Lebanese PM-designate to hold more talks in faltering bid to appoint cabinet

Lebanese PM-designate to hold more talks in faltering bid to appoint cabinet
Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib said on Thursday he would give more time for talks about the formation of a new government. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 17 September 2020

Lebanese PM-designate to hold more talks in faltering bid to appoint cabinet

Lebanese PM-designate to hold more talks in faltering bid to appoint cabinet
  • France has been leaning on Lebanon’s sectarian politicians to form a new cabinet and embark on reforms

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib said on Thursday he would give more time for talks about the formation of a new government as his faltering efforts raised doubts about a French initiative to lift the country out of a deep economic crisis.
France has been leaning on Lebanon’s sectarian politicians to form a new cabinet and embark on reforms to exit the crisis that is the worst facing the country since its 1975-1990 civil war. But a deadline of Sept. 15 that politicians had promised Paris they would meet has already been missed.
The process has been bogged down as Lebanon’s dominant Shiite Muslim factions, the Iran-backed Hezbollah and Amal Movement, have insisted on naming Shiite ministers in the cabinet and said these must include the finance minister.
Political sources say Adib has been working on proposals to switch control of ministries, many of which have been held by the same factions for years, as he seeks to deliver a government of specialist ministers to deliver reforms mapped out by France.

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READ MORE: Lebanon faces hurdles to deliver cabinet on time

More talks on Lebanese cabinet as deadline in doubt

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Lebanese media reports had indicated he might step down.
But after meeting President Michel Aoun, Adib said he had agreed “to hold off a bit to give more time for consultations.”
“I presented to the president the difficulties that are facing forming the government,” he said. “I know full well that we do not have the luxury of time. And we count on everyone’s cooperation.”
Adib, a Sunni Muslim, was designated prime minister on Aug. 31 by a clear majority of Lebanese parties under French pressure. He enjoys the backing of former Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, Lebanon’s leading Sunni politician.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, the Amal chief, became more insistent on naming the finance minister after Washington last week imposed sanctions on his senior aide for corruption and for enabling Hezbollah, political sources from several parties say.

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The aide, Ali Hassan Khalil, is a former finance minister.
The United States imposed sanctions on Thursday on two Lebanon-based companies and one individual it said were linked to Hezbollah, according to the US Treasury Department’s website.
The US Treasury Department blacklisted Lebanon-based Arch Consulting and Meamar Construction.


Syrian White Helmets given funds to make PPE 

Syrian White Helmets given funds to make PPE 
Updated 5 min 55 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.”