Dispute between Aoun and Hariri escalates in Lebanon

Dispute between Aoun and Hariri escalates in Lebanon
Lebanon's President Michel Aoun meets with former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon October 12, 2020. (REUTERS)
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Updated 22 January 2021

Dispute between Aoun and Hariri escalates in Lebanon

Dispute between Aoun and Hariri escalates in Lebanon
  • Deadlock continues as country awaits formation of new government

BEIRUT: The rift between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri over the formation of Lebanon’s new government widened on Friday.

Hariri was instructed to form a new government on Oct. 22, but no progress has yet been made, leaving the country in a political deadlock to add to its economic woes and the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Video footage was broadcast on Jan. 11 of a meeting between Aoun and the caretaker prime minister, Hassan Diab, in which Aoun accused Hariri of lying when he claimed that his proposed government lineup had been approved. Commentators have claimed that, in doing so, Aoun insulted the office of prime minister and head of government, thus widening the gulf between the president and the prime minister-designate. Over the past 10 days, several attempts to bridge that gap have failed.

On Friday, Aoun’s media office issued a statement in response to what it described as “analyses and articles suggesting that the president is the one who is putting obstacles in the face of the PM-designate to obstruct the government formation process.”

“The president did not ask for the obstructing third in the government,” the statement said, adding that “the head of the Strong Lebanon bloc, MP Gebran Bassil, did not obstruct the formation of the government, nor was he involved in this process at all.” Bassil is the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement and Aoun’s son-in-law.

The media office also denied that Hezbollah is “putting pressure on the president in the government formation matter.”

The statement said that “naming, nominating, and distributing the ministers to ministerial portfolios is not an exclusive right for the prime minister-designate, based on two articles in the Constitution,” adding that the president “has a constitutional right to approve the entire government before signing.”

“The president does not have to repeat his call on the prime minister-designate to go to the Baabda Palace, which is waiting for his arrival with a government lineup that takes into account the standards of fair representation in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, especially in light of the extremely pressing circumstances — on more than one level — to form the government,” the statement continued.

Hariri’s media advisor, Hussein Al-Wajh, said he was “surprised” by the statement issued by the presidency, and questioned whether it had been issued “on behalf of Gebran Bassil and not the president.”

Al-Wajh told Arab News: “No one is arguing about the powers of the president, but this has to do with issuing a decree to form the government in agreement with the prime minister-designate and signing the formation decree after the prime minister conducts parliamentary consultations to form the government.”

He continued: “Since the circumstances are extremely pressing, perhaps those concerned should go with the prime minister-designate’s (suggested) government lineup, which takes into account fair representation according to the constitution, not according to political and partisan quotas.”

Al-Wajh indicated that Hariri would not be willing to change his proposed lineup. “His aim is to form a government based on the standards of the constitution, the national interest, and the rules laid down by the French initiative. The problem is not with Hariri, but with Aoun, who objects and says he does not agree to this or that name, but gives no reason for his objections.”

MP Sami Fatfat, a member of the Future parliamentary bloc, said: “We have arrived at a deadlock between us and the president and we cannot overcome it. The president has the right and duty to debate all the names proposed in the formation process, but instead of debating, he has presented a proposal that is not based on the constitution.”

He went on to accuse the president of failing to act in accordance with the protocols of his position. “President Aoun must know that 65 MPs have assigned Hariri to head the government,” he said. “The president today acts as a party and as a head of a political party, not as a president entrusted with the constitution.”

Elsewhere on Friday, the regional director of the Mashreq department at the World Bank Group, Saroj Kumar Jha, stressed that the bank remains committed to discussions with Lebanon’s leaders about ways to strengthen the country’s economy and improve the lives of the many people in Lebanon who are living below the poverty line.

“The World Bank is greatly concerned and feels a responsibility to help to form the government,” Jha told Lebanon’s Central News Agency. “Things are getting worse every day.”


UN advance team arrives in Libya to monitor cease-fire

UN advance team arrives in Libya to monitor cease-fire
Updated 4 min 30 sec ago

UN advance team arrives in Libya to monitor cease-fire

UN advance team arrives in Libya to monitor cease-fire
  • The group of about 10 United Nations staff flew into the capital Tripoli on Tuesday
  • The unarmed observer team is also tasked with verifying the departure of thousands of mercenaries and foreign fighters
TRIPOLI: The advance team of a UN observer mission has arrived in Libya, which after a decade of conflict and chaos plans to hold elections in December, informed sources said Wednesday.
The group of about 10 United Nations staff flew into the capital Tripoli on Tuesday, they said, to monitor a cease-fire between the country’s two rival armed factions.
The unarmed observer team is also tasked with verifying the departure of thousands of mercenaries and foreign fighters who have been deployed in the oil-rich North African country and have so far shown no sign of leaving.
Libya was thrown into years of violent turmoil after a 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled and led to the killing of long-time dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
The country has been split between the UN-recognized Government of National Accord, based in the capital and backed by Turkey, and an administration in the east supported by strongman Kalifa Haftar, with the backing of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia.
The two sides reached a cease-fire in October, and UN-led talks since resulted in a new temporary administration elected in February, led by interim prime minister-designate Abdul Hamid Dbeibah.
A diplomatic source in Tunis said the advance team, made up from the UN mission in Libya and experts from UN headquarters in New York, arrived Tuesday via the neighboring country’s capital Tunis.
On its five-week mission it is to travel to Sirte, a city on the Mediterranean coast halfway between the eastern and western power centers, as well as to Misrata in the west and Benghazi in the east.
A diplomatic source in New York said the team is due to submit a report to the UN Security Council on March 19 on the cease-fire and the departure of foreign troops.
According to the UN, some 20,000 mercenaries and foreign fighters were still in Libya in early December. A January 23 deadline for their withdrawal passed without any signs of them pulling out.
The Security Council in early February ordered UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to deploy the vanguard of observers in Libya, following the October 23 cease-fire deal.
In a report late last year, Guterres himself had advocated an unarmed observer group be made up of civilians and retired military personnel from African Union, European Union and Arab League member states.

