Hezbollah says it opposes IMF management of Lebanon crisis

Hezbollah says it opposes IMF management of Lebanon crisis
(Reuters)
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Updated 25 February 2020

Hezbollah says it opposes IMF management of Lebanon crisis

Hezbollah says it opposes IMF management of Lebanon crisis
  • Iran-backed group's opposition to IMF makes managing Lebanon's situation "very, very difficult"
  • Lebanon's financial crisis continues to deepen, exacerbated by civil protests

BEIRUT/LONDON: Hezbollah is against allowing the International Monetary Fund to manage Lebanon’s financial crisis, the powerful group said on Tuesday, indicating opposition to any IMF bailout that would impose tough conditions on the heavily indebted state.
Hezbollah, backed by Iran and designated as a terrorist group by the United States, is one of the main parties that backs the new Beirut government as it struggles with the unprecedented crisis.
Facing a huge public debt burden and a liquidity crunch, the government on Tuesday appointed international investment firm Lazard and law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP as its financial and legal advisers on a widely expected sovereign debt restructuring.
Beirut has sought IMF technical but not financial aid.
“We will not accept submitting to (imperialist) tools ... meaning we do not accept submitting to the International Monetary Fund to manage the crisis,” said Hezbollah’s Sheikh Naim Qassem, deputy leader of the heavily armed Shiite group.
“Yes, there is nothing to prevent consultations ... and this is what the Lebanese government is doing.”
An IMF technical team visited Beirut from Feb. 20-24. “The discussions on the challenges and the authorities’ plans to address them were very informative and productive,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said.
“Staff is available to provide further technical advice to the government as it formulates its economic reform plans.”
The crisis came to a head last year as capital inflows slowed and protests erupted against the ruling elite over corruption and bad governance — root causes of the crisis.
Banks are imposing tight restrictions on access to deposits and transfers. The Lebanese pound has slumped: dollars were being offered at 2,470 pounds on Tuesday, a dealer said. The official rate is 1,507.5.
“Hezbollah is very adamantly opposed to the IMF and that makes it very, very difficult and means Lebanon will have to get to a point where the situation is bad for longer,” said Steffen Reichold, portfolio manager at ‎Stone Harbor Investment Partners, which holds some Lebanese Eurobonds.
“That could mean the exchange rate getting to 3,000 and significantly more inflation.”
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Monday his government was looking at options to help Lebanon recover, including an IMF program if Beirut seeks one.
Foreign states which have backed Lebanon in the past want to see implementation of long-delayed reforms before any assistance is forthcoming this time.
Some of Lebanon’s Eurobonds intensified their sell-off.
The government must urgently decide how to handle a $1.2 billion Eurobond maturing on March 9.
“It’s pretty likely they will go down the debt restructuring route and the question then becomes will the March 2020 bonds be brought in to that,” said Nick Eisinger, principal, fixed income emerging markets, at Vanguard.
“I think the market will not be particularly happy that the IMF will not be coming on board with a financial program as without that the recovery prospects and long-term recovery of the country are not good,” he said. 


Egypt, Algeria agree on ‘full support’ for Tunisian president

In this Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021 file photo, Tunisian President Kais Saied waves to bystanders as he strolls along the avenue Bourguiba in Tunis, Tunisia. (AP)
In this Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021 file photo, Tunisian President Kais Saied waves to bystanders as he strolls along the avenue Bourguiba in Tunis, Tunisia. (AP)
Updated 17 min 33 sec ago

Egypt, Algeria agree on ‘full support’ for Tunisian president

In this Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021 file photo, Tunisian President Kais Saied waves to bystanders as he strolls along the avenue Bourguiba in Tunis, Tunisia. (AP)
  • Nile dispute, anti-terror policies also discussed in Cairo meeting hosted by Egyptian leader

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra agreed to support embattled Tunisian leader Kais Saeid in a bid to maintain stability in the country.

The consensus was reached during a meeting in Cairo after the two sides discussed recent developments in the nearby country.

As a result of the meeting, El-Sisi agreed with Lamamra to “fully support” President Saied.

The announcement came in an official statement following the talks.

