Hezbollah should have no role in Lebanon’s future, says Bahaa Hariri, son of Rafik Hariri

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Updated 30 March 2021

Hezbollah should have no role in Lebanon’s future, says Bahaa Hariri, son of Rafik Hariri

Hezbollah should have no role in Lebanon’s future, says Bahaa Hariri, son of Rafik Hariri
  • Broad alliance needed to implement unfinished business of 1989 Taif Agreement, Bahaa Hariri tells Frankly Speaking
  • He contrasts contribution of “true friend” Saudi Arabia with part played by Iran, which has never “given us a penny”

DUBAI: Bahaa Hariri, the eldest son of slain Lebanese statesman Rafik Hariri, is calling for a broad alliance — a “supermajority” — to coalesce around a plan to agree on the way forward for Lebanon as it faces multiple crises.

Such an alliance is needed to implement the unfinished business of the Taif Agreement, the peace deal brokered by Saudi Arabia 30 years ago, Bahaa said as he gave a candid assessment of Lebanon’s situation on Frankly Speaking, the televised interview in which senior Middle East policymakers are questioned on their views about the most important issues of the day.

“We have to make sure that across the sectarian divide, the forces of moderation go hand in hand to put (together) a complete comprehensive plan — whether it’s an economic plan, a COVID-19 plan, a constitutional plan, a judiciary plan, or a security plan,” he said, noting that Lebanese was “at the precipice.”

 

 

Bahaa, a billionaire Lebanese businessman, added: “We seek the full support of Saudi Arabia to make sure of the full implementation of the Taif Accord. It is key for us that Saudi Arabia helps us out and supports us in this. That's the key.”

The Taif Agreement, signed in 1989 under Saudi auspices at the end of the bitter civil war, had never been fully implemented, Bahaa said, but remained as a blueprint for achieving progress in the country. “If we are going to come to the Arab world and the international community, they’ll tell us you have an accord, but three-quarters of it hasn’t been executed,” he said.

“If we want a new accord, it may take us another 10 years and maybe half a million dead.”

Referring to the Taif Agreement, Bahaa said: “We need to make sure that this accord is executed to the letter: The separation of religion from the executive and the legislative branches; the establishment of a senate that protects minorities; the establishment of an independent judiciary; and an electoral law that meets the aspirations of all Lebanese. And that we have a new election.”

 

 

Having said that, Bahaa made it clear he had no plans to put himself forward as a possible leader of Lebanon as it continues months-long attempts to form a new administration. "I don't have all the answers to many questions and I don't want to be the leader,” he said.

“Today, we don't have a civil war - we have complete mismanagement of a configuration that is in complete divorce. That configuration, of course, is Hezbollah, and the warlords and whoever supported them.

“The situation is only getting worse and that's why we believe that the economic plan and the entire plan that we're putting together has to be around a non-sectarian government, a technocratic government that takes the agenda moving forward.”

By the same token, Bahaa said there should be no role for Iran-backed Hezbollah in the new agenda, and castigated Iran for its destructive interference in Lebanon’s affairs.

“Iran has never given us a penny. It has always supported a terrorist organization called Hezbollah, which is not the Lebanese people but only a sect within the Lebanese people. It has killed people and has tried to destroy everything we're trying, as good Lebanese, to move forward,” he said angrily.

Bahaa contrasted the part Iran has played with the role played by Saudi Arabia, which he said had been a “true friend” of Lebanon. “Saudi Arabia has done a lot for Lebanon. It has helped us with the Taif Accord, and on political stability. It has helped us in putting billions of dollar deposits after Taif to stabilize the currency,” he said.

“It was always in the lead in encouraging other GCC nations in pouring foreign direct investment in the Central Bank to stabilize Lebanon, and encourage foreign direct investments from the Arab world to invest in Lebanon.”

Bahaa would welcome constructive involvement from the international community to help solve Lebanon’s ongoing crisis, but is wary of further involvement by Emmanuel Macron after the French leader called for the involvement of Hezbollah in the reform process.

