US not opposed to French initiative but it won’t adopt it

Macron considered the draft as a road map for the next cabinet. (AP)
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Updated 04 September 2020

US not opposed to French initiative but it won’t adopt it

  • Macron move might fail if it keeps betting on Hezbollah and covering its arms, says US official

BEIRUT: On the second day of his visit to Lebanon; the last stop of his Middle Eastern tour, US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker met with civil society activists.

An activist who was present at a luncheon organized at one of the activists’ houses in the presence of Schenker told Arab News that the latter said: “The US will not stand against the French initiative, which will probably fail if it keeps betting on Hezbollah and covering its arms. Things do not work this way. We do not believe that Hezbollah is a legitimate political organization, but a terrorist one. A political organization certainly does not have militias.”

According to the activist, Schenker said: “The sanctions considered by the American side against Hezbollah’s allies have not yet reached an advanced stage.”

The activist, who wished to remain anonymous, said that “Schenker is living with the prospect of the US presidential elections.” According to the activist, Schenker said: “The French are leading an initiative without taking into consideration the American perspective, so let them try. They have two months before the results, which will define the US perspective, depending on whether the Trump administration returns to power or not.”

The activist said that Schenker had listened to the activists’ opinions regarding the French initiative and their demand to hold early parliamentary elections or stick to the preset date without causing any delay.

According to Arab News sources, Schenker also met academics and economics from Lebanese banks, representatives from the World Bank in Lebanon and resigned lawmakers. He also met the Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun, UNIFIL officials, and the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis. He also visited the USAIDS centers which are currently providing aids to the people affected by the Beirut blast.

Middle East and North Africa Director at the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) Laury Haytayan, who took part in the meeting between Schenker and civil society representatives said the meeting aimed at “getting to know each other and sharing our views regarding what is going to happen next and the efforts of the groups that emerged from the Lebanese uprising that broke out in October 2019.”

She said: “We stressed during the meeting our readiness for the parliamentary elections.”

Talking to Annahar, Schenker said: “Hezbollah is not interested in reforms, but has taken advantage of corruption.” He said his meetings with civil society activists aimed at checking “their vision for reforms and making the government commit to reforms, transparency and fight against corruption.”

“The US remains the principal donor for Lebanon and we are currently working on a large assistance package to help the Lebanese through NGOs and the World Food Program,” he added.

During his visit to Lebanon, Schenker avoided meeting with any Lebanese officials, as he considered that “a government is being formed in Lebanon, and this is a national affair.” However, he considered that “the next government should not be like the previous one or the one before, and should focus instead on implementing reforms, combating corruption and committing to accountability and impartiality.”

Mustapha Adib, Lebanon’s new PM-designate, briefed the Lebanese President Michel Aoun on the outcome of the parliamentary consultations he conducted on Wednesday. After the meeting, Adib said he is seeking “to form a coherent action team and a government of specialists to start implementing reforms immediately.”

Adib revealed that he prefers to form a government of 14 ministers, while Aoun is pushing for 24 ministers.

The French Embassy elaborated a draft program for the next government that President Macron delivered to the representatives of Lebanese parties he had met on Tuesday at the Pine Residence. Macron considered the draft as a road map for the next cabinet.

The draft program “gives the priority to fighting the coronavirus pandemic and for the humanitarian situation, as well as addressing the repercussions of the Beirut blast, reconstructing Beirut, and facilitating the access of aids provided by the international community in an expeditious, transparent and effective manner.”

Regarding the reforms, the draft program required “the prompt resumption of negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and expeditious approval of the preventive measures required by the IMF, including the legislation related to capital control and the auditing of Banque du Liban’s (BDL) accounts.”

The French draft program also required implementing urgent reforms in the electricity sector within one month, appointing officials in the sector, launching bidding invitations related to the gas power plants and dropping the Selaata project as presently drafted (which the Free Patriotic Movement is still holding on to).

The draft also covered “the financial, judicial and sectoral designations, in line with transparent standards based on efficiency as well as the parliament’s approval of proposing a law related to the independence of the judiciary.” It also included “appointing members of the national anti-corruption commission, supporting the commission to carry out its tasks, implementing the urgent customs’ reforms and developing and adopting a homogeneous budget for 2021 before the end of 2020, in addition to holding new legislative elections within a maximum period of one year.”

Egyptian ministry of irrigation — torrent season begins

A general view of the High Dam in Aswan, Egypt February 19, 2020. (REUTERS
Updated 6 min 20 sec ago

Egyptian ministry of irrigation — torrent season begins

  • Preliminary indications of the flood showed that it is higher than average and that the incoming waters during August and September are so far higher than those of last year

CAIRO: Egypt’s flood season began in August and will continue for three months — and the torrent season is about to begin — Mohamed El-Sebaei, spokesman for the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, has confirmed.

The Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation continues to prepare for the torrent season and to deal with flooding, which has caused the levels of the Nile to rise significantly over the past few days.

El-Sebaei said the ministry is monitoring the quantities of water that reach Egypt and accumulate in front of the High Dam on a daily basis, pointing out that the Minister of Irrigation, Mohamed Abdel-Ati, has been in Aswan since yesterday to inspect the water facilities of the High Dam.

He said that the torrential season is about to start in the period between autumn and winter, and that the ministry is following up with all torrent, canal and drain networks to ensure that they are ready to receive any volume of water and to preserve private and public property.

The ministry is preparing to cope with the torrents and rains expected to occur during autumn and winter by preparing Lake Nasser, located behind the High Dam, which is one of the most important strategic points in containing the quantities of water coming from the Ethiopian plateau.

The Egyptian River Revenue Regulatory Committee, in its meeting headed by Abdel-Ati, reviewed the situation of the Nile flood, the procedures for monitoring, analyzing and evaluating its condition, and the quantities of water expected to arrive until the end of the current water year 2021-2022.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Irrigation, the rates of rain in the sources of the Nile is expected to start decreasing by the end of September.

Preliminary indications of the flood showed that it is higher than average and that the incoming waters during August and September are so far higher than those of last year. Is still too early to make a final judgment on the type and size of this year’s flood.

Eman El-Sayed, head of the planning sector and head of the forecast center at the Ministry of Irrigation, said the center works to calculate the rates of rain that fall on the upper Nile River countries until it reaches the country on a daily basis. She explained that the latest technology is used to take satellite images and download mathematical models to determine the amount of rain falling and when it will fall.

El-Sayed added that the ministry holds two meetings every week to discuss the developments of the flood season, which have been confirmed more than once to be very high — once during the meeting of the River Revenue Regulatory Committee and the other during the Leadership Committee meeting.

She pointed to the development of three scenarios to deal with a flood. If it comes at a power 10 percent stronger than expected, it will be water drainage as usual. If it comes 50 percent stronger than expected, the excess will be dealt with through drains and waterways and the Toshka spillway will open. If it is stronger than that, the country will declare a state of emergency, she said.