Lebanon has scant chance of getting IMF aid, Geagea says

Geagea, whose Lebanese Forces party quit government early into the October protests, said Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government had not enacted any reforms. (File/AFP)
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Updated 29 May 2020

Lebanon has scant chance of getting IMF aid, Geagea says

  • The long-brewing financial crisis came to a head last October when big protests erupted against the corruption and bad governance of the sectarian elite
  • Geagea, whose Lebanese Forces party quit government early into the October protests, said Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government had not enacted any reforms

BEIRUT: Lebanon has scant chance of securing badly needed aid from the International Monetary Fund as the government fails to enact reforms demanded by donors to address its financial crisis, opposition politician Samir Geagea said on Friday.
“Unfortunately, (matters) are going from bad to worse,” he said. “It could, in my opinion, reach social unrest, and social violence.”
The long-brewing financial crisis, the biggest threat to Lebanon’s stability since the 1975-90 civil war, came to a head last October when big protests erupted against the corruption and bad governance of the sectarian elite.
The local currency has since more than halved in value and savers have been frozen out of bank accounts. Unemployment and inflation have soared in the import-dependent country.
Geagea heads the Lebanese Forces, the second-biggest Christian party in parliament, and opposes the Iran-backed Shiite group Hezbollah and its Christian ally, President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, which both back the government.
“The situation in Lebanon is not unsalvageable. But from the moment the crisis erupted on October 17, did you see any change in the management of the state?” said Geagea, who is politically aligned with the United States and its Gulf Arab allies.
“If the behavior at the top of the state remains the way it is, how can we save the country?”
Geagea, whose party quit government early into the October protests, said Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government had not enacted any reforms. With no alternative ways to secure aid, the government launched IMF negotiations in May. But Geagea said the chances of securing support were “very, very scant.”
“From the moment this government took office the whole world was waiting for reforms. So far, not one of the required reforms have happened,” Geagea said. “Nobody is going to give Lebanon any assistance before the state carries out the required reforms.”
The government has produced an economic recovery plan which sets out vast losses in the financial system and is serving as the basis for the IMF negotiations.
Geagea said the government had failed to fix two big problems: smuggling to Syria, which he blamed on Hezbollah, and a state-run electricity sector that bleeds up to $2 billion a year, which he blamed on the Free Patriotic Movement.
Hezbollah, which is heavily armed and listed as a terrorist group by the United States, has long denied it has anything to do with smuggling to Syria. Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil, Aoun’s son-in-law, has said plans for fixing Lebanon’s electricity have been obstructed by others.


Trump wrote to Assad about journalist missing in Syria, says Pompeo

In this file photo taken on December 04, 2018, Marc and Debra Tice, the parents of US journalist Austin Tice (portrait L), who was abducted in Syria more than six years ago, speak at a press conference in Beirut. (AFP)
Updated 15 August 2020

Trump wrote to Assad about journalist missing in Syria, says Pompeo

  • In 2018, US authorities announced a $1 million reward for information that would lead to his recovery

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump personally wrote to his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad about the case of journalist Austin Tice, who has been missing since 2012, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday.
“The US government has repeatedly attempted to engage Syrian officials to seek Austin’s release,” Pompeo said in a statement on the eighth anniversary of Tice’s disappearance.
“President Trump wrote to Bashar Assad in March to propose direct dialogue.”
Tice was a freelance photojournalist working for Agence France-Presse, McClatchy News, The Washington Post, CBS and other news organizations when he disappeared after being detained at a checkpoint near Damascus on Aug. 14, 2012.
Thirty-one years old at the time he was captured, Tice appeared blindfolded in the custody of an unidentified group of armed men in a video a month later.
Since then, there has been no official information on whether he is alive or dead.
In March, Trump said the United States had written a letter to authorities in Damascus, without specifying that he himself had written personally to Assad, who Washington wants out of power. At that time, Trump said he did not know if Tice was still alive.

HIGHLIGHT

Tice was a freelance photojournalist working for Agence France-Presse, McClatchy News, The Washington Post, CBS and other news organizations when he disappeared after being detained at a checkpoint near Damascus on Aug. 14, 2012.

“No one should doubt the president’s commitment to bringing home all US citizens held hostage or wrongfully detained overseas,” Pompeo said Friday.
“Nowhere is that determination stronger than in Austin Tice’s case.”
Pompeo said he and Trump hoped there would be “no need for another statement like this a year from now.”
“Austin Tice’s release and return home are long, long overdue. We will do our utmost to achieve that goal,” he added.
A year ago, the US government said it believed Tice was still alive.
His mother Debra Tice said in January that she had “credible information” to that effect, without elaborating.
In 2018, US authorities announced a $1 million reward for information that would lead to his recovery.