How friendship with Venezuela benefits Iran’s isolated regime

Handout picture released by Venezuelan Presidency showing Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (R) bumping elbows with the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Javad Zarif (L) at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, on November 5, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)
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Handout picture released by Venezuelan Presidency showing Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (R) bumping elbows with the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Javad Zarif (L) at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, on November 5, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (R), his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro (C) and Venezuela's First Lady Cilia Flores pose for a picture during the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) summit in Tehran on November 23, 2015. (AFP/File Photo)
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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (R), his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro (C) and Venezuela's First Lady Cilia Flores pose for a picture during the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) summit in Tehran on November 23, 2015. (AFP/File Photo)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (L), Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (R) attend a family photo session during the Gas Exporting Countries Forum at the Kremlin in Moscow, on July 1, 2013. (AFP/File Photo)
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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (L), Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (R) attend a family photo session during the Gas Exporting Countries Forum at the Kremlin in Moscow, on July 1, 2013. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 01 February 2021

How friendship with Venezuela benefits Iran’s isolated regime

Handout picture released by Venezuelan Presidency showing Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (R) bumping elbows with the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Javad Zarif (L) at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, on November 5, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Tehran’s presence in Latin America is a means of dodging sanctions, fighting isolation and gaining strategic foothold
  • Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah uses its connections in Venezuela to smuggle drugs, launder money and assert influence

RIYADH: One seldom-discussed byproduct of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, which ended with the fall of the Shah and the rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979, is the diplomatic, economic and strategic collusion between Tehran and several Latin American regimes — right in Washington’s own backyard. 

Tehran has worked hard to consolidate these friendships since the revolution, in particular its entente with fellow oil producer Venezuela during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad between 2005 and 2013.

The Iranian regime has simultaneously intensified its efforts to reshape the international power dynamic in the Middle East and the wider region in its favor through an array of secretive military interventions and its illicit nuclear program. 

To curb these geostrategic aspirations and malign activities across the region, the US has reimposed a raft of sanctions on Iran’s economy, leaving the regime isolated and financially crippled. 




Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (L) shaking hands with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani (R) before a bilateral meeting at The Convention Centre in Baku on October 25, 2019. (AFP/Miraflores Palace Presidential Office/Jhonn Zerpa/File Photo)

From this position of weakness, Tehran has looked to its friends in Caracas — another international pariah — in search of dependable allies.

Tehran’s relationship with Latin America dates back to 1960, when Venezuela was among the founding members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). From here, Iran’s diplomatic ties quickly branched out to include Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Cuba.

But it was not until 2005, early in Ahmadinejad’s presidency, that the company Tehran was keeping in Latin America came under scrutiny. Several of these budding friendships appeared to be based on a mutual dislike for the US and its policies.

After the First World War, waves of refugees began to arrive in Venezuela from the Middle East. The trend gained more traction after the Second World War and reached a peak after the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war in 1975.

Iran and its Lebanese proxy militia Hezbollah exploited this trend, using religious and intellectual infiltration to convert Christians and Sunni Muslims to Shiite Islam and Khomeinist teachings on the Wilayat Al-Faqih (Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist).




Iranian revolutionary guards secure the area during the inauguration ceremony of a joint petrochemical plant in the Asaluyeh industrial zone - where Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez sealed their anti-American alliance in 2007. (AFP/File Photo)

Keen to expand its ideological presence and confront what it viewed as Western hegemony, Iran launched a Spanish-language satellite news channel in 2011 called HispanTV, broadcasting a variety of cultural, political and religious programs targeting people across the continent.

Iran has established more than 36 Shiite cultural centers in 17 countries around the world, many of which are allegedly being used as spy rings to gather intelligence. In Latin America they act as a hub for recruiting expatriates and building popular support for Iranian policies.

After OPEC was established, political and economic relations between Iran and Venezuela were initially based on their shared oil production and price-related challenges. This relationship later flourished and expanded to include several Latin American countries through common membership of the Non-Aligned Movement. 

