Lebanon decides on new PM as Macron visits

Lebanon decides on new PM as Macron visits
Lebanon's newly appointed premier Mustapha Adib (C) speaks during a press conference at the presidential palace in Baabda. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 31 August 2020

Lebanon decides on new PM as Macron visits

Lebanon decides on new PM as Macron visits
  • Macron was due to return less than a month after a landmark visit following the deadly Beirut port blast
  • Parliamentary consultations at the presidential place on a new prime minister started on Monday morning

BEIRUT: Lebanon's under-fire political leaders scrambled into action as French President Emmanuel Macron was expected Monday for a fresh visit aimed at pushing change in the crisis-hit country.
Macron was due to return less than a month after a landmark visit following the deadly Beirut port blast that traumatised Lebanon and renewed calls for a radical overhaul of the political system.
Parliamentary consultations at the presidential place on a new prime minister started on Monday morning, with most of the ruling elite's top barons apparently settling on a little-known diplomat, Lebanon's ambassador to Germany Mustapha Adib.
Already dismissed by the opposition as a product of Lebanon's reviled sectarian-based politics, Adib faces the daunting task of steering the state through one of the deepest crises of its troubled 100-year history.
The Beirut blast, one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history, is widely blamed on government greed and incompetence and compounds the collapse of Lebanon's economy over the past few months.
A vast stockpile of ammonium nitrate that had languished at Beirut's port for years blew up on August 4, killing at least 188 people, wounding thousands and laying waste to large parts of the capital.
Macron demanded "deep change" when he visited Beirut on August 6 and warned then he would check on progress when he returns for the September 1 ceremony marking the centenary of Greater Lebanon.
President Michel Aoun and his political ally, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, both expressed willingness in separate speeches Sunday to change the way Lebanon is governed.

The 85-year-old Aoun, a hate figure in the protest camp who regards him as deaf to calls for change, even urged the proclamation of a secular state.
Suspicion was rife however that Lebanon's long-serving heavyweights were only paying lip service to reform ahead of Macron's visit, expected to start around 1700 GMT.
"When the political class talks about the introduction of the civil state, it reminds me of the devil talking about virtue, it doesn't make sense," said political science professor Hilal Khashan.
"There is a big difference between raising a slogan and really putting it to work," said the academic from the American University of Beirut.
Adib's designation "will not usher in a new period in Lebanese history and I don't think it will put Lebanon on the road of genuine political development."
Adib emerged as a consensus option on Sunday.
The 48-year-old diplomat and close aide to former prime minister Najib Mikati received backing from the country's Sunni Muslim political heavyweights.
Adib still needs to be formally approved during Monday's consultations, but enough major factions endorsed him for his nomination to go through.
The only major dissenting voice within the political establishment came from the Lebanese Forces party which backed instead Nawaf Salam, an independent diplomat who also served as a judge at the International Court of Justice.
Under multi-confessional Lebanon's political system, the premier must be a Sunni, the presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian and the post of parliamentary speaker goes to a Shiite.

A majority of lawmakers must decide on whom to name as premier before Aoun tasks the candidate with forming a new government, a process that can take months.
Lebanon's last government, headed by Hassan Diab, resigned after the massive explosion.
The deadly blast, blamed on decades of negligence and corruption by the country's ruling elite, revived calls at home and abroad for radical revamp of the state.
It also sparked demands for an international probe into the blast, which were however met with objections from political leaders.
Those who have taken to the streets in mass protests since October 17 against the politicians they deem corrupt and inept have already rejected any name that might emerge from the parliamentary consultations.
Despite promises of change, the process of forming the new government follows the same blueprint that has chronically mired Lebanon in political deadlock.
Social media networks abounded with posts questioning whether a government formed by Adib would be any more effective than Diab's, which was formed in January but failed to lift the country out of crisis.
Hassan Sinno, a member of the Massirat Watan opposition group, said the political class's new choice for the job of prime minister would not be given the same grace period Diab enjoyed.
"We won't give him the time, like some of us made the mistake of doing for Hassan Diab," he told AFP. "We can't afford it this time."
On the eve of Lebanon's sombre centenary, many citizens were planning to leave the country and asked whether Lebanon would live to be 101.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian argued last week that only serious reforms could save Lebanon, warning that "the risk today is of Lebanon disappearing".
ho/jmm/fz


Syrian White Helmets given funds to make PPE 

Syrian White Helmets given funds to make PPE 
Updated 38 min 28 sec ago

Syrian White Helmets given funds to make PPE 

Syrian White Helmets given funds to make PPE 
  • With millions living in tents across country’s northwest, threat of COVID-19 is severe
  • $1.6m awarded by non-profit organization funded by UK, US, Canadian, Dutch governments

LONDON: Syria’s White Helmets, the civilian rescue group that recovers victims from rubble after airstrikes in the war-torn country, is now making personal protective equipment (PPE) to further its life-saving mission.
The civil defense service, which has worked to reduce the harm of indiscriminate shelling from the Assad regime, has received a $1.6 million award for the production of PPE from a non-profit organization funded by the UK, US, Canadian and Dutch governments.
Funds from the Humanitarian Grand Challenge group have led to the creation of a PPE-producing facility that has manufactured some 2 million masks.
It is also producing protective gowns and face shields — key equipment in the fight against COVID-19 — and handling the disposal of used PPE for northwest Syria’s population, who live in a precarious area that is predominantly out of the regime’s control. 
“The COVID-19 pandemic was the most difficult challenge the White Helmets faced in 2020,” said Munir Mustafa, its deputy general manager for humanitarian affairs.
“We witnessed the spread of the virus in north-western Syria among humanitarian workers and medical personnel, while the global pandemic made cross-borders logistics almost impossible.”
The White Helmets has enhanced community efforts to keep people safe from COVID-19 amid pressing security challenges.
“Our volunteers and fellow humanitarians, health care providers and other essential workers are safer now and can continue caring for Syrian civilians and responding to the pandemic,” Mustafa said.
The White Helmets, established in 2014, was originally formed for search-and-rescue efforts and to broaden the provision of first responders. It claims to have saved some 120,000 lives.
Its role has developed as challenges facing the Syrian people have grown. Violence in the country has demolished health care facilities, decimating communities and cutting off millions from crucial medical care. 
The bombing of civilian areas has forced many to flee to temporary refugee facilities that are often cramped and in poor condition.
With millions living in tents across the country’s northwest, the threat of COVID-19 is severe.
Around 500 cases of COVID-19 are being recorded per day in northwest Syria, but experts say the true number is much higher due to inadequate testing infrastructure.
The Humanitarian Grand Challenge said: “The White Helmets’ ability to manufacture and distribute personal protective equipment inside Syria will not only protect those working in the overwhelmed health system, but reduce the spread of the virus among the most vulnerable.”