Arab envoy calls for end to Lebanon deadlock

Protesters chant slogans, during ongoing protests against the Lebanese government, in front of the Central Bank, in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP)
Updated 29 November 2019

Arab envoy calls for end to Lebanon deadlock

  • Arab League ready to help the country out of its political and economic crisis

BEIRUT: The Arab League told Lebanese leaders on Thursday that it is ready to help the country out of its political and economic crisis. 

Hossam Zaki, the league’s assistant secretary-general, delivered his message of solidarity after a meeting with President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

The envoy’s comments came as widespread protests over government inefficiency and alleged corruption among the Lebanese leadership entered their 43rd day.

Zaki described Lebanon as “an important founding country in the Arab system” and said developments in the country “are of concern to Arabs as they have always had repercussions, some of which are regional.”

However, he warned that “the biggest burden of assistance lies on the Lebanese themselves, and external parties support attempts to find a solution to the crises.” 

Zaki said: “Everyone knows that the movement of the street, with the acknowledgment of all Lebanese politicians and leaders, is right in its demands. We understand this, but the movement also comes at an economic cost that increases the seriousness of the situation.

“The issue of forming a government must be solved despite its difficulty because it is essential for Lebanon to avoid any negative impact on its economic situation and civil peace.”

Earlier Aoun claimed that insufficient aid had been provided to displaced Syrians in Lebanon, leaving the country to pick up the bill.

“So far, Lebanon has suffered losses of more than $25 billion, in addition to the unemployment that has afflicted Lebanese workers,” he said.

As the government crisis deepens, there is no sign that Aoun will set a date for parliamentary talks to assign a replacement for Hariri.

Hezbollah on Thursday backed a call by Berri for a caretaker government to be established. His parliamentary bloc believes that “constitutional obligations require the outgoing government to shoulder its legal responsibility toward citizens in light of rising prices and currency deterioration.”

Meanwhile, gas station operators in Lebanon went on strike after fuel importers refused to accept purchases in Lebanese currency.

Banks also refused to issue US dollars to customers.

Charles Jabbour, head of the Lebanese Forces’ communications and media department, told Arab News: “In light of the economic collapse in Lebanon, an economic and political alert is needed to face the crisis. This cannot be done through the government’s classic methods. It is not possible to form a national unity government or a political government. Lebanon needs a technocratic government that creates a positive shock abroad and generates revenue. Anything else would be stalling and taking the country to further collapse.”

Lebanon’s worsening economic situation was highlighted by Ibrahim Kanaan, the finance and budget committee chairman, who said after a meeting to discuss the 2020 draft budget that state revenues after the protests started “are almost nonexistent.”

“The draft budget prepared before the current crisis did not include any tax or add any fees. It includes a charge of $5,000 billion to the Banque du Liban (central bank) and the banking sector,” he said.

“The deficit is exacerbated in trade and payments balances due to suspension of overseas transfers and the erosion of deposits,” he added.


Soleimani’s successor faces same fate if he kills Americans Iran warned

Updated 10 min 13 sec ago

Soleimani’s successor faces same fate if he kills Americans Iran warned

  • Ghaani promised to “continue in this luminous path” taken by Soleimani

DUBAI: The US special representative for Iran said the successor to Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike, would suffer the same fate if he followed a similar path of killing Americans, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported.

Washington blamed Soleimani for masterminding attacks by Iran-aligned militias against US forces in the region. US President Donald Trump ordered the Jan. 3 drone strike in Iraq after a build up of tension over Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran responded to the killing of Soleimani, who was charged with expanding Tehran’s influence across the Middle East, by launching missile strikes on US targets in Iraq, although no US soldiers were killed.

After Soleimani’s death, Tehran swiftly appointed Esmail Ghaani as the new head of the Quds Force, an elite unit in the Revolutionary Guards that handles actions abroad. The new commander pledged to pursue Soleimani’s course.

“If (Esmail) Ghaani follows the same path of killing Americans then he will meet the same fate,” Brian Hook told the Arabic-language daily Asharq Al-Awsat.

He said in the interview in Davos that US President Donald Trump had long made it clear “that any attack on Americans or American interests would be met with a decisive response.”

“This isn’t a new threat. The president has always said that he will always respond decisively to protect American interests,” Hook said. “I think the Iranian regime understands now that they cannot attack America and get away with it.”

After his appointment, Ghaani promised to “continue in this luminous path” taken by Soleimani and said the goal was to drive US forces out of the region, which has long been Iran’s stated policy.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have steadily increased since Trump withdrew from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018 and imposed tough news sanctions that have hammered the Iranian economy.

This month’s military flare-up began in December when rockets fired at US bases in Iraq killed a US contractor. Washington blamed pro-Iran militia and launched air strikes that killed at least 25 fighters. After the militia surrounded the US embassy in Baghdad for two days, Trump ordered the drone strike on Soleimani.