Founded in 1961, the forum of 120 states, who do not consider themselves formally aligned with any major power bloc, claims to remain neutral and independent in world affairs.

Challenging the will of the international community, Venezuela has long hinted it will defy sanctions and supply Iran with petroleum products in an attempt to weaken US efforts to exploit Tehran’s dependence on foreign refined oil. 

Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s socialist president, has maintained this stance since taking the helm following the death of Hugo Chavez in 2013.

Itself under a strict US embargo, Venezuela is grappling with its own economic crisis, causing unprecedented inflation and shortages of food, fuel and medicine. Despite possessing the world’s largest proven oil reserve, the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) has nosedived and its currency has collapsed.

In December, Iran reportedly sent tankers loaded with gasoline and petroleum components to Venezuela in defiance of international sanctions. After the US imposed its latest round of sanctions on Venezuela in 2019, Iran also supplied Caracas with tools, supplies and technical expertise to support Petroleos de Venezuela, SA — the state-run oil and gas company.

Through its warm relations with Latin American governments, Iran hopes to project the image of a global power, overcome its political and economic isolation, garner diplomatic support for its nuclear program and respond to the US from close proximity.

Venezuela’s former president Chavez strengthened his country’s ties with Iran during his time in office. In 2003, he appointed Syrian-Venezuelan Tareck El-Aissami to lead the Administrative Service of Identification, Migration and Foreigners (formerly known as ONIDEX), who is alleged to have used his powers to assist Hezbollah.

During a year-long joint investigation, CNN and CNN en Espanol exposed major anomalies in the issuance of Venezuelan passports and visas, including allegations that documents were issued to individuals with extremist ties. 

According to intelligence reports, El-Aissami was involved in the issuing of 173 Venezuelan passports and IDs to individuals from the Middle East, including people affiliated with Hezbollah. 

Venezuelan opposition groups also accuse El-Aissami of drug smuggling. He is listed by the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control as one of the 10 most-wanted drug traffickers.

Since April last year, he has been working in Venezuela’s Ministry of Petroleum.




Iranian President Mohammad Khatami (L) and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez review the honor guard during a welcoming ceremony in Tehran 20 May 2001. (AFP/File Photo)

In June 2008, the US Treasury named naturalized Venezuelans Ghazi Nasreddin and Faouzi Kanaan as supporters of terrorism. Nasreddin worked as charge d’affaires at the Venezuelan embassy in Syria and also held a position at the nation’s embassy in Lebanon. 

According to the Treasury, Kanaan owned a travel agency, organized trips and raised money in Venezuela for Hezbollah members. It also says Kanaan met senior Hezbollah officials to discuss kidnappings and potential terrorist attacks.

According to a US State Department report on terrorism in 2019, Venezuela operates a lenient framework for armed groups, including FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) rebels, the Colombian National Liberation Army (ELN), and members of Hezbollah. 

The report says financial ties with FARC and ELN rebels have helped enable repression and graft schemes carried out by the Maduro administration.

Hezbollah has established close ties with drug-smuggling rings and has developed a sophisticated money-laundering scheme. An article published by Politico in 2017 revealed Hezbollah has made $1 billion annually from drug- and weapon-smuggling, money-laundering and other criminal activities.




A handout picture released by the official website of the Centre for Preserving and Publishing the Works of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, shows him (R) meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in the capital Tehran on January 10, 2015. (AFP/Khamenei.ir/File Photo)

Iranian involvement in drug smuggling in Venezuela is well documented. Detailed reports from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reveal an extensive cocaine trade route from eastern Venezuela to western Africa and on to Europe. 

It is suspected that the pipeline’s supply comes from Iranian facilities located in Venezuela’s Orinoco River delta, where vessels are loaded with cocaine. Some shipments end up in West Africa, Europe and the Middle East. The proceeds are laundered by various means, including the purchase of used American-made cars for export to Africa.