 

 

“We welcomed (France’s) help, and we welcome any initiative, but as we have said, it has to fall in line with the aspirations of the revolution,” Bahaa said, referring to the protest movement that appeared in Lebanon in October 2019 and intensified after the horrific explosion at Beirut port last summer.

“We welcome all efforts from the international community, but the most important thing is that it has to meet the aspirations of the Lebanese. The Lebanese want total divorce of Hezbollah and the warlords. I don't think Lebanon can afford any more patch-up solutions.”

Bahaa is also hopeful that the new Biden administration in the US, as well as British and European governments, can be persuaded to get involved in the Lebanese reform process. Equally, he is optimistic that the new opportunities presented by the Abraham Accords, as well as the reopening of trade and economic relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, can defuse tensions in the Middle East and Lebanon.

Hezbollah is suing Hariri in the Lebanese judicial system after he blamed the Iran-backed group for the explosion, but he is determined to defend the case strenuously. “The alleged offense is that we have tarnished the reputation of a branded global terrorist organization,” Bahaa said. “We believe that — based on the most reputable investigative reporters of the world — that they control the port. Fine, if that's the case. We have the best lawyers who will defend our case.”

The Aug. 19, 2020, verdict of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which investigated the 2005 assassination of his father, represented “closure” in the case, but added that there remained substantial evidence of the responsibility of Hezbollah’s senior leadership.“These courts are not after a party; they are after individuals. The courts were very clear in saying that they had evidence, but not enough evidence to indict the others,” Bahaa said.

As for his father’s legacy, Bahaa said it has been squandered in the sense that the opportunities presented by the Taif Agreement have been wasted by successive Lebanese politicians who are responsible for the current dire condition of the country. “We were almost there, and (the current political leaders) have to bear the full brunt and the responsibility of what happened,” he said.

Speaking about his younger brother, Saad Hariri, who was prime minister of Lebanon for six of the last 11 years, Bahaa said his fraternal affection remains, but that political differences were insurmountable, especially relating to Hezbollah and the influence of Lebanese “warlords” over the political process.




Bahaa Hariri said the forces of moderation in Lebanon need to work together across the sectarian divide to tackle the countries crises. (Screenshot/AN Photo)

“He is my little brother and I love him very much. This will never change — not today, not tomorrow, not till the end of my days,” Bahaa said. “But you cannot solve the problems when these cronies are the problem, okay. This hasn't happened just for a year or two; we've been on it for almost 16 years now.”

Thus, he rules out supporting Saad in his efforts to form a new government if he includes terrorist-designated Hezbollah in the administration. “I have stark differences politically with him,” Bahaa said. Asked if he would support Saad in a Hezbollah-influenced government, his reply was: “Absolutely not.”

Bahaa judged that the current Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, was under also the influence of “warlords,” and that international sanctions should be extended to other members of the political establishment, in addition to Aoun’s son-in-law Gebran Bassil, who was placed under US sanctions on corruption charges last year.

“It’s not enough. I think others have to be sanctioned,” Bahaa said. “It is the same for all the warlords, not only one. We cannot take one and isolate the others.” However, he declined to identify further potential targets for sanctions “because in the justice system you are innocent until proven guilty.”

Having been involved in business in Saudi Arabia, Bahaa believes the latest peace breakthroughs in the Middle East can lead to a revival of economic activity and an influx of foreign investment, despite the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The biggest venture of his new business enterprise - the $500 million Al-Abdali development in Amman, Jordan - had been only marginally affected by the economic slowdown, he said.

