Lebanon’s parliamentary blocs to help Hariri form new government

Lebanon’s parliamentary blocs to help Hariri form new government
Saad Hariri (C) arrives for a meeting with President Aoun, after the latter named him to form a new cabinet, at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of the capital Beirut, on October 22, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 23 October 2020

Lebanon’s parliamentary blocs to help Hariri form new government

Lebanon’s parliamentary blocs to help Hariri form new government
  • Lawmakers emphasize need to expedite reform process
  • Parliamentary blocs that met Hariri expressed a sense of optimism and cooperation

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri on Friday held consultations with lawmakers about the new government he will form.
He held the non-binding meetings at the parliament’s headquarters despite the damage it suffered after the Beirut Port explosion on Aug. 4.
There were tough security measures at entrances leading to parliament and there were no protests nearby, despite activists’ anger about Hariri’s nomination to lead the country. He resigned a year ago as prime minister following massive demonstrations against Lebanon’s political elite. 
“Hariri is sticking to forming a government of non-party member specialists whose mission is to implement economic, financial, and administrative reforms as cited by the French initiative, which the parliamentary blocs vowed to support,” sources close to Hariri told Arab News. “Hariri listened to the points of view of the lawmakers, noting that since his nomination he has not talked to anyone about details related to the government which he intends to form.”
Parliamentary blocs that met Hariri expressed a sense of optimism and cooperation, especially those that did not nominate him on Thursday to form the government. Representatives of these blocs were unanimous in emphasizing the importance of speeding up the reform process to save the country from its economic crisis.
“Talks were straightforward and open,” lawmaker Gebran Bassil said after his meeting. “There is no personal problem with Hariri and we are extremely positive, and we are concerned in implementing the reforms cited by the French proposal.”
He asked that reforms start with a forensic investigation and the imposition of capital control, and to agree on a joint program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“The priority is for qualified people and we wait for what President Michel Aoun and Hariri will agree on, so that we determine our stance toward forming the government, noting that we are ready to facilitate the process.”
Lawmaker Mohammed Raad, head of Hezbollah parliamentary bloc, said after his Hariri meeting: “We tendered our point of view regarding the role of the government, and this is something that we consented on to a large extent. We discussed reform issues related to administration, the judiciary, and control agencies, calling for rectifying the financial and banking situation, in addition to other issues cited in the French initiative which we vowed to support 90 percent of them. We advised to adopt a method whereas each minister would hold one portfolio so that he would be capable of sorting out its problems. We advised not to have a small government, and to have between 22 and 24 ministers, and expressed our readiness to cooperate.”
Former Prime Minister Tammam Salam said he hoped that the government would be formed by a harmonious team to implement the required reforms during a three to six month period. “Parliament is there to question and hold accountability, in addition to follow up all government actions, and this cannot be achieved during this period in a traditional way as if things are all fine in the country.”
Dr. Nasser Yassin said that the spirit of openness and cooperation after a period of acrimony and accusation was about maintaining a minimum level of stability in Lebanon within the framework of the French initiative.
“The collapse of Lebanon affects neighboring countries, and we have already seen refugee boats sailing in the direction of Cyprus,” he told Arab News. “Nobody wants to increase the crises of the region, the crises of Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya are enough, and what is needed is to maintain a minimum stability in Lebanon. I do not see new equations.”
He added that what was happening in Lebanon was the failure of some in leading the country, the attempts of some parties to undermine the role of other parties, and the game to save the political order while maintaining the same political behavior. 


Syrian White Helmets given funds to make PPE 

Syrian White Helmets given funds to make PPE 
Updated 24 min 8 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.”