Both sides agreed to implement the “will and choices” of the Tunisian people in order to preserve the security of the North African country.

El-Sisi also affirmed Egypt’s keenness to develop relations with Algeria in various fields and boost cooperation, construction and development between the two countries.

He also reiterated his firm stance over Egypt’s “historical rights to the Nile waters” and the country’s position on maintaining its water security.

El-Sisi urged the importance of engaging in the negotiation process to reach a comprehensive and legally binding agreement on the rules for filling and operating the Renaissance Dam, according to a statement from the official spokesman for the presidency.

The statement said that the meeting of El-Sisi and Lamamra also focused on developments of common concern, especially the situation in Libya.

The two parties discussed political and security coordination and the exchange of information in regard to combating terrorism and extremist ideologies, which pose a threat to the entire region.

 


Houthis accused of torturing prisoners to death in Yemen

Houthis accused of torturing prisoners to death in Yemen
Updated 02 August 2021

Houthis accused of torturing prisoners to death in Yemen

Houthis accused of torturing prisoners to death in Yemen
  • Local and international rights groups have demanded independent investigations into the deaths

ALEXANDRIA: The Houthis have been accused of torturing hundreds of prisoners to death since taking power in late 2014.

Yemen’s Human Rights Ministry said that 350 prisoners, including 33 women, had died from extreme torture and deliberate medical negligence during the last seven years. It added that the militia was still using the same harsh methods on prisoners in areas under their control.

Activists warned inmates were being subjected to human rights abuses in Houthi-controlled prisons and that they could die if the international community did not intervene.

In a statement seen by Arab News, the ministry said it had documented 1,635 cases of mental and physical torture, deprivation of life-saving medical treatment and execution of prisoners in jails controlled by the Houthis in Sanaa, Hajjah, Thamar and other provinces.

The Mothers of Abductees Association, an umbrella organization for female relatives of war prisoners, said that its figures of the number of deaths inside Houthi prisons were close to the government’s figures.

Amat Al-Salam Al-Hajj, the organization’s chairwoman, told Arab News that 319 had died from torture inside Houthi prisons.

The ministry and rights groups said the latest confirmed victim of Houthi abuse was a prisoner called Mohsen Mohammed Al-Qadhi, who was reportedly executed inside a Thamar prison last week.

The ministry said he was abducted from his home in Dhamar city a year ago. Large bruises on his body indicated the physical torture he had been subjected to.

“This crime is an extension of a series of crimes and grave violations committed by the Houthi militia against the kidnapped and forcibly displaced men, women and children in their detention centers, who are subjected to the worst types of physical and psychological torture,” the ministry said.

Local and international rights groups have demanded independent investigations into the deaths.

The Geneva-based SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties condemned the killing of Al-Qadhi and accused the militia of violating international laws by abusing prisoners.

It disputed the Houthis’ claims that he had died from an unintentional shooting.

Rights Radar, a group established in the Netherlands by Yemeni activists, also called for an independent probe into his death.

Former prisoners and former officials at Houthi-controlled prisons told Arab News that prisoner abuse was rife, saying they had heard stories of many prisoners committing suicide to escape horrific treatment.

Essam Balghaith, a Yemeni journalist who was released from a Houthi jail during a prisoner swap, said torture was widespread and that many inmates tried to kill themselves as they could not bear torture.

“I heard about many cases of suicide attempts by prisoners due to extreme torture,” he told Arab News. “I witnessed the death of a prisoner who was brutally tortured and deprived of medication.”

Ahmed Arman, Yemen’s minister of human rights, urged international rights groups to expose Houthi crimes against prisoners and pressure the rebels to release them.

“The international community and international organizations that work in Yemen must be transparent about Houthi violations and crimes,” he told Arab News.