Launderers allegedly used their relationship with governments, particularly those in the Bolivarian countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Venezuela), to move their dirty money through Latin American banks, making it available to Western markets.

Iran has gained considerable influence in Latin America and has consolidated its network of allies. The regime in Tehran is actively expanding this list of friends in the hope of counterbalancing the international community’s stance against its nuclear weapons program and to mobilize support for its policies.

In addition to its nuclear ambitions, Tehran’s politico-economic relationship with Venezuela and other Latin American nations is primarily a means of diversifying its means of survival and overcoming international sanctions. There is little doubt, however, that much of this illicit arrangement is handled and overseen by Hezbollah.

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Twitter: @drhamsher7

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Qassem Soleimani left a trail of death and destruction in his wake as head of Iran’s Quds Force … until his assassination on Jan. 3, 2020. Yet still, his legacy of murderous interference continues to haunt the region

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In South Sudan, flooding called ‘worst thing in my lifetime’

In South Sudan, flooding called ‘worst thing in my lifetime’
Updated 22 October 2021

In South Sudan, flooding called ‘worst thing in my lifetime’

In South Sudan, flooding called ‘worst thing in my lifetime’
  • This is the third straight year of extreme flooding in South Sudan
  • The UN says the flooding has affected almost a half-million people across South Sudan since May

MALUALKON, South Sudan: He feels like a man who has drowned.
The worst flooding that parts of South Sudan have seen in 60 years now surrounds his home of mud and grass. His field of sorghum, which fed his family, is under water. Surrounding mud dykes have collapsed.
Other people have fled. Only Yel Aguer Deng’s family and a few neighbors remain.
This is the third straight year of extreme flooding in South Sudan, further imperiling livelihoods of many of the 11 million people in the world’s youngest country. A five-year civil war, hunger and corruption have all challenged the nation. Now climate change, which the United Nations has blamed on the flooding, is impossible to ignore.
As he empties a fishing net, Daniel Deng, a 50-year-old father of seven, recalls a life of being forced to flee again and again because of insecurity. “But this one event (the flood) is too much,” he said. “It is the worst thing that happened in my lifetime.”
The UN says the flooding has affected almost a half-million people across South Sudan since May. Here in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, the Lol river has burst its banks.
This state is usually spared from extreme flooding that plagues the South Sudan states of Jonglei and Unity that border the White Nile and the Sudd marshlands. But now, houses and crops have been swamped.
A new report this week coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization warned of increasing such climate shocks to come across much of Africa, the continent that contributes the least to global warming but will suffer from it most.
In these rural South Sudan communities, shelters of braided grass put up a fragile resistance in a land of seemingly endless water.
In Langic village, Ajou Bol Yel’s family of seven hosted nine neighbors who had lost their homes. The elders sleep outside on beds protected by mosquito nets, while the children share the floor.
In Majak Awar, some 100 families have been displaced twice, in June when homes were flooded and again in August when their shelters were ruined, too.
“I want to leave for Sudan,” whispered Nyibol Arop, a 27-year-old mother of five, as she boiled her morning tea just steps away from the stagnant water that threatens her current shelter.
It is hard to see a stable future when constantly on the move, a lesson learned during the civil war that displaced millions of people before a peace agreement in 2018.
“Floods are not constant. Some people will stay, and some will go,” said Thomas Mapol, a 45-year-old father of nine, as he showed off the destroyed houses of his village near Majak Awar. “But me, I cannot move anywhere. There is no other place that I know.”


Ancient and modern fuse together at the Indian pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai

Ancient and modern fuse together at the Indian pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai
Updated 22 October 2021

Ancient and modern fuse together at the Indian pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai

Ancient and modern fuse together at the Indian pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai
  • Pavilion is one of the largest at the event and could remain as a permanent structure once the expo is over
  • The pavilion’s launch coincides with year-long celebrations marking 75 years of Indian independence 

DUBAI: Stepping into India’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai is like being instantly transported from the skyscraper-dominated skyline of the Middle East’s commercial capital to the hustle and bustle of South Asia.

