Christian parties demand restoration of Lebanon’s sovereignty from Hezbollah

Christian parties demand restoration of Lebanon’s sovereignty from Hezbollah
Moawad called for “the formation of a clear, capable and united opposition to face the mafia and the militia.” (File/AFP)
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Updated 28 April 2021

Christian parties demand restoration of Lebanon’s sovereignty from Hezbollah

Christian parties demand restoration of Lebanon’s sovereignty from Hezbollah
  • “The Lebanese are paying the price of the coexistence between the state and the statelet,” Moawad said
  • He demanded that Hezbollah “leave us alone”

BEIRUT: Christian parties in Lebanon called for the collective resignation of Parliament on Wednesday, accusing Hezbollah of dominating the country.
The head of the Independence Movement, Michel Moawad, a former MP and son of former President Rene Moawad, said at a press conference: “With each passing day, we are more convinced that we are dealing with a criminal, corrupt and conspiratorial authority.
“The Lebanese are paying the price of the coexistence between the state and the statelet,” he added, demanding Hezbollah “leave us alone.”
Moawad, who resigned from Parliament following the Beirut Port explosion on Aug. 4, noted that “retaking the state from the mafia and the militia happens through the restoration of sovereignty over all our borders and regaining control over the decision making.
“What interest do we have in belonging to one axis against the other? What interest do we have in being hostile toward countries that do not attack us? What interest do we have in being hostile toward Arabs or the international community and fighting in Yemen and elsewhere? What interest do we have in exporting rockets, militias and drugs? How do we build a productive economy? How do we protect Lebanese nationals abroad?”
He added: “Sovereignty means enforcing the Lebanese state’s authority, using its own capabilities, over the entirety of the territory. This means that there should not be guarded areas, illegal weapons inside or outside of refugee camps, weapon warehouses, rockets, camps to train Houthis and non-Houthis and Captagon factories.” 
Moawad called for “the formation of a clear, capable and united opposition to face the mafia and the militia and focus on retaking the state.”
After meeting Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi, the parliamentary bloc of the Lebanese Forces’ MPs renewed their calls for the holding of early parliamentary elections.
Sethrida Geagea MP expressed her support for Al-Rahi’s call for neutrality. “Our country is a small one located in a troubled region. It was not wise to place it in the middle of the region’s conflicts, leading to it being completely isolated from its Arab surroundings and its international friends.
“There is no hope from any government that the ruling majority forms because, even if formed, it will be an exact replica of the ones that came before, which means that true reforms are not an option with this majority. The solution resides in reproducing the ruling class in order to put an end to this parliamentary majority’s hegemony over the country following the disastrous situation they lead us to. This can be done through the only practical step available, which is the holding of early parliamentary elections.”
The Kataeb Party’s political office stressed that “the prevailing state of chaos confirms the blatant collusion between the mafia and the militia, which is aimed at turning Lebanon into a failed state, dragging it into agendas that serve foreign interests at the expense of the country’s identity and historic role, and isolating it from countries that can help it overcome the current crisis in order to further stifle it.
“The situation will not change as long as Lebanon has a parliament that has surrendered to Hezbollah’s will, is unable to prevent violations and has lost its national legitimacy.”
Camille Chamoun, new head of the National Liberal Party, added “Lebanon is in trouble.”
Arab News asked the former opposition MP Fares Saeed if the steps being taken by Christian political parties are an attempt to establish a new Lebanese Front in the face of the authorities and Hezbollah, which would be similar to the Lebanese Front that was established during the civil war.
“The steps taken by these parties are natural. However, I think that the main goal should be to put an end to the Iranian occupation of Lebanon, and anything else would be less than what is required,” Saeed answered.
“What is required is for Hezbollah to hand over its weapons in line with the constitution and the resolutions of international legitimacy. This solution is not feasible currently, which is why Al-Rahi called for an international conference to be held to ensure Lebanon’s neutrality. This is a serious proposition that could lead us to the desired solution. Late Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir demanded the departure of the Syrian forces that were occupying Lebanon in 2000. This demand was fulfilled in 2005,” he added.
Regarding the Free Patriotic Movement’s position in light of the Christian parties’ call to restore Lebanon’s sovereignty away from Hezbollah, Saeed said there is no doubt that Hezbollah still has a lot of supporters among the Christians due to the alliance in place. “If this alliance is broken, the political scene could change.”


Khartoum airport will reopen on Wednesday: Head of Sudan civil aviation

Khartoum airport will reopen on Wednesday: Head of Sudan civil aviation
Updated 7 sec ago

Khartoum airport will reopen on Wednesday: Head of Sudan civil aviation

Khartoum airport will reopen on Wednesday: Head of Sudan civil aviation
  • The airport was closed from Monday following the ousting of Sudan's government by the military

KHARTOUM: Khartoum International Airport will reopen on Wednesday at 1400 GMT, the head of Sudanese civil aviation told Reuters.
The airport was closed from Monday following the ousting of Sudan's government by the military.


Gasoline distribution returning to normal after cyberattack – state media

Gasoline distribution returning to normal after cyberattack – state media
Updated 41 min 39 sec ago

Gasoline distribution returning to normal after cyberattack – state media

Gasoline distribution returning to normal after cyberattack – state media
  • Details of the attack and its source are under investigation

DUBAI: Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported on Wednesday that gasoline distribution is returning to normal a day after a cyberattack which affected 4,300 gas stations across the country.
The details of the attack and its source are under investigation, Abul-