Lebanon prime minister Diab to call for early polls after deadly Beirut blast

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Saturday said he would propose early elections to break the impasse that is plunging the country deeper into political and economic crisis. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 08 August 2020

Lebanon prime minister Diab to call for early polls after deadly Beirut blast

  • He spoke as security forces scuffled with anti-government demonstrators

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Saturday said he would propose early elections to break the impasse that is plunging the country deeper into political and economic crisis every day.
He spoke as security forces scuffled with anti-government demonstrators enraged over a deadly blast at Beirut’s port on Tuesday that killed more than 150 people and wounded at least 6,000.
The explosion hit the Lebanese capital as the country was already deep in a spiralling economic crisis that has left nearly half of the population living under the poverty line, up from a third before the crisis.
“We can’t exit the country’s structural crisis without holding early parliamentary elections,” Diab said in a televised address, echoing demands of a protest movement sparked in October that called for the removal of leaders it deemed inept and corrupt.
“On Monday, I will propose to cabinet a draft bill for early parliamentary polls,” he added.
In May 2018, Lebanon held its first parliamentary polls in nine years after the deeply divided legislature repeatedly extended its own term.
But the vote failed to shake up the multi-confessional country’s entrenched ruling class.
Shortly before Diab’s speech, a group of demonstrators took over the foreign ministry as a new headquarters of their uprising.
Some of the protesters pulled the portrait of President Michel Aoun off the wall and smashed it on the ground, an AFP correspondent said.
Diab formed his government of so-called technocrats in January to tackle the country’s worst economic crisis in decades.
But political leaders have been mired in deadlock despite repeated pledges of reform.
Diab on Saturday gave the country’s ruling elite “two months to agree... and clear the way for the implementation of structural reforms,” threatening to step down if this deadline was not met.


Saudis warn UN of oil spot in shipping lane near decaying Yemen tanker

Updated 14 min 6 sec ago

Saudis warn UN of oil spot in shipping lane near decaying Yemen tanker

  • The UN has been waiting for formal authorization from Yemen’s Houthi movement to send a mission to the tanker
  • The UN has warned that the Safer could spill four times as much oil as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia warned the UN Security Council on Wednesday that an “oil spot” had been seen in a shipping transit area 31 miles (50 km) west of a decaying tanker that is threatening to spill 1.1 million barrels of crude oil off the coast of Yemen.
The Safer tanker has been stranded off Yemen’s Red Sea oil terminal of Ras Issa for more than five years. The United Nations has warned that the Safer could spill four times as much oil as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska.
In a letter to the 15-member body, reviewed by Reuters, Saudi Arabia’s UN Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi wrote that experts had observed that “a pipeline attached to the vessel is suspected to have been separated from the stabilizers holding it to the bottom and is now floating on the surface of the sea.”
The United Nations has been waiting for formal authorization from Yemen’s Houthi movement to send a mission to the Safer tanker to conduct a technical assessment and whatever initial repairs might be feasible.
The Security Council and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have both called on the Houthis to grant access.
Al-Mouallimi wrote that the tanker “has reached a critical state of degradation, and that the situation is a serious threat to all Red Sea countries, particularly Yemen and Saudi Arabia,” adding “this dangerous situation must not be left unaddressed.”
Yemen has been mired in conflict since the Iran-allied Houthi group ousted the government from the capital Sanaa in 2014. A Saudi-led military coalition in 2015 intervened in a bid to restore the government.