The pavilion, located in Al-Forsan Crescent in the expo’s Opportunity District, is one of the largest at the event. Designed by CP Kukreja Architects in Delhi, it features an innovative kinetic facade made up of 600 individual blocks in assorted hues of brown and beige — not entirely unlike the desert landscape outside — arranged in a mosaic of panels, each of which rotates on an axis.

The Indian pavilion’s design represents the country’s dynamism and forward-thinking vision, echoing the theme of an “India on the move.” (Credit: Supplied)

The design is intended to represent India’s dynamism and forward-thinking vision, echoing the theme of an “India on the move;” a country rooted in its rich heritage but also avant-garde and innovative in its approach to technological and economic advances.

The pavilion is also a nod to the nation’s fight against COVID-19 and the various reforms implemented by the government to prepare for what is hoped will be a period of high and accelerated growth as India strives to become a $5 trillion economy.

Combining both its heritage and its ambition, the Indian pavilion features yoga demonstrations alongside displays on its space program. (Credit: Supplied)

“The pavilion takes visitors through the numerous phases of development and the unparalleled growth trajectory that India has experienced in all sectors, ranging from health and wellness, climate change, biodiversity, food agriculture to accomplishments in space,” Aman Puri, the pavilion’s commissioner general and the consul general of India in Dubai, told Arab News.

“We have a wide assortment of festivals and celebrations to offer at the pavilion, which provide our visitors with a once-in-a-lifetime experience to get the … feel of the diverse Indian culture.”

Visitors are greeted warmly as they arrive at the state-of-the-art pavilion, which occupies a 1.2 acre site and showcases the nation’s cultural treasures and technological marvels.

Combining both its heritage and its ambition, the Indian pavilion features yoga demonstrations alongside displays on its space program. (Credit: Supplied)

As they move along a winding pathway they pass by a live yoga display in an area surrounded by greenery, a demonstration of Ayurveda, India’s ancient art of wellness, and a sharply contrasting area dedicated to India’s space program.

Visitors then move up through several levels that offer insights into various aspects of Indian culture, heritage and modern-day achievements. Massive floor-to-ceiling LED screens show images of Indian dancers and traditional ceremonies, and showcase the nation’s successes in the fields of robotics, energy, e-commerce, healthcare, cryptocurrency and blockchain.

A number of conference rooms and meeting spaces will be used to host talks and networking events in the coming months in an attempt to encourage the forging of new international business relationships with India.

Prior to the pandemic, bilateral trade between India and the UAE was worth $60 billion. As business begins to return to normal, the governments of both countries hope to facilitate investments totaling $75 billion in the coming years.

“The expo is an important occasion to exhibit and invite the world to participate in India’s economic growth by utilizing the existing Indian talent base, creating additional employment opportunities, and empowering the secondary and tertiary sectors,” said Puri.

“The plethora of global discussions, business and investment summits will focus on creating synergies and providing opportunities to explore and accelerate trade partnerships.”

Prior to the pandemic, bilateral trade between India and the UAE was worth $60 billion. As business begins to return to normal, the governments of both countries hope to facilitate investments totaling $75 billion in the coming years.

INNUMBERS

8.5 million - Population of overseas Indians in the Gulf states (2018).

(Source: GoI, Ministry of External Affairs)

Noting that India is “a country of start-up unicorns, and with an ecosystem of more than 50,000 recognized start-ups,” Puri said that “the Innovation Hub at the India pavilion will host several leading startups from India. Expo 2020 Dubai will be an excellent platform for these startups to engage with the global market.”

As it emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, India has set its sights on becoming a high-tech, $5 trillion economy. (Credit: Supplied)

Among the events the pavilion will host is a World Majlis, which includes a program of talks including: Lessons from Space, on Oct. 19; Cities on the Move, on Nov. 2; and Off the Beaten Path, on Jan. 13.