Watch full episode below:

 

 

Twitter: @frankkanedubai


East Libya forces say 2 helicopters crashed, killing 2

East Libya forces say 2 helicopters crashed, killing 2
Updated 32 sec ago

East Libya forces say 2 helicopters crashed, killing 2

East Libya forces say 2 helicopters crashed, killing 2
  • The self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces said the helicopters collided in the air over the village of Msus
  • The crash came as they have been battling Chadian fighters in Libya’s southern areas on the border with Chad
CAIRO: Forces loyal to a powerful Libyan commander said two military planes crashed on Sunday over a village in eastern Libya, killing at least two officers.
The self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces, led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar, said the helicopters collided in the air over the village of Msus, 130 kilometers (81 miles) southeast of the city of Benghazi.
A two-officer crew, including Brig. Gen. Bouzied Al-Barrasi, was killed in the crash, while the second helicopter crew survived, the forces said in a brief statement. It did not give the cause of the crash and said the helicopters were on a military mission.
Mohammad Younes Menfi, head of Libya’s Presidential Council, mourned the two officers.
Haftar’s forces control eastern and most of southern Libya. The crash came as they have been battling Chadian fighters in Libya’s southern areas on the border with Chad.
The clashes erupted last week and could further destabilize the wider Sahel region, after Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno was killed in April in battels between his government and Chadian rebels.

Erdogan to meet Greek Kyriakos Mitsotakis next week

Erdogan to meet Greek Kyriakos Mitsotakis next week
Updated 20 September 2021

Erdogan to meet Greek Kyriakos Mitsotakis next week

Erdogan to meet Greek Kyriakos Mitsotakis next week
  • Regional rivals have been at odds over a host of maritime issues in the Mediterranean and migration

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that he would meet Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next week in New York.

The NATO members and regional rivals have been at odds over a host of maritime issues in the Mediterranean and migration.
Mitsotakis said on Friday that Turkey was an important partner in tackling any new migration challenge to Europe and needed support.
Speaking at a news conference before departing for New York, Erdogan said Turkey, which hosts some 4 million refugees — most of whom are Syrians — was “suffering the biggest burden and the heaviest downsides” of migration, adding that Turkey would take the necessary steps if its counterparts did not.
The Turkey’s president also said his country was ready for talks with Armenia but added Yerevan needed to take steps toward opening a controversial transport link through its territory.
Armenia and Turkey never established diplomatic relations and their shared border has been closed since the 1990s.
The ties have deteriorated due to Turkey’s support for its regional ally Azerbaijan, which fought with Armenia last year for control of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
But earlier this month, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Yerevan was prepared to hold discussions on repairing relations with Ankara.
“If he (Pashinyan) would like to meet with Tayyip Erdogan, then certain steps should be taken,” Erdogan said.
He was referring to the creation of a transit corridor that would have to go through Armenia to connect Azerbaijan to its Nakchivan enclave that borders Turkey and Iran.
“We are not closed to talks (with Armenia), we will hold the talks,” Erdogan said.
“I hope that not a negative but a positive approach will prevail there,” he said. “God willing, the problem between Azerbaijan and Armenia will be overcome with the opening of the corridors.”


Morocco’s Justice and Development Party decries ‘violations’ at polls

Abdellatif Ouahbi, president of Morocco's Authenticity and Modernity party (C), gives a speech after his party came in second in parliamentary and local elections, in Rabat on September 9, 2021. (AFP)
Abdellatif Ouahbi, president of Morocco's Authenticity and Modernity party (C), gives a speech after his party came in second in parliamentary and local elections, in Rabat on September 9, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2021

Morocco’s Justice and Development Party decries ‘violations’ at polls

Abdellatif Ouahbi, president of Morocco's Authenticity and Modernity party (C), gives a speech after his party came in second in parliamentary and local elections, in Rabat on September 9, 2021. (AFP)
  • Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has named businessman Aziz Akhannouch to lead a new government after his National Rally of Independents, considered close to the palace, thrashed the Justice and Development Party, winning 102 seats

RABAT: Morocco’s moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party, which was thrashed at last week’s elections, on Sunday denounced “violations and irregularities” at the polls.
The party had headed Morocco’s governing coalition for a decade but saw its support collapse at the Sept. 8 vote, dropping from 125 of parliament’s 395 seats to just 13.
Local elections held the same day confirmed the party’s crushing defeat.
The party “denounces the violations and irregularities” at the polls, including “massive use of money,” “manipulation of reports” and “names crossed off the electoral lists or appearing twice,” it said in a statement following Saturday’s extraordinary session of the party’s national council.
These “forms of electoral corruption ... led to the announcement of results that do not reflect the substance of the political map and the free will of the voters,” the statement added.
Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit has said the voting process took “under normal circumstances” apart from isolated incidents.

