Lebanese protesters vow to step up demonstrations as decision on new prime minister looms

A Lebanese anti-government protester holds a national flag in front of members of the internal security forces as she takes part in a rally in Baabda near Beirut. (AFP)
Updated 06 December 2019

Lebanese protesters vow to step up demonstrations as decision on new prime minister looms

  • Many protesters in the Lebanese civil movement are unhappy with Hariri’s choice for PM

BEIRUT: Lebanese protesters on Thursday vowed to step up their peaceful demonstrations despite political moves to form a new government.

President Michel Aoun has set next Monday for binding parliamentary consultations to officially name a prime minister to head a new administration for the country.

Caretaker premier, Saad Hariri, who quit in October amid protests over political corruption and economic hardships, has said he will not take part in the new government but is backing businessman Samir Khatib to replace him.

However, many protesters in the Lebanese civil movement, which on Thursday marked 50 days of demonstrations, are unhappy with Hariri’s choice for PM and have pledged to escalate their action throughout Lebanon.

One activist, Dr. Ziad Abdel Samad, told Arab News: “Protesters are absolutely against the naming of Samir Khatib as the future PM. They consider that he dealt with the country’s corruption system and its icons.

“He was tested by Hezbollah and Amal’s representatives in power and by the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, before agreeing on his name.

“Protests are headed toward a greater escalation until a clean person comes along. The crisis is caused by corruption, so how can the same parties regain power through different faces? People are angry and disgusted and want independent personalities,” he said.

Another activist, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The different groups of the civil movement refuse to see the appointment of Khatib as head of the government because he is part of the structure benefiting from this system. We are asking authorities to replace a certain mindset, not swap faces. We want an independent government.”

He said protesters were undecided on their plan of action for Monday’s crunch meeting, with some groups proposing to stop deputies from reaching the presidential palace and blocking all of Lebanon’s roads, while others preferred to await the outcome. “It is true that people do not trust any person chosen by the current authority, but we must wait until this person proves the contrary.”

On the economic crisis gripping the country, the activist added: “Those in power bear the responsibility for what may happen. They insist stubbornly on their mindset and are yet to be convinced of the need to change their way of thinking. They have not presented a different model.

“What has taken place so far (the civilian protests) is an organized revolution. The people who haven’t taken to the streets to protest haven’t lost anything yet, but when people go hungry and see that their state has been disregarded, they will definitely take to the streets.”

UN chief warns foreign interference in Libya `unprecedented’

Updated 09 July 2020

UN chief warns foreign interference in Libya `unprecedented’

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that foreign interference in Libya’s war has reached “unprecedented levels” and urged key players and their backers to unblock the political stalemate and agree to a cease-fire and peace talks.
Calling the current situation “gloomy,” the UN chief said Wednesday that the United Nations political mission in Libya is undertaking de-escalation efforts, “including the creation of a possible demilitarized zone,” to try to reach a negotiated solution and spare lives. He said between April 1 and June 30 there were at least 102 civilian deaths and 254 civilians wounded in Libya, “a 172% increase compared to the first quarter of 2020.”
Guterres addressed a high-level meeting of the UN Security Council six months after leaders of 11 world powers and other countries with interests in Libya’s long-running civil war agreed at a conference in Berlin to respect a much-violated UN arms embargo, hold off on military support to the warring parties, and push them to reach a full cease-fire.
Guterres and speaker after speaker decried the failure of the parties to adhere to the Berlin agreement and demand its speedy implementation.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, South Africa’s Minister for International Relations Naledi Pandor and Egypt’s foreign minister were among those urging a cease-fire.
“We all took strong commitments in the Berlin conference in January and it’s now time to translate our words into concrete actions,” European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told the virtual meeting. “The polarization that has turned Libya into a theater for proxy-war needs to stop. Action in support of one or the other Libyan parties needs to stop.”
Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a civil war toppled long-time dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who was later killed. The country has since split between rival administrations in the east and the west, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.
Eastern forces under Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive trying to take Tripoli in April 2019, and the crisis in the oil-rich country has steadily worsened as foreign backers increasingly intervened despite pledges at the Berlin conference.
Haftar’s offensive is supported by France, Russia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and other key Arab countries. The government in Tripoli is backed by Turkey — which sent troops and mercenaries to protect the capital in January — as well as Italy and Qatar.
Tripoli-based forces with Turkish support gained the upper hand in the war in early June after retaking the capital’s airport, all main entrance and exit points to the city and a string of key towns near Tripoli. They threatened to retake the strategic city of Sirte, which could allow them to gain control of oil fields and facilities in the south that Haftar seized earlier this year as part of his offensive on Tripoli.
Egypt warned that it would intervene militarily if Turkish-backed forces attacked Sirte and the inland Jufra air base.
Guterres told the Security Council that forces supporting the government are now 25 kilometers (15 miles) west of Sirte, after two previous attempts to gain control of the city.
“The situation on the front lines has been mostly quiet since June 10,” he said. “However, we are very concerned about the alarming military buildup around the city, and the high level of direct foreign interference in the conflict in violation of the UN arms embargo, UN Security Council resolutions, and the commitments made by member states in Berlin.”
Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal stressed that it was in Libya to support the legitimate government at its request and supported the Berlin agreement for providing “the architecture for intra-Libyan talks.”
Referring to Haftar’s offensive, Onal said: “Placing the aggressor on equal footing with the legitimate UN-recognized government is wrong and counterproductive. This grave mistake must be corrected.” And he said blaming Turkey for what’s happening in Libya “amounts to hypocrisy.”
Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, whose country currently holds the council presidency and chaired the meeting, expressed dismay that while other countries were trying to save lives in the COVID-19 pandemic in recent months, hospitals in Libya were being bombed and “ships, planes and trucks with weapons and mercenaries kept arriving in Libyan cities.”
He said foreign interference, “the main driver of the conflict in Libya,” must be brought to an end, and there must be “no more lies” and “backdoor deals” where foreign parties carve out spheres of influence.
“We will use the measures at our disposal, including targeted sanctions, to make sure that Libya is no longer the battleground in a foreign war,” Maas warned.
He urged all parties to unite behind UN-led peace efforts and behind a first important step which could be “a demilitarized solution for Sirte and Jufra.”