Diab rules out reforming resigned Lebanese government

Diab rules out reforming resigned Lebanese government
Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab. (AFP)
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Updated 24 March 2021

Diab rules out reforming resigned Lebanese government

Diab rules out reforming resigned Lebanese government
  • The formation of a new government remains fraught with difficulty, however, given the vast political gulf between the two sides

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab has ruled out the possibility of reinstating the government he led until its resignation on August 10, 2020.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Diab said: “Defining the powers of a caretaker government and the role of the resigned Cabinet requires a constitutional interpretation, which is the exclusive right of parliament.”

Diab was, indirectly, responding to an invitation issued by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah a few days ago to reactivate the resigned government, as President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri remain in deadlock over the formation of a new government for the crises-stricken country.

Diab continued his statement by saying that eight months after his cabinet resigned in the aftermath of August’s devastating Beirut Port explosion, “efforts have not succeeded in forming a government that would save Lebanon from its current crisis. Things have even gone beyond logic and the government’s formation has become a national crisis, which has exacerbated the suffering of the Lebanese. Forming a new government remains a priority.”

The formation of a new government remains fraught with difficulty, however, given the vast political gulf between the two sides. Aoun is reportedly insisting that he and his allies be granted a third of cabinet portfolios, effectively handing them the power of veto over any major government decision. His demand has the indirect support of Hezbollah, which is calling for a “techno-political government,” while other parties are backing a government consisting of independent ministers with no party or bloc enjoying a ‘blocking third.’

Aoun met with the ambassadors of France and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to try and clarify his position. The Lebanese media described those meetings as “an attempt to be granted clearance and to hold Saad Hariri responsible for the delay.” However, the Saudi ambassador’s statement from the presidential palace about respecting Lebanon’s sovereignty, not interfering in others’ affairs and committing to the Taif Agreement suggested that attempt failed.

Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador Walid bin Abdullah Bukhari tweeted on Wednesday that his visit to Aoun “came after three persistent and recurrent invitations from the presidential palace.”

Bukhari also met the Ambassadors of France, Anne Grillo; the US, Dorothy Shea; and Kuwait, Abdel-Aal Al-Qenaei on Wednesday. According to sources with knowledge of their meeting, the ambassadors expressed “discontent at the Lebanese officials’ performance regarding the governmental issue.”

Former lawmaker Fares Souaid told Arab News, “The constitution is suspended and neither Saudi Arabia nor France is controlling (Lebanon’s) internal affairs. The reason behind the constitution’s suspension is Hezbollah.”

After meeting with the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rai, former Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk said, “Lebanon has become a state whose legitimacy and policy are occupied,” adding that the only viable option at this point is “to support Al-Rai’s neutrality initiative to liberate Lebanon from Iranian political occupation.”

Pressure on officials to expedite the formation of a salvation government mounted on Wednesday as the economic commissions and Labor Union held a meeting to discuss “the disaster that is about to hit the Lebanese if a government is not formed soon.”

Civil society is also exerting pressure on merchants controlling the price of food in the country. A campaign has been launched on social media urging the Lebanese to boycott eggs and chicken for a week, after the price of a carton of eggs hit 40,000 pounds ($26.20) and a kilogram of raw chicken 30,000 pounds.

Elsewhere, Hezbollah-appointed Minister of Health for the caretaker government Hamad Hassan visited his Syrian counterpart Hassan Al-Ghobash in Damascus on Wednesday.

Hassan thanked Syrian President Bashar Assad for “the decision to provide Lebanon with 75 tons of emergency supplies of oxygen to assist patients on respirators.”

Hassan said the agreement with the Syrian ministry was “a brotherly, verbal (one) that has medical and humanitarian dimensions.”

Lebanon is currently avoiding any official dealings with the Syrian government to avoid the sanctions of the Caesar Act.


Unmanned aerial surveillance system targets Iraqi air base: US-led coalition

Unmanned aerial surveillance system targets Iraqi air base: US-led coalition
Updated 20 min ago

Unmanned aerial surveillance system targets Iraqi air base: US-led coalition

Unmanned aerial surveillance system targets Iraqi air base: US-led coalition
  • The US accuses Iran-backed militia groups of launching regular rocket attacks against its troops in Iraq

BAGHDAD: An attack by an unmanned aerial surveillance system on Saturday targeted Iraq’s Ain Al-Asad air base in western Iraq which hosts US and other international forces, but it caused no injuries, a coalition spokesman said.
US Army Col. Wayne Marotto, spokesman for the US-led coalition, said on Twitter that the attack was being investigated but that an initial report suggests that the attack took place at 0220 local time and caused damage to a hangar.
The United States accuses Iran-backed militia groups of launching regular rocket attacks against its troops in Iraq. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Saturday’s attack.


Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list

Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list
Updated 08 May 2021

Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list

Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list
  • Omani citizens, diplomats, health workers and their families are excluded from the latest rule

DUBAI: The Philippines and Egypt were the latest inclusion in Oman’s list where travelers from the said countries are banned from entering the Sultanate.

The decision was issued by the Supreme Committee, which takes lead in the country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and took effect on Friday, May 7.

Travelers from Egypt and the Philippines, and those who transited in any of the said countries during the 14 days, are particularly affected by the travel restriction a report from Times of Oman said.

Omani citizens, diplomats, health workers and their families are excluded from the latest rule but are subject to the procedures adopted upon entering the Sultanate, the report added.

Oman earlier added India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to the travel ban list, joining Sudan, Lebanon, South Africa, Brazil, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and the United Kingdom where their residents have been barred from entering since February 24.


UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours

UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours
Updated 08 May 2021

UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours

UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours
  • The total number of recorded cases in the UAE is now at 532,710 since the pandemic began

DUBAI: UAE health authorities reported 1,766 new coronavirus cases after conducting 211,462 additional COVID-19 tests over the past 24 hours, as well three deaths fatalities from the contagious disease.

The total number of recorded cases in the UAE is now at 532,710 since the pandemic began, with 1,607 confirmed deaths, a report from state news agency WAM said.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention reiterated its call for residents to adhere coronavirus protocols and maintain social distancing to ensure public health and safety.

Meanwhile, 141,283 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been provided during the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of doses provided to residents and citizens to 11,048,547.

The rate of vaccine distribution now stands at 111.71 doses per 100 people.


US calls on Israelis, Palestinians to ‘deescalate’ tensions

US calls on Israelis, Palestinians to ‘deescalate’ tensions
Updated 08 May 2021

US calls on Israelis, Palestinians to ‘deescalate’ tensions

US calls on Israelis, Palestinians to ‘deescalate’ tensions
  • US State Department: Palestinian families targeted for eviction have "lived in their home for generations"

WASHINGTON: The United States called Friday for de-escalation in annexed east Jerusalem, and warned against carrying out a threatened eviction of Palestinian families that has sent tensions soaring.
“The United States is extremely concerned about ongoing confrontations in Jerusalem ... which have reportedly resulted in scores of injured people,” a statement from State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
“There is no excuse for violence, but such bloodshed is especially disturbing now, coming as it does on the last days of Ramadan.”
He said Washington was calling on Israeli and Palestinian officials to “act decisively to deescalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence.”
And he warned it was “critical” to avoid any steps that could worsen the situation — such as “evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement activity, home demolitions, and acts of terrorism.”
An earlier State Department statement said Washington was concerned in particular about the “potential eviction of Palestinian families in Silwan neighborhood and Sheikh Jarrah,” two areas of east Jerusalem where tensions have been running high.
It noted that some Palestinian families targeted for eviction have “lived in their home for generations.”
The comments came as more than 160 people were wounded after Israeli riot police clashed with Palestinians at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound late Friday, capping a week of violence in the Holy City and the occupied West Bank.
Earlier Friday, Israeli security forces killed two Palestinians and wounded a third after the trio opened fire on a base in the occupied West Bank, police said.
The unrest came on Al-Quds Day – named for the Arabic word for Jerusalem – an annual day of pro-Palestinian rallies held by Iran, the arch-enemy of Israel.
The nation’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Israel “not a country, but a terrorist base,” and in a televised speech said that fighting the Jewish state was “everyone’s duty.”


Opposition forces leave Somali capital after deadly clashes

Opposition forces leave Somali capital after deadly clashes
Somali opposition soldiers pose for a photograph in Mogadishu as they move to their barracks after reaching an agreement with the prime minister. (Reuters)
Updated 08 May 2021

Opposition forces leave Somali capital after deadly clashes

Opposition forces leave Somali capital after deadly clashes
  • Soldiers loyal to influential opposition leaders began pouring into the capital, where clashes broke out with pro-government troops, killing three

MOGADISHU: Opposition fighters withdrew from the Somali capital on Friday, ending a tense standoff with pro-government troops after a dispute over delayed elections triggered the country’s worst political violence in years.
Hundreds of heavily armed gunmen pulled out of strongholds in Mogadishu they had occupied since late April, when a long-running political crisis turned deadly with clashes erupting between rival factions of the security forces.
Under a deal reached by the warring sides this week, opposition troops began leaving their positions in the capital, and key roads sealed off with sandbags and machine guns were opened once more.
“We are sending our forces back to the frontline position to defend the country and its people,” said Mahad Salad, an opposition lawmaker, at a camp outside Mogadishu where troops assembled after pulling out of the city.
Mogadishu had been on edge since February, when President Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed’s term ended before elections were held, and protesters took to the streets against his rule.
But a resolution in April to extend his mandate by two years split the country’s fragile security forces along all-important clan lines.
Soldiers loyal to influential opposition leaders began pouring into the capital, where clashes broke out with pro-government troops, killing three.
The fighting drove tens of thousands of civilians from their homes and divided the city, with government forces losing some key neighborhoods to opposition units.
Under pressure to ease the tension, Mohammed abandoned his mandate extension and instructed his prime minister to arrange fresh elections and bring together rivals for talks.
“These forces came to the rescue of the people, and have taught a new lesson which will be remembered in future. They refused a dictatorship, and have forced the democratic governance process to continue,” opposition lawmaker Salad said.

FASTFACT

Hundreds of heavily armed gunmen pulled out of strongholds in Mogadishu they had occupied since late April, when a long-running political crisis turned deadly with clashes erupting between rival factions of the security forces.

Indirect elections were supposed to have been held by February under a deal reached between the government and Somalia’s five regional states the previous September.
But that agreement collapsed as the president and the leaders of two states, Puntland and Jubaland, squabbled over the terms.
Months of UN-backed talks failed to broker consensus between the feuding sides.
In early May, Mohammed relaunched talks with his opponents over the holding of fresh elections, and agreed to return to the terms of the September accord.
Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble has invited the regional leaders to a round of negotiations on May 20 in the hope of resolving the protracted feud and charting a path to a vote.
The international community has threatened sanctions if elections are not held soon, and warned the political infighting distracted from the fight against Al-Shabab, the militants who control swathes of countryside.
Maj.-Gen. Ali Araye Osoble told opposition troops outside the capital that it was time to return to duty.
“I order that you return to your positions and fulfil your commitments in the fight against Al-Shabab,” the opposition commander said.