local administration accelerate efforts to maintain and fix the road,” said one of the protesters, Abdeljaber Numan.
“This is the only road that connects Taiz with the outside world, and the blocking of this artery would threaten the city.”
Sultan Al-Dahbaly, who is responsible for road maintenance in the local administration, said the closure of the road would represent a “humanitarian disaster” in a country already in crisis and where the majority of the population is dependent on aid.
“It is considered a lifeline of the city of Taiz, and it must be serviced as soon as possible because about 5 million people (in the province) would be affected,” he told AFP.

Humanitarian aid
Meanwhile, Yemen’s president on Thursday urged his government’s rival, the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, to stop impeding the flow of urgently needed humanitarian aid following a warning from the UN humanitarian chief last week that “the specter of famine” has returned to the conflict-torn country.
President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s plea came in a prerecorded speech to the UN General Assembly’s ministerial meeting being held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It aired more than a week after Human Rights Watch warned that all sides in Yemen’s conflict were interfering with the arrival of food, health care supplies, water and sanitation support.