For those interested in sampling some of India’s heritage, arts and crafts, and cultural treasures, the pavilion features a retail area with shops selling gemstones, textiles and pashminas from Jodhpur, Rajasthan and Jaipur.

And of course there is also a food court offering a wide range of Indian delicacies, along with a fine-dining restaurant, managed by Taj Hotels, where visitors can feast on a selection of the country’s rich culinary offerings.

The pavilion will also offer a packed schedule of indoor and outdoor performances of traditional Indian music and dance. In addition, visitors are invited to take part in festivities such as Diwali, the festival of light, and Holi, the festival of color.

 India’s state-of-the-art pavilion, which occupies a 1.2 acre site, showcases the nation’s cultural treasures alongside its technological marvels. (Credit: Supplied)

There are plans for the pavilion to remain as a permanent space for cultural and business exchange after the expo concludes, a testament to the long-standing relationship between the UAE and India.

About 2.75 million Indian nationals live in the UAE, representing 27 percent of the Gulf state’s population of about 10 million. The majority work in the service industry, which was badly hit by the precautionary lockdown measures during the pandemic. As a result, many Indian expats were forced to return home.

India’s participation at the expo coincides with the Indian government’s Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav initiative, also known as [email protected], a year-long celebration of the upcoming 75th anniversary of independence from British colonial rule.

The Indian pavilion’s design represents the country’s dynamism and forward-thinking vision, echoing the theme of an “India on the move.” (Credit: Supplied)

The Indian consulate has launched a number of special events, in addition to those taking place at the expo, to mark the anniversary, including competitions, documentary screenings and art exhibitions. The consulate is also reportedly planning a joint celebration to coincide with the 50th UAE National Day on Dec. 2, in celebration of the bond of friendship between the nations.

Expo 2020 Dubai is the 35th World Expo. The previous one was in Milan in 2015, and the next is scheduled to take place in 2025 in the Japanese city of Osaka, which also hosted the 1970 World Expo.

People attend the opening ceremony of the Dubai Expo 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on September 30, 2021. (REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File Photo)

The event dates back to 1851 and the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in London, the first of what came to be called World Expos. In recent years have been staged every five years in a host city for a period ranging from three to six months.

Since 2013, when Dubai impressed a selection panel in Paris with its bid for the 2020 event, the expo has been one the most talked about and eagerly anticipated events in the UAE.

Organizers say the expo, which was delayed by a year because of the pandemic and finally got underway on Oct. 1 this year, provides a showcase for more than 200 participating entities, including 192 countries, and features 60 events. About 25 million visitors are expected before it closes in April.

