Hariri: Aoun settlement over, will not deal with ‘shadow president’

Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks during a ceremony marking the 15th anniversary of the assassination of his father, former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, in Beirut, on Friday. (Reuters)
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Updated 15 February 2020

Hariri: Aoun settlement over, will not deal with ‘shadow president’

  • Iranian money will not solve Lebanon crisis, says former premier

BEIRUT: In a speech on the 15th anniversary of the assassination of his father, Rafic Hariri, former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced that the settlement he had established with President Michel Aoun had come to an end. “The Hariri era has not ended, and I am staying in the country and in politics, and the Sunnis are staying,” he stated.
“Before the settlement, I tried to pave the way for my friend, Suleiman Franjieh, to become president, but his allies prevented him. The abolition mentality wants to abolish the Progressive Socialist Party, the Lebanese Forces and, now, Hariri,” he said.
Hariri lashed out at the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, without naming him. “President Aoun knows how much I respect him, but I arrived at a point where I have begun to deal with two presidents — I have to deal with a shadow president to protect the original one,” he said.
He was also indirectly critical of Hezbollah. “How can we strengthen tourism without the Arabs and the citizens of the Arabian Gulf region, and how do we protect the interests of the Lebanese people, who are benefitting from employment opportunities in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries when there are those who stir up trouble with these countries?” he said.
“Iran’s money solves Hezbollah’s crisis; not the crisis of a country. Parties in the state do not operate separately and individually without actual financial policies.”  
Hariri strongly criticized the ongoing efforts to hold his father responsible for Lebanon’s economic collapse.
“What is most dangerous are suggestions that the countdown to the Taif Agreement has begun. People know how Lebanon was before Rafic Hariri and what he did for it. They did not offer the country anything of value. They did not even build a sewer. Instead, they fabricated files, dug graves, and made accusations. There is a political system that started discussing a non-Hariri era and holding Hariri responsible for ‘the deal of the century’ and the resettlement nightmare. We say that resettlement is not mentioned in the constitution,” he said.
“Seven years of impediment after (Rafic) Hariri’s assassination have been wasted on talks about the rights of minorities, who have been partners for 30 years and participated in all disturbances. The cost of electric power has amounted for 50 percent of public debt,” he added, highlighting that since the war ended, no Future Movement member of parliament had ever assumed the role of minister of energy.
“In the last two months, we have heard that the Future Movement has come to its end. We have also heard that Saudi Arabia, the US, China, and the world do not want Saad Hariri, but I assure you that the Future Movement, the movement of Arabism and moderation, is staying, and this house shall never close,” he added.

FASTFACT

Saad Hariri strongly criticized the ongoing efforts to hold his father responsible for Lebanon’s economic collapse.

Thousands of supporters and popular delegations carrying the Future Movement’s blue flag as well as Lebanon’s flag flocked to Hariri’s house and the streets surrounding it. They also carried banners that read, “Your martyrdom is revolution.”
The speech was attended by a delegation from the Democratic Gathering, led by Taymour Jumblatt, a parliamentary and ministerial delegation from the Lebanese Forces, and delegations from the Armenian Tashnag Party and the Phalange Party. It was also attended by the Saudi Arabian and UAE ambassadors to Lebanon.
Walid, a young man from Iklim Al-Kharoub region, told Arab News: “People are with Saad Hariri, may God give him strength.”
Nabiha from Beirut said: “We are with Saad Hariri. His allies have deceived him despite everything he did. He shall return to power.”
Farouk, also from Beirut, said: “Rafic Hariri leveraged everyone, but they removed him from power and then assassinated him. They are now trying to do the same to his son, Saad Hariri, but he is staying and will return strong. He will not lose his popularity.”
Political, religious and diplomatic figures also visited the grave of Rafic Hariri on the anniversary of his death, including Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin.
There was friction between Hariri’s supporters and protesters in Martyrs’ Square, opposite the site of Rafic Hariri’s grave.
During the commemoration of Rafic Hariri, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “The assassination of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri is a mass killing. Many individuals linked to Hezbollah have been charged with playing roles in this terrorist attack, and they must be brought to justice in the end.”
Pompeo added that Hezbollah had proven through its terrorist and illegal activities that it cared more about its interests and the interests of its sponsor, Iran, than about the best interests of the Lebanese people.
“The US continues to proudly stand with the Lebanese people in their peaceful calls for reform, transparency, and accountability,” he added.


‘Social explosion’ in Lebanese camps imminent, warn officials

Updated 21 February 2020

‘Social explosion’ in Lebanese camps imminent, warn officials

  • Situation volatile as Palestinian refugees face economic crisis after US peace plan

BEIRUT: Authorities are battling to prevent “a social explosion” among Palestinian refugees crammed into camps in Lebanon, a top official has revealed.

Fathi Abu Al-Ardat, secretary of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) factions in Lebanon, told Arab News that urgent measures were being put in place to try and stop the “crisis” situation getting out of control.

“Conditions in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are very difficult due to the economic crisis facing the country, and we are trying to delay a social explosion in the camps and working on stopgap solutions,” he said.

And Dr. Hassan Mneimneh, the head of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC), said: “More Palestinian refugees from the camps in Lebanon are immigrating. Embassies are receiving immigration requests, and Canada is inundated with a wave of immigration because its embassy has opened doors to applications.”

According to a population census conducted in 2017 by the Central Administration of Statistics in Lebanon, in coordination with the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), there are 174,422 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon spread across 12 camps and nearby compounds.

Mneimneh insisted the figure was accurate despite the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) estimating there to be 459,292 refugees in the country. He said: “The census we had conducted refers to the current reality in Lebanon.”

He added that he feared “increased pressure on European donor countries over UNRWA in the coming days after the unilateral implementation of the ‘Deal of the Century’ (the US peace plan for the Middle East) by Israel.

“Israel’s goal is to undermine UNRWA’s mission as a prelude to ending the Palestinian cause and, thus, preventing the return of Palestinians.”

Mneimneh held a meeting on Wednesday with two Lebanese and Palestinian action groups in Lebanon to discuss Palestinian asylum issues in light of the American peace plan. There were no representatives of Hezbollah or Hamas present at the talks.

He said: “This deal kick-starts an unusual stage that carries the most serious risks not only to the Palestinian people and cause, but also to the other countries and entities in the Arab region.

“The first of these is Lebanon, which senses the danger of this announcement in view of the clauses it contains to eliminate the Palestinian cause, including the refugee issue and the possibility of their settlement in the host countries.”

Al-Ardat said: “Palestinian refugees have no choice but to withstand the pressures on them to implement the so-called ‘Deal of the Century.’ What is proposed is that we sell our country for promises, delusions, and $50 billion distributed to three countries. Palestine is not for sale.”

He pointed out that “the camps in Lebanon resorted to family solidarity in coordination with the shops in the camps. Whoever does not have money can go to the shop after two (2 p.m.) in the afternoon and get vegetables for free.

“We have been securing 7,000 packs of bread to distribute in the camps and buying the same amount to sell the pack at 500 liras. But this does not solve the problem.”

He added: “The PLO leadership continues to perform its duty toward the refugees and, until now, we have not been affected by the restrictions imposed by banks in Lebanon, and refugees are still receiving medical treatment.

“However, our concern now is that Palestinian refugees do not starve, taking into account all the indications that the situation in Lebanon will not improve soon.

“Twenty percent of the Palestinians in Lebanon receive wages either from UNRWA — as they work there — or from the PLO because they are affiliated with the factions, but 80 percent are unemployed and have no income.”

The meeting hosted by Mneimneh agreed “the categorical rejection of the ‘Deal of the Century’ because it means further erasing the identity existence of the Palestinian people as well as their national rights, especially their right to return and establish their independent state.

“It also means assassinating the Palestinian peoples’ legitimate rights and supporting Israel’s usurpation of international justice and 72 years of Arab struggle.

“The deal includes ambiguous, illegal and immoral approaches that contradict all relevant UN and Security Council resolutions, especially with regard to the establishment of the Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 and the inalienable right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland and establish their state with Jerusalem as its capital,” a statement on the meeting added.

“UNRWA must remain the living international witness to the ongoing suffering and tragedy of the Palestinian people, and UNRWA must continue to receive support.”

Attendees at the talks also recommended “improving the conditions of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to strengthen the elements of their steadfastness until they return.” This was “based on the Unified Lebanese Vision for the Palestinian Refugees Affairs in Lebanon document, which includes the right to work.”