SPEEDREAD

• Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit says the voting process took ‘under normal circumstances’ apart from isolated incidents.

• On voting day, the Islamists had alleged ‘serious irregularities,’ including ‘obscene cash handouts’ near polling stations and ‘confusion’ on some electoral rolls, with some voters finding they were not listed.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has named businessman Aziz Akhannouch to lead a new government after his National Rally of Independents, considered close to the palace, thrashed the Justice and Development Party, winning 102 seats.
On voting day, the Islamists had alleged “serious irregularities,” including “obscene cash handouts” near polling stations and “confusion” on some electoral rolls, with some voters finding they were not listed.
The National Rally of Independents has started coalition talks, but the Justice and Development Party has announced that it would switch to its “natural” position as the opposition.
The party “is at an important turning point,” outgoing secretary-general Saad-Eddine El-Othmani said Saturday at the party’s closed-door meeting.

 


Iranian oil fails to end Lebanon’s fuel wars

Lebanese police stand guard in front of the central bank building, where anti-government demonstrators protest against the deepening financial crisis, in Beirut. (AP/File)
Lebanese police stand guard in front of the central bank building, where anti-government demonstrators protest against the deepening financial crisis, in Beirut. (AP/File)
Updated 20 September 2021

Iranian oil fails to end Lebanon’s fuel wars

Lebanese police stand guard in front of the central bank building, where anti-government demonstrators protest against the deepening financial crisis, in Beirut. (AP/File)
  • Lebanon has not asked for fuel from Iran, says PM Mikati
  • Maronite patriarch calls on government to end the smuggling of Iranian fuel from Syria

BEIRUT: Armed men opened fire at a gas station in the Bekaa valley on Sunday and threatened to kill the owner as Lebanon’s fuel wars continued to spiral out of control.

The incident in the town of Beit Chama came amid long queues at gas stations, frequent power cuts and a 20-liter canister of gasoline selling on the black market for 500,000 pounds ($327) when the official price is 180,000 pounds.

The fuel shortage has not been eased by the arrival last week of tanker trucks of diesel from Iran, smuggled across the border from Syria in a deal brokered by Hezbollah in breach of US sanctions. A third tanker is at sea on its way from Iran to the Syrian port of Baniyas.

Neither the arrival of Iraqi fuel to Electricité du Liban nor that of Iranian diesel has yielded positive results yet.

In his Sunday sermon, Maronite patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi denounced the smuggling of Iranian fuel from Syria. “The state cannot be built on practices or positions that contradict its entity and institutions,” he said.

Al-Rahi said the new government under Prime Minister Najib Mikati should “work as a united national team to stop the collapse and confront the continuous attack attempts against the state and its democratic system.”

“The state cannot be built on practices or positions that contradict its entity and institutions,” he said, adding that the recent entry of fuel tankers and the obstruction of the investigation into the Beirut Port explosion were “among such practices.”

Al-Rahi expressed the hope that the new government would “work as a united national team to stop the collapse and confront the continuous attack attempts against the state and its democratic system.”

He urged the government to “carry out reforms, mobilize the financial and economic cycle, solve the fuel and electricity crises, and close the smuggling crossings on the border.”
The state cannot be built on practices or
positions that contradict its entity and institutions.
Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi
Lebanese Maronite Patriarch

Meanwhile, Mikati dismissed fears that Lebanon faced US penalties for breaching US sanctions by importing Iranian oil.

“The Lebanese government didn’t approve this … so I don’t believe it would be subject to sanctions,” Mikati told CNN on Saturday in response to a question about Hezbollah bringing Iranian fuel into Lebanon

“I am saddened by the lack of Lebanese sovereignty," he said.

A source close to Mikati told Arab News on Sunday: “The state of Lebanon has not asked Iran for fuel. This position had been officially expressed and has not changed.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh commented on Mikati’s statements to CNN, saying on Sunday that sending Iranian fuel to Lebanon “happened according to a standard purchase process by Lebanese merchants. If the Lebanese government also wants to buy fuel from Iran, we would be happy to oblige.”