Turkey says it may negotiate maritime demarcation with Egypt if conditions allow

Turkey says it may negotiate maritime demarcation with Egypt if conditions allow
Updated 13 min 42 sec ago

Turkey says it may negotiate maritime demarcation with Egypt if conditions allow

Turkey says it may negotiate maritime demarcation with Egypt if conditions allow

ANKARA: Turkey and Egypt could negotiate a maritime demarcation agreement in the eastern Mediterranean if their ties, which have been strained, allow for such a move, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.
Last month, Egypt announced the start of a bid round for oil and natural gas exploration and exploitation in 24 blocks including some in the Mediterranean.
Speaking at a news conference with his Georgian counterpart in Ankara, Cavusoglu said Egypt’s exploration bids had respected Turkey’s continental shelf and that Ankara viewed this positively. 


UAE confirms 2,692 new COVID-19 cases, 16 deaths in last 24 hours

UAE confirms 2,692 new COVID-19 cases, 16 deaths in last 24 hours
Updated 31 min 46 sec ago

UAE confirms 2,692 new COVID-19 cases, 16 deaths in last 24 hours

UAE confirms 2,692 new COVID-19 cases, 16 deaths in last 24 hours
  • The country’s COVID-19 caseload is now at 399,463

DUBAI: The UAE confirmed 2,692 new coronavirus cases and 16 deaths on Wednesday as the Emirates continues to expand its testing of citizens and residents for the early detection of the highly contagious disease.

The country’s COVID-19 caseload is now at 399,463, with a total of 1,269 fatalities related to coronavirus.

Health officials have conducted 218,351 additional COVID-19 tests overnight, state news agency WAM said, with the total number of tests now over 31 million.

The UAE leads the world in terms of conducting coronavirus tests relative to the size of population, with infection rates compared to the total tests being among the lowest in the region and the entire world, WAM earlier said.

It is also tops the global tally on COVID-19 vaccinations after implementing a vaccination campaign to for residents and citizens to achieve mass immunity. More than six million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been provided and 3,614,070 people have been vaccinated to date, which accounts for 46.61 percent of the target population.


Pope says will make Iraq trip despite rocket attack

Pope says will make Iraq trip despite rocket attack
Updated 03 March 2021

Pope says will make Iraq trip despite rocket attack

Pope says will make Iraq trip despite rocket attack

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis said Wednesday he still expected to make his historic visit to Iraq in two days time, after a rocket attack on a military base hosting US-led coalition troops.
"The day after tomorrow, God willing, I will go to Iraq for a three-day pilgrimage. For a long time I have wanted to meet these people who have suffered so much," the 84-year-old Francis said in his weekly Wednesday address.
The Argentine pontiff asked for prayers for the trip, the first ever by a pope to Iraq, through which he hopes to encourage the dwindling Christian community to remain in their ancient homeland while broadening his outreach to Islam.
"I ask you to accompany this apostolic journey with your prayers so that it may take place in the best possible way and bear the hoped-for fruits," the pope said.
He added: "The Iraqi people are waiting for us, they were waiting for Saint John Paul II, who was forbidden to go. One cannot disappoint a people for the second time. Let us pray that this journey will be successful."
At least 10 rockets slammed into a military base in western Iraq hosting US-led coalition troops earlier on Wednesday, security sources said, leaving one civilian contractor dead.
The attack on the sprawling Ain al-Assad base in Iraq's western desert comes after several weeks of escalating US-Iran tensions on Iraqi soil.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for Francis said the pope would be travelling by armoured vehicle and that he would not be meeting crowds.
"This is a particular situation, that's why the transports will all be in a closed vehicle, meaning it will be complicated to see the pope on the streets," spokesman Matteo Brunei said.
"There will be a number of meetings but none will be more than a few hundred people," he said.


New government takes oath before Kuwait emir

New government takes oath before Kuwait emir
Updated 03 March 2021

New government takes oath before Kuwait emir

New government takes oath before Kuwait emir

DUBAI: Kuwait Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah called on the executive and legislative authorities in his country to cooperate as a new government took oath before him, according to state-run news agency KUNA. 

Sheikh Nawaf received at his Bayan Palace the prime minister, Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah to swear-in as head of cabinet.
Ministers of the new government were also sworn in.

The previous government had resigned in January.
Oil Minister Mohammad Abdulatif Al-Fares, Finance Minister Khalifa Hamade and Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Sabah were reappointed in the new cabinet.