Lebanon’s biggest Christian party says won’t back Hariri for PM

Lebanon’s largest Christian political party said on Saturday it would not back the nomination of former Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri to lead a government to tackle a deep economic crisis. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 17 October 2020

Lebanon’s biggest Christian party says won’t back Hariri for PM

  • Hariri could still secure a parliamentary majority if Hezbollah and Amal endorse him for premier
  • But the absence of support from either of the main Christian blocs would hand him at best a fragile mandate to tackle Lebanon’s crisis

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s largest Christian political party said on Saturday it would not back the nomination of former Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri to lead a government to tackle a deep economic crisis, further complicating efforts to agree a new premier.
Hariri, who quit as prime minister last October in the face of nationwide protests, has said he is ready to lead a government to implement reforms proposed by France as a way to unlock badly needed international aid.
But Hariri, Lebanon’s most prominent Sunni Muslim politician, has failed to win backing from the two main Christian parties — the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Lebanese Forces.
Parliamentary consultations to name a new prime minister were due to be held last Thursday, but President Michel Aoun postponed the discussions after receiving requests for a delay from some parliamentary blocs.
The FPM, which is led by Aoun’s son-in-law Gebran Bassil, said it could not back a political figure such as Hariri because French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal had called for a reformist government made up of and led by “specialists.”
As a result, the party’s political council “decided unanimously not to nominate... Hariri to lead the government,” a statement said, adding that Aoun’s week-long postponement would not lead the party to reconsider its position.
Hariri could still secure a parliamentary majority if the powerful Shiite group Hezbollah and its ally Amal endorse him for premier.
But the absence of support from either of the main Christian blocs would hand him at best a fragile mandate to tackle Lebanon’s gravest crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
The country has plunged into financial turmoil and the value of the Lebanese pound has collapsed. COVID-19 and a huge explosion at Beirut’s port two months ago have compounded the crisis and pushed many Lebanese into poverty.
Hariri, who has served twice as prime minister, resigned two weeks after huge protests erupted exactly a year ago.
The demonstrations, triggered by plans to tax voice calls made through the Facebook-owned WhatsApp messaging application, grew into wider protests against Lebanon’s political elite.


Iran breaks its record for most new coronavirus cases in one day

Updated 20 October 2020

Iran breaks its record for most new coronavirus cases in one day

  • Iran, which emerged early on as an epicenter of the virus, has seen its worst wave of deaths from the illness in recent weeks
TEHRAN: Iran on Tuesday reported its highest single-day toll of new coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic with more than 5,000 new infections, as the country struggles to cope with a surge in transmission.
Iran’s health ministry also reported that 322 people had died from the virus, pushing the death toll over 31,000. The new infection count on Tuesday eclipsed the previous high of 4,830 last week, shining a light on the nation’s floundering efforts to combat the virus.
Iran, which emerged early on as an epicenter of the virus, has seen its worst wave of deaths from the illness in recent weeks. Monday’s death toll shattered its previous single-day record, prompting state news outlets to declare it a “black day.”
Hospitals in the hard-hit capital of Tehran are overflowing. Last week, health officials announced that the city had run out of intensive care beds for virus patients.
The increase comes after Iranians packed cafes and restaurants at vacation spots during recent national holidays, and after schools reopened for in-person instruction last month.
The government has resisted a total lockdown because it does not want to further weaken an economy already devastated by unprecedented US sanctions. The Trump administration re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran after withdrawing in 2018 from Tehran’s nuclear accord with world powers.
With the death toll skyrocketing, authorities are now starting to impose more restrictions. The government closed museums, libraries, beauty salons, schools and universities in Tehran earlier this month, and imposed a mask mandate outdoors.