Lebanon’s outgoing PM backs businessman to replace him

Saad Hariri said he wants to see prominent contractor Samir Khatib become Lebanon’s next prime minister. (Reuters)
Updated 03 December 2019

Lebanon’s outgoing PM backs businessman to replace him

  • Hariri said he backs Samir Khatib to become the country’s next prime minister
  • Hariri withdrew his candidacy for the premiership, hoping to clear the way for a solution to the political impasse

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Tuesday he supports the nomination of a prominent contractor to become the country’s next premier, a move that will likely pave the way for the formation of a new Cabinet amid a severe economic and financial crisis.
Hariri last week withdrew his candidacy for the premiership, saying he hoped to clear the way for a solution to the political impasse amid nearly eight weeks of anti-government protests.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday night, Hariri said he backs Samir Khatib to become the country’s next prime minister adding that “there are still some details and God willing something good” will happen. Hariri added that “everyone is trying to pass through this difficult period.”
Khatib heads one of Lebanon’s largest engineering and contracting companies and did not hold any political roles in the past.
Over the past weeks, politicians failed to agree on the shape and form of a new government. Hariri had insisted on heading a government of technocrats, while his opponents, including the militant group Hezbollah, want a Cabinet made up of both experts and politicians.
Asked if he is going to take part in the new Cabinet, Hariri said: “I will not nominate political personalities but experts.”
It was not clear how the protesters who have been demonstrating against widespread corruption and mismanagement in the country would respond to the possible formation of the government. The frustrated protesters have resorted to road closures and other tactics to pressure politicians into responding to their demands for a new government.
They have insisted that a new Cabinet be made up of independent figures that have nothing to do with the ruling elite that have been running the country since the 1975-90 civil war ended.
President Michel Aoun now is expected to call for binding consultations with heads of parliamentary blocs to name the new prime minister. But since Hariri, the most powerful Sunni leader in the country said he will back Khatib, the contractor is widely expected to get the post.
According to Lebanon’s power sharing system implemented since independence from France in 1943, the president has to be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister should be a Sunni and the parliament speaker a Shiite. Cabinet and parliament seats are equally split between Christians and Muslims.
Earlier in the day, outgoing Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil hinted that he will not be part of the new government telling reporters that “the success of the Cabinet is more important than our presence in it.”
The apparent breakthrough comes as Lebanon is passing through its worst economic and financial crisis in decades with one of the highest debt ratios in the world, high unemployment and an expected contraction in the economy in 2020. Local banks have imposed capital control measures unseen before in the country known for its free market economy.
The possible breakthrough came a day after protesters hurled stones at soldiers while opening a highway south of Beirut, injuring several troops. The Lebanese army said in a statement on Tuesday that one of the protesters in the town of Naameh fired bullets from a pistol the night before adding that the shooting made the troops fire in the air to disperse the protesters.


Starvation looms for Morocco’s horses as tourism collapses

A doctor inspects a sick horse at the SPANA shelter in Marrakech. (AP)
Updated 10 August 2020

Starvation looms for Morocco’s horses as tourism collapses

  • SPANA helped carriage owners provide the basics for their horses when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Morocco

MARRAKECH: Abdenabi Nouidi sold his favorite horse for $150 to help feed the others on the team that pulls tourists in carriages through the buzzing streets of Marrakech, and he is still scared about the future for the others. The prospect of starvation looms for carriage horses and other animals normally used in Morocco’s tourist mecca., since visitors have vanished during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad, or SPANA, says hundreds of Morocco’s carriage horses and donkeys are threatened amid the collapsing tourism industry. They are among the estimated 200 million horses, donkeys, camels and elephants worldwide providing various livelihoods for over a half-billion people.
The North African kingdom closed its doors to outsiders after the first virus case was confirmed March 2. It also recently issued a ban on domestic travel to eight cities, including Marrakech.
Thousands of people in the city depend on the carriage horses for their livelihood. A single horse carriage in Marrakech supports four to five families, including owners, drivers and stable boys, driver Abdeljalil Belghaoute said.
He spoke from his carriage, waiting in a line near the famed Jemaa El-Fnaa Square, hoping that someone would want a ride.
‘If you have a shop, you can close it. If you sell goods, you store them. But imagine having ... horses who need to eat, drink and get medical care,” said Abdeljalil Nouidi.
For two decades, the four Nouidi brothers have taken tourists on sightseeing jaunts in horse-drawn carriages. Now they have empty pockets and mouths to feed, both at home and at the rundown complex outside Marrakech where drivers stable their horses.
The brothers were forced to sell seven of their horses in July. Abdenabi Nouidi’s favorite, Cocotte, was among them.
“This is not something I can easily forgive myself for,” he said, recalling a promise he made to Cocotte 15 years ago to keep him forever.
The Nouidi brothers say their horses are visibly nervous and know an abrupt change in their lives may be coming. With no carriage work, the horses’ routine has been disrupted, feed is running low and stablemates are leaving for good.
SPANA helped carriage owners provide the basics for their horses when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Morocco. It delivered three months’ worth of feed to almost 600 horses in the city and the neighboring town of Aït Ourir during the country’s lockdown.
“It became very clear to us when the lockdown was first imposed that many of Marrakech’s working animals would need our help or face a dire outcome,” said the head veterinarian at SPANA’s Marrakech center, Hassan Lamrini.

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200m horses, donkeys, camels and elephants worldwide are providing various livelihoods for over a half-billion people.

The center, in a working-class neighborhood, is a mecca for the city’s thousands of working animals. Since 1988, the team of vets and technicians have cared for donkeys, mules and horses free of charge.
Lamrini said the center has treated an increasing number of cases of colic, an abdominal pain that causes complications in the digestive system, often due to malnutrition. Colic can be fatal.
“There is not much in the world that matters to me more than caring for these animals. They are my entire life,” said Boujamaa Ninich, who has dedicated 50 years to working with SPANA. He spends weeks on end sleeping in a little room at the center to ensure the animals are cared for after dark.
“They give so much to their owners. There is so little that we can give back,’ he said.
Marrakech was nearly at a standstill on a recent visit. The Jamma El Fnaa Square, a vast area with hawkers, food vendors and snake-dancers, was nearly deserted.
“Only tourism can save us from this catastrophe we’re facing,” said Belghaoute, the carriage driver hoping for a fare.
The Moroccan government earlier this year launched a social media campaign to encourage citizens to explore their country, but spiking numbers of COVID-19 cases led to the travel ban for eight of the country’s top tourist cities.
Authorities counted 28,500 infections and 435 deaths as of Thursday, but experts say all counts in all countries understate the true toll of the pandemic, due to limited testing, missed mild cases and other factors.
“The longer this goes on, horses and families will struggle to survive. We’re really scared by how bad this can get,” Belghaoute said.