HIGHLIGHTS

 

• On Monday, PM Mikati’s government is expected to receive parliament’s vote of confidence with approximately 100 votes out of 128. It is expected that a vote of no confidence will be limited to the MPs of the Lebanese Forces bloc and several independent MPs.

• The Lebanese are still floundering with a series of never-ending crises, the foremost of which is the fuel crisis. Long queues at gas stations have remained the same, and the power rationing hours have not improved either.

On Monday, Mikati’s government is expected to receive parliament’s vote of confidence with approximately 100 votes out of 128. It is expected that a vote of no confidence will be limited to the MPs of the Lebanese Forces bloc and several independent MPs.

Politicians, meanwhile, were preoccupied with the repercussions of Halliburton winning a contract to explore oil and gas in the disputed maritime border area between Lebanon and Israel.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to “take urgent and immediate action before the Security Council and the international community to verify the possibility of a new Israeli attack on Lebanese sovereignty and rights because any exploration contract with Halliburton or other companies in the disputed area undermines the framework agreement sponsored by the US and the UN.”

Lebanese-Israeli negotiations over the disputed area were held under US auspices and stopped in April after the Lebanese delegation insisted that negotiations start from Line 29 of the border, which enlarges the size of the disputed area to 2,290 km instead of 860 km.

This area was based on a map sent in 2011 to the UN, but Lebanon later considered this map to be based on wrong estimates, so it demanded an additional area of 1,430 square km, including parts of the Karish gas field, in which a Greek company works for Israel.

The current Lebanese proposal is known as Line 29, and Israel has accused Lebanon of obstructing negotiations by expanding the disputed area.


Syria’s defense chief meets Jordan’s army commander in Amman

Syria’s defense chief meets Jordan’s army commander in Amman
Updated 19 September 2021

Syria’s defense chief meets Jordan’s army commander in Amman

Syria’s defense chief meets Jordan’s army commander in Amman
  • Meeting was “to increase coordination in the field of border security”: Hala Akhbar news site
  • Petra said Huneiti and Ayoub discussed border situation in southern Syria and fighting terrorism

AMMAN: Syria’s defense minister met Sunday with Jordan’s army chief in Amman after after Syrian troops captured several rebel-held areas near Jordan’s border, state media reported.
The Hala Akhbar news site, which is linked to Jordan’s military, reported that the meeting between Jordanian Gen. Yousef Huneiti and Syrian Gen. Ali Ayoub was “to increase coordination in the field of border security to serve the interests of the two brotherly countries.”
The recent push by Syrian troops in the country’s south is the biggest since government forces captured wide areas along the border in 2018, including the Nassib border crossing.
The crossing with Jordan was reopened in 2018, months after it fell under Syrian government control. Syrian rebels had seized the site in 2015, severing a lifeline for the government in Damascus and disrupting a major trade route linking Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and the oil-rich Gulf countries.
Ayoub’s visit came nearly two weeks after Syrian forces entered the rebel-held district of the volatile southern city of Daraa as part of a truce negotiated by Russia to end weeks of fighting. In the days that followed, Syrian troops captured rebel-held parts of several villages near Daraa.
The latest push by Syrian troops brings all parts of southern Syria under full government control.
Petra, Jordan’s state news agency, said Huneiti and Ayoub discussed border security, the situation in southern Syria, fighting terrorism and confronting narcotics smuggling.
Syrian state TV said the visit came at the invitation of Jordan’s army commander, adding that Ayoub was accompanied by top army officers. It said the talks focused on “fighting terrorism and border control.”
Jordan is a close Western ally and has long been seen as an island of stability in the turbulent Mideast. The kingdom hosts more than 650,000 Syrian refugees.
Earlier this month, ministers from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt said after meeting in Amman that Egyptian natural gas should reach Lebanon through Jordan and Syria as soon as next month, after maintenance of pipelines and the review of a deal interrupted 10 years ago.