Leading figures agree to new Hariri government

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Former Lebanese Prime Mminister Saad Hariri meets with Samir Khatib, a Lebanese businessman who was the front-runner to form a new government. (AFP)
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Lebanon's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Deryan meets with Samir Khatib, a Lebanese businessman who is the front-runner to form a new Lebanese government. (AFP)
Updated 09 December 2019

Leading figures agree to new Hariri government

  • Samir Khatib will stand aside to allow Saad Hariri to form a government in Lebanon

BEIRUT: Samir Khatib, after meeting with Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdellatif Deryan on Sunday, 24 hours before the planned start of binding parliamentary consultations to name a new prime minister, will stand aside to allow Saad Hariri to form a government in Lebanon.

Khatib had previously been recommended by Hariri, the former prime minister currently serving as caretaker, to succeed him. 

Lebanese security forces implemented strict security measures on Sunday, to ensure that the roads to the Baabda Palace were secure for the 128 members of Parliament, who will name the next prime minister. Last night the process was postponed for a week.

Public affairs expert and activist Zeina El-Helou told Arab News: “The parties participating in the protests movement have decided through their coordination bodies that they will not block roads on Monday. Instead, they will allow for the parliamentary consultations to take place because, for 41 days, this has been our demand after Hariri’s government resigns.

“But if others proceed to block roads, know that they are affiliated with political parties that do not support the political settlement that will take place.”

The civil movement continued in Beirut over the weekend, as activists rejected Khatib as a possible prime minister as “an extension of the ruling political power.”

El-Helou said: “The parties in power did not take into consideration the people’s confidence crisis toward this government, nor have they considered the economic crisis or people’s demands.

“We reject Hariri’s return to head the government because of his history in this role, and we refuse to have the crisis portrayed as a Sunni sect crisis.”

MPs from the blocs that had agreed to name Khatib prime minister retracted the statement that this was final, especially the bloc affiliated with President Michel Aoun, the largest grouping in Parliament.

Mario Aoun, member of the Strong Lebanon bloc, said: “The bloc has not yet made a final decision, but it is likely that Khatib will be named if Hariri does not retract his stance that he is the most powerful in his sect and because we are committed to national unity.”

He did not rule out “a political surprise on the day of the consultations.”

Hezbollah and its allies accused Hariri — without naming him — of “acting with obstinacy and selfishness in an attempt to evade duties.”

MP Hassan Fadlallah of the Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc said: “There are those who think the boat will sink, so they try to jump off it to save themselves, or they see that the country is collapsing, so they want others to bear the consequences while they watch from outside the national responsibility.”

The head of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblatt, said that the only solution to the political impasse was to form a government based on the principles of the Taif Agreement and the constitution.

“We do not want to be part of a government that has toppled all the constitutional foundations,” he said.


Iran warns of lengthy ‘new way of life’ as virus deaths rise

An Iranian army soldier walks through a temporary hospital in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, March 26, 2020. (AP)
Updated 30 March 2020

Iran warns of lengthy ‘new way of life’ as virus deaths rise

  • Without an official lockdown in place, the government has repeatedly urged Iranians to stay home “as much as possible”

TEHRAN: President Hassan Rouhani has warned that “the new way of life” in Iran was likely to be prolonged, as its declared death toll from the novel coronavirus rose to 2,640.
Iran is one of the countries worst-hit by the virus, which first originated in China.
Iran announced its first infection cases on Feb. 19, but a senior health official has acknowledged that the virus was likely to have already reached Iran in January.
At his daily news briefing, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 123 more people in Iran had died from the virus in the past 24 hours.
He reported 2,901 new cases of COVID-19 infection, bringing the overall number of officially confirmed cases to 38,309.
According to the official, 12,391 of those hospitalized have recovered and 3,467 are in “critical” condition.
“We must prepare to live with this virus until a treatment or vaccine is discovered, which has not yet happened to date,” President Hassan Rouhani said in a Cabinet meeting.
“The new way of life we have adopted” is to everyone’s benefit, he said, adding that “these changes will likely have to stay in place for some time.”
After weeks of refraining from imposing lockdown or quarantine measures, Tehran decided Wednesday to ban all intercity travel until at least April 8.
Without an official lockdown in place, the government has repeatedly urged Iranians to stay home “as much as possible.” Schools and universities in some provinces were closed in late February and the measure was later extended to the whole country.
After Rouhani’s warning, the reopening of schools following this year’s new year holidays of March 19 to April 3 appears unlikely.

FASTFACT

Iran announced its first infection cases on Feb. 19, but a senior health official has acknowledged that the virus was likely to have already reached Iran in January

On a positive note, Rouhani said he had been told by top health experts and doctors that “in some provinces we have passed the peak (of the epidemic) and are on a downward trajectory.”
Several Iranian government officials and notable figures have been infected by the new coronavirus, some of whom have died.
The most recent case of infection was Mohammed-Reza Khatami, brother of former president Mohammad Khatami and an ex-deputy speaker of parliament.
He is currently hospitalized.
Iraj Harirchi, a deputy health minister who tested positive for the virus in late February, has returned to public life and appeared on state television to emphasize safety precautions.