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Twitter: @rebeccaaproctor


In Iraqi Kurdish city, women gain power without parity

In Iraqi Kurdish city, women gain power without parity
Updated 22 October 2021

In Iraqi Kurdish city, women gain power without parity

In Iraqi Kurdish city, women gain power without parity

HALABJA: In the Kurdish city of Halabja in northeastern Iraq, municipal director Kwestan Faraj recalls the day when being a woman saved her life.
Though equality may be a distant reality for many women in Iraq, in Halabja women have reached top levels of local government.
Mayor, university dean, director of the veterinary department, and health spokesperson are some of the senior posts held by women in the city of around 115,000 inhabitants.
It marks something of a departure for Iraqi Kurdistan, where public affairs have long been dominated by a handful of men. Tradition and conservative values have meant that women face routine discrimination and are largely confined to the private sphere.
“When you are a woman, climbing the ranks comes with a lot of sacrifices,” Faraj, 55, said.
A former deputy head of the municipality for 15 years, Faraj launched her political career many years earlier when as a student she handed out leaflets against Saddam Hussein’s regime, which carried out an infamous chemical attack on the city shortly before the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988.
She recalled one day when an armed man arrived demanding that she sign dubious paperwork. She refused.
“I thought he would pull out his gun and shoot,” she said.
“He got up and told me: ‘If you weren’t a woman, I know what I would have done’.”
She said that in her city the drive for gender equality was largely led by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of two historical parties in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Yet some residents complain that the advances are largely cosmetic and aimed at masking the shortcomings of public services.
A junior partner in the Kurdistan regional government in Irbil, the PUK holds the post of speaker in the regional parliament, which it also awarded to a woman, Rewaz Faiq.
The party “believes in equality between men and women in all domains,” Faraj said.
“This has allowed us to achieve gender balance in administrative posts in Halabja,” said the head of the municipality, who has held the post since 2016.
Halabja prides itself on having had a woman mayor, Adela Khanum, in the first decades of the 20th century. Now it has another, Nuxsha Nasih.
It also has Kurdistan’s first female university dean, Mahabad Kamil Abdullah. “The Islamist parties were among the first to congratulate me when I became the president of Halabja University,” she said.
But it is by no means representative of the situation of women in Kurdistan as a whole. A 2018 UN report found that women in the workforce represent barely 15 percent of the women of working age. About three quarters of those work in the public sector.
In Iraq’s Oct. 10 parliamentary election, more than 90 women were elected according to preliminary results, exceeding the minimum 83-seat quota established for women in the 329-seat chamber.
Though the Kurdistan region has cultivated an image of relative stability and tolerance, women’s rights activists say key issues like forced marriage and female genital mutilation have gone unaddressed.
“It is not enough to have women in high posts. There need to be more women in the lower ranks,” said Gulistan Ahmed, who heads the governmental commission for human rights in Halabja.
Many residents are more preoccupied with the failings of public services than with seeking gender equality.
“There have been no notable changes in the city under their mandate, whether at the level of public services or with the launch of new projects,” complained Wshyar Abdulkarim, a 45-year-old spice merchant.
Female market trader Mujda Ahmed said having women in top jobs had yet to lead to an improvement in services for women.
“I have worked in the market for six years and not a single person has built public toilets for women,” she said.
“I have the impression that they are being used by their parties, which simply want to improve their image on the issue of equality, nothing more.”


Lebanon Christian leader summoned over deadly violence

Lebanon Christian leader summoned over deadly violence
Updated 21 October 2021

Lebanon Christian leader summoned over deadly violence

Lebanon Christian leader summoned over deadly violence
  • Hezbollah and Amal accused Lebanese Forces, which supports the probe, of being responsible for sniper fire against the protesters that ignited street clashes
  • A representative of the military court had "instructed the army intelligence to summon Geagea and take his statement based on information provided by arrested LF members"

BEIRUT: The head of the Lebanese Forces Christian group, Samir Geagea, has been summoned for questioning over deadly violence that erupted at a Shiite rally last week, a judicial official said Thursday.
Seven people were killed in Beirut on October 14 during a protest organized by the Shiite movements Amal and Hezbollah to demand Tarek Bitar, the judge investigating Beirut’s powerful port blast, be removed.
Hezbollah and Amal accused the Lebanese Forces (LF), which supports the probe, of being responsible for sniper fire against the protesters that ignited street clashes.
The Christian group denies the charges.
Fadi Akiki, a representative of the military court, had “instructed the army intelligence to summon Geagea and take his statement based on information provided by arrested LF members,” the judicial official said.
Twenty-six people were arrested after the violence in the heart of the Lebanese capital, most of them LF members, the official said on Thursday.
The exact circumstances of the violence remain unclear.
Geagea has denied responsiblity for the deaths, saying that residents of Beirut’s Christian neighborhood of Ain Al-Remmaneh had “defended” themselves against “Hezbollah militiamen who tried to enter their homes.”
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said on Monday that his Iran-backed movement had 100,000 armed fighters at its disposal, and warned it is against sparking any “civil war.”
On Thursday, Geagea told the Lebanon’s MTV channel he was not aware of the summons.
“I am ready to appear before the judge, on one condition: that Hassan Nasrallah does it before me,” he said.
Nasrallah has been in hiding since the war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006.
Tensions flared after Bitar summoned two Amal former ministers for questioning as part of the investigation into last year’s devastating Beirut port blast.
The explosion of a huge stockpile of poorly stored fertilizer on the dockside on August 4, 2020 killed more than 210 people, wounded thousands and ravaged half the capital.


Woman dies in crash, run over repeatedly on pitch-black Lebanese highway

Woman dies in crash, run over repeatedly on pitch-black Lebanese highway
Updated 21 October 2021

Woman dies in crash, run over repeatedly on pitch-black Lebanese highway

Woman dies in crash, run over repeatedly on pitch-black Lebanese highway
  • Banque du Liban holds meeting with IMF executive director 
  • Hezbollah and Amal Movement boycotting Cabinet sessions 

BEIRUT: Lebanon on Thursday woke to news of one of the bleakest moments brought on by the country’s energy crisis, after the smashed-up body of a female Ethiopian worker was found on Al-Zahrani Highway, which links Beirut to the south.

According to a security source, she was killed in a crash during the night but was run over again and again as drivers could not see her body in the dark.

People took to the streets for the second day in a row to protest their ever-worsening conditions, especially the uncontrolled rise in fuel prices and its repercussions on everyday life.

On Thursday, Banque du Liban said a meeting was held with the executive director at the International Monetary Fund during which the government's priorities were discussed, especially with regard to a “comprehensive economic project.”

The IMF’s Mahmoud Mohieldin described his visit to Lebanon and his meetings with officials as “successful, with a positive outcome, compared to previous visits.”

He said: “I saw a better consensus over priorities and a common discourse between the parties regarding the economic crisis and its social effects. The meetings reflect the four priorities that constitute the pillars of future dealings with the IMF, and a framework for the negotiations that the government will carry out with the BDL in the coming weeks. It is important to consider a timeframe.”

Mohieldin stressed the importance of unifying the exchange rate which was, he added, usually a product of comprehensive economic reforms that were being initiated.

“A law to control remittances from inside and outside the country needs to be adopted, along with structural reforms and emphasis on the issue of governance, transparency and sector-related priorities, determined by the state.

“If we succeed in developing a good framework to present to the IMF in the coming weeks, it can then be presented to the IMF’s board of directors, and the form of the program and the financing framework associated with it will thus be determined, in a way that will reinstate confidence in the Lebanese economy and restore financial flows,” he said.

But the Cabinet has yet to convene as the ministers of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement are refusing to attend a session until Judge Tarek Bitar, who is leading the investigation into last year’s Beirut Port blast, is dismissed and until the deadly street violence from earlier this month is investigated.

The government is also supposed to decide on the ration card for the country’s poorest and most vulnerable, coinciding with the lifting of fuel subsidies.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Thursday contacted several officials following statements from the Culture Minister Mohammad Mortada, who is affiliated with the Shiite parties Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, about Shiite ministers resigning from the government.

Mikati also met President Michel Aoun. 

According to a ministerial source, their meeting revolved around “finding a formula” that would lead to the resumption of government work “under the pressure of stressful living conditions.”

"All parties realize that the uncontrolled rise in prices will implode in the street, and the government bears the responsibility to implement rescue measures and secure the required international assistance,” the source added.

Mikati chaired a committee meeting to address the repercussions of the financial crisis on public utilities. 

The committee discussed existing obligations and an agreement to provide a financial, contractual and legal equation that allowed securing public utility services and the continuation or termination of business in a balanced and fair manner that took into account urgent factors.

The majority of contractors that signed with the Lebanese state have stopped their work, including waste removal companies, because the cost was calculated on the official exchange rate of LBP1,507 to the US dollar. But the Lebanese national currency trades at around LBP20,000 to the dollar on the black market.

During the meeting, it was decided that the first Cabinet session would announce measures that would respond to the living crisis, specifically raising the daily transport allowance, and approving a monthly advance as social assistance for workers in public institutions, government hospitals and schools, within an integrated project.