France backs Hariri bid to break Lebanon deadlock

France backs Hariri bid to break Lebanon deadlock
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks to the media in Leidschendam, Netherlands, August 18, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 September 2020

France backs Hariri bid to break Lebanon deadlock

France backs Hariri bid to break Lebanon deadlock
  • Hariri said that he will assist PM-designate Mustapha Adib in naming an FM from the Shiite community, chosen by Adib on the basis of “competence, integrity and lack of party affiliation”
  • Hariri described his initiative as “taking poison alone once again,” while the French foreign ministry praised his efforts as “courageous and in the national interest of Lebanon”

BEIRUT: France has welcomed former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri’s attempts to end the deadlock over the formation of a new government as the country confronts an increasingly urgent political and economic crisis.

Hariri said on Tuesday that he will assist Mustapha Adib, the prime minister-designate, in naming a finance minister from the Shiite community, chosen by Adib on the basis of “competence, integrity and lack of party affiliation.”

The former leader’s initiative appeared to be a concession to Amal Movement and Hezbollah demands that the portfolio be given to a Shiite MP nominated by both parties. Previously he had insisted the portfolio should be rotated between the rival political factions.

Hariri described his initiative as “taking poison alone once again,” while the French foreign ministry praised his efforts as “courageous and in the national interest of Lebanon.”

France’s response helped ease the pessimism that followed Lebanon’s failure to meet a deadline for the formation of a new government.

On Sept. 1, French President Emmanuel Macron gave rival Lebanese parties two weeks to form a mini-government of specialized ministers, with portfolios to be rotated between rival factions, saying that the government’s task should be exclusively to implement required reforms.

Paris has made widespread political and economic reform a condition of financial aid in the wake of the devastating Beirut port blast in early August.

The French foreign ministry said that Hariri’s initiative “constitutes an openness, the importance of which must be appreciated by all, in order for the mission government to be formed.”

It added: “This is what the Lebanese and Lebanon’s international partners want in these critical moments.”

The ministry called on “Lebanese political leaders to respect the commitments they made to President Macron, with the sole aim of meeting the urgent needs of Lebanon.” It promised that “France will continue to stand by Lebanon, and will ensure that the terms of international support for Lebanon are respected at every stage.”

On Wednesday, Adib said that he hoped to form a government “in consultation with President Michel Aoun that satisfies all the Lebanese and works to implement the economic, financial and monetary reforms stipulated in the French initiative.”

Hezbollah and the Amal Movement made no immediate response to Hariri’s move. 

Deputy Parliament Speaker Elie Ferzli said after meeting the head of the Amal Movement, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, that “there is promising potential to form a government, but we must wait.”

Hariri’s initiative is a “development that must be valued,” Ferzli added.

The Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), which refused to link the finance portfolio to a Shiite figure, said it hoped “Hariri’s initiative will contribute to a solution and that a productive government will be formed to implement reforms.”

Alain Aoun, an MP and FPM member, said: “The Hariri initiative opened a door that may be expanded to reach a new government.”

Sources close to Hariri said that he had retreated from his stance on the finance ministry after a phone call with Macron.

However, the former prime minister warned that the decision to designate a Shiite minister for the finance portfolio “is a one-time event and does not constitute a custom on which to build future governments.”

He described the step as “necessary to prevent the collapse of Lebanon and to save the Lebanese.”

Meanwhile, Lebanese journalist and activist Naufal Daou appeared before the Lebanese judiciary in a lawsuit filed by Health Minister and Hezbollah MP Hamad Hassan over claims that Iranian drugs and medicines had entered Lebanon illegally without undergoing required tests.

Daou said that he opened the Iranian medicine file during the term of former health minister Jamil Jabak, and described his summoning as “an attempt to silence a voice.”

He added: “Everything that comes to us from Iran is outside the law, ranging from medicine to weapons. As a journalist, if I commit a mistake, I must be tried before the publications court, not before the Criminal Investigation Department.”

Daou is a member of the Our Lady of the Mountain, a group that opposes Hezbollah.

Former MP Faris Saeed, who is also a member of the group, told Arab News that summoning Daou to appear before the judiciary “shows the administration has no tolerance and the Lebanese judiciary is working to implement political desires.”

The Media Against Violence Association condemned what it said was an attack on freedom of speech and expression.

“Freedom of expression is a red line in defense of a free and democratic Lebanon,” the association said.


Syrian White Helmets given funds to make PPE 

Syrian White Helmets given funds to make PPE 
Updated 6 min 22 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.”