Israel’s top court postpones making decision on eviction of Jerusalemites

Israel’s top court postpones making decision on eviction of Jerusalemites
Updated 02 August 2021

Israel’s top court postpones making decision on eviction of Jerusalemites

Israel’s top court postpones making decision on eviction of Jerusalemites
  • Activists fear postponement will only delay another eviction attempt
  • Jordanian government documents are a game-changer in defeating legal case, says anonymous Palestinian official

AMMAN: The Israeli Supreme Court has postponed a ruling on the case of four Palestinian families who are fighting eviction orders from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

The court held a hearing on the case of the Palestinian families facing expulsion by Israeli settlers in annexed east Jerusalem, an issue that was part of the start of the violent conflict in May.

Previous attempts by the court to make the families stay as protected tenants were rejected by the Palestinians through their lawyers.

A senior Palestinian government official intimately involved in the case told Arab News on condition of anonymity that the documents presented by the Jordanian government in recent days were a game-changer.

“The authenticated documents presented by the government of Jordan showing that the Palestinian homes were about to be registered when the 1967 war took place apparently complicated the attempts by the Israeli court to rule in favor of the Jewish settlers.

“Jordan’s latest documents were the game-changer in this case,” the source told Arab News.

They added: “It is very difficult now for the Israeli government to justify this ethnic cleansing of homes built by the Jordanian government in agreement with the UN for the Palestinians of Sheikh Jarrah.”

The decision late on Monday followed day-long protests outside the west Jerusalem court building,

Protesters raised signs in Arabic, English and Hebrew calling for “justice” to Sheikh Jarrah, demand an “end to the Israeli apartheid regime” and stating “we are not leaving our land.”

Jerusalem Orthodox Bishop Atallah Hanna told Arab News that the delay was made to keep the story quiet.

“It may take a month or two but the postponement does not mean cancellation of the eviction order. They might surprise us with something else at a later stage.”

Jamal Dajani, former director of communications in the office of the Palestinian prime minister, told Arab News that the postponement is due to the success of the daily demonstrations, international media, social media, and political pressure.

“The concern is that the Israeli authorities are just kicking the can down the road, waiting for the right moment ... to evict the Palestinian families. The pressure must continue and activists must remain vigilant.”

Dajani, an east Jerusalem resident, said that what is needed is a cancellation, not postponements.  

“A fair and just ruling would be to cancel eviction orders — I’m afraid that this is just a temporary band-aid.”

Sami Abu Shehadeh, a member of the Israeli Knesset, is the head of the Balad/Tajamu party. The member of the Israeli Parliament for the Joint List tweeted that any decision regarding Sheikh Jarrah must take into consideration that east Jerusalem is occupied, that settlements are war crimes and that Israeli laws negate restitution of pre-1948 Palestinian property.

Shehadeh, who is a Palestinian historian, said that the solution is simple: “Respect international law, end the occupation and achieve equal rights.”


Italy FM tells Libya: ‘We are at your side’

“Italy is at your side, we will continue to support you,” Luigi Di Maio (pictured) told Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeibah during his fifth visit to Tripoli since the beginning of the year. (AFP/File Photo)
“Italy is at your side, we will continue to support you,” Luigi Di Maio (pictured) told Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeibah during his fifth visit to Tripoli since the beginning of the year. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 02 August 2021

Italy FM tells Libya: ‘We are at your side’

“Italy is at your side, we will continue to support you,” Luigi Di Maio (pictured) told Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeibah during his fifth visit to Tripoli since the beginning of the year. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Di Maio’s fifth visit to country in 2021 sees talks in Tripoli, Benghazi and Tobruk
  • Reveals donation of 240k coronavirus vaccines and urges stability, cooperation

ROME: Italy will continue its support for Libya, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has told top Government of National Unity officials during meetings in Tripoli, Benghazi and Tobruk.

“Italy is at your side, we will continue to support you,” Di Maio told Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeibah during his fifth visit to Tripoli since the beginning of the year.

Di Maio also met President of the Presidential Council Mohamed Yunus Al-Menfi, his deputies Abdullah Al-Lafi and Musa Al-Kuni, President of the High Council of State Khalid Al-Mishri and Minister of Foreign Affairs Najla El-Mangush.

A spokesman in the Italian foreign ministry told Arab News that Di Maio visited Libya “to discuss key topics, such as furthering the dialogue on the UN-led stabilization and institutional transition process, which Italy supports with determination, to encourage the renewed commitment of all Libyan parties to concrete progress toward achieving several key objectives, including the holding of elections on Dec. 24, the implementation of the ceasefire, the adoption of the unified budget and national reconciliation and, last but not least, promoting the many initiatives underway for the broad-based strengthening of the bilateral partnership.”

The spokesman added that the minister’s visit was “clear confirmation of Italy’s steadfast commitment to stabilizing Libya, which has taken an important step forward with the reopening of the Sirte-Misurata coastal road announced on the eve of the visit.”

Di Maio’s visit comes just weeks after the reopening of the Italian Consulate General in Benghazi.

No details were disclosed concerning the recent intra-Libyan talks — held in Rome in the last week of July — on adopting a legal framework for the country’s next general elections, scheduled for Dec. 24 this year.

However, an Italian diplomatic source said: “The issue was certainly one of those that was covered during today’s meetings.”

The talks also focused on joint efforts to revive economic cooperation between the two countries across key sectors, including infrastructure, energy and transport.

“This was also in light of the positive results of the Business Forum hosted at the foreign ministry on May 31, in the presence of Dbeibah,” an Italian source said.

The visit also covered proposals for cooperation in the fields of migration, health and culture.

At the end of a meeting with Dbeibah, Di Maio announced an Italian donation to Libya of 240,000 doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine.

The delivery will “help the strategy set by the Libyan government to fight the pandemic, which is hitting hard here as well,” the minister said.

Since the pandemic began, Libya has recorded 256,328 coronavirus cases and a death toll of 3,579. The country has seen a recent increase in cases of several thousand per day, partly because of increased testing.


Wildfires blaze on in drought-hit Turkey as criticism grows

Wildfires blaze on in drought-hit Turkey as criticism grows
Updated 02 August 2021

Wildfires blaze on in drought-hit Turkey as criticism grows

Wildfires blaze on in drought-hit Turkey as criticism grows
  • Seven fires were still burning, fanned by temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius, strong winds and low humidity, Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said
  • Meteorology maps show areas affected by fires have suffered severe drought in recent months

MARMARIS, Turkey: Firefighters using planes and helicopters, and locals with buckets of water, battled wildfires raging for a sixth day near southern coastal resorts in drought-hit Turkey on Monday.
Meanwhile the government faced fresh criticism of its handling the disaster.
Seven fires were still burning, fanned by temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104°F), strong winds and low humidity, Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said.
Meteorology maps show areas affected by fires have suffered severe drought in recent months.
Drone footage filmed by Reuters showed grey hillsides near the resort of Marmaris where fires left smoldering buildings and blackened tree trunks.
While 16 planes and 51 helicopters tackled blazes across a swathe of southwest Turkey, villagers carrying water containers up a hill to fight a fire near Marmaris said the government was not doing enough to help them.
“We are here as the entire village, from the locals to others. We didn’t run or anything, so the government must see this and also not run away. It must send some of its planes here,” a woman called Gulhan told Reuters.
Engin Ozkoc, a senior figure in the main opposition CHP, called on Pakdemirli to resign for failing to adequately prepare.
“You don’t deserve that ministry. You didn’t foresee this and buy firefighting planes,” he said, criticizing the amount of aerial resources available.
The European Union said it had helped mobilize three fire-fighting planes on Sunday. One from Croatia and two from Spain joined teams from Russia, Iran, Ukraine and Azerbaijan.
President Tayyip Erdogan’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, rejected criticism of the government’s handling of the fires and condemned a social media campaign calling for foreign help.
“Our Turkey is strong. Our state is standing tall,” Altun said on Twitter, describing most information about the fires on social media as “fake news.” “All our losses will be compensated for.”
Eight people have been killed in the wildfires, but there were no reports of further casualties on Monday.
Since Wednesday, thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes and some tourists have left their hotels, although Tourism Minister Mehmet Ersoy said holidaymakers had returned within hours.
The wildfires are another blow to Turkey’s tourism industry following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bulent Bulbuloglu, head of the South Aegean Hoteliers Association, said 10 percent of reservations had been canceled in Bodrum and Marmaris. Others had cut their visits short.