Hezbollah, Gebran Bassil under fire over Lebanese government paralysis

Hezbollah, Gebran Bassil under fire over Lebanese government paralysis
Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil is shown receiving a “missile gift” from the Hezbollah in this picture posted on www.lebanonfiles.com. (Courtesy: www.lebanonfiles.com)
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Updated 02 November 2020

Hezbollah, Gebran Bassil under fire over Lebanese government paralysis

Hezbollah, Gebran Bassil under fire over Lebanese government paralysis
  • The main obstacle to forming a government is Gebran Bassil, who has returned to his old demands,” says leading figure in Hariri’s Future Movement

BEIRUT: Frustration mounted in Lebanon on Sunday amid continuing paralysis in the formation of a new government, with fingers pointed at the Iran-backed Hezbollah group and Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil as the source of the blockage.

Eleven days after former prime minister Saad Hariri was asked to resume office and assemble an administration of non-party technocrats, no date has even been set for a meeting with President Michel Aoun.

“We do not know if the obstructing parties actually want to form a government. It is about party quotas again, regarding the number of ministers and the rotation of portfolios,” senior Hariri adviser Hussein Al-Wajh told Arab News.

Dr. Mustafa Alloush, a leading figure in Hariri’s Future Movement, told Arab News: “The main obstacle to forming a government is Gebran Bassil, who has returned to his old demands.”

Hariri resigned as prime minister in October 2019 amid a wave of public protests over financial corruption, government ineptitude and a collapsing economy. Neither of his successors, Hassan Diab and Mustapha Adib, was able to restore stability, and Lebanon has been without a government since September.

At the prompting of French President Emmanuel Macron, Hariri offered to lead a technocratic Cabinet in an initiative seen as opening the door to desperately needed international aid and a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

Former minister Ahmed Fatfat told Arab News: “Hariri’s project is a mini-government of specialists, which would not be against anyone or against the country, but Hezbollah stands behind the play of Gebran Bassil.”

Health chiefs fear the government stalemate is compromising Lebanon’s ability to combat the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected more than 80,000 people and killed 637. Caretaker Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmy on Sunday rejected a recommendation by the government’s National Health Committee for a national lockdown, and instead imposed restrictions in 115 towns.

The head of the Doctors Syndicate, Sharaf Abu Sharaf, called for a “complete shutdown similar to the one that took place at the beginning of the virus outbreak.”

He said: “The capacity of hospitals to absorb patients has reached its limit, and the health, recovery and financial situation is very poor. The medical and nursing sector is witnessing a large migration out of Lebanon, and there are no incentives to persuade them to stay.”


Lebanon patriarch tells feuding president and PM-designate to reconcile

Lebanon patriarch tells feuding president and PM-designate to reconcile
Updated 15 sec ago

Lebanon patriarch tells feuding president and PM-designate to reconcile

Lebanon patriarch tells feuding president and PM-designate to reconcile
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s top Christian cleric has urged President Michel Aoun to set up a reconciliation meeting with Prime Minister-designate Saad Al-Hariri to form a cabinet and end the country’s political deadlock.
The country’s fractious politicians have been unable to agree on a new administration since the last one quit in the aftermath of the Aug. 4 Beirut port explosion, leaving Lebanon rudderless as it sinks deeper into economic crisis.
Tensions between Aoun and Hariri, who publicly traded blame in December after failing to agree a cabinet, came to a head last week when a leaked video showed Aoun apparently calling Hariri a liar.
Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai said at his Sunday sermon that the situation in Lebanon was now “tragic” and there was no excuse to further delay forming a government.
“We wish that his excellency the president take the initiative and invite the prime minister-designate to a meeting.”
Veteran Sunni politician Hariri was named premier for a fourth time in October, promising to form a cabinet of specialists to enact reforms necessary to unlock foreign aid, but political wrangling has delayed the process since.
The leaked video that circulated on social media last week showed Aoun talking to caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab about Hariri.
“There is no government formation, he (Hariri) is saying he gave me a paper, he is lying,” Aoun is heard saying.
Sources in the president’s office said the dialogue had been taken out of context and was not complete.
After the video circulated, Hariri tweeted biblical verses referring to wisdom not residing in bodies that were amenable to sin.
The souring of the relationship between Aoun and Hariri comes as the country continues to struggle with an acute financial crisis that has seen the currency sink by about 80%.
Lebanon’s health care system is also buckling under the pressure of a severe spike in COVID-19 infections. Medical supplies have dwindled as dollars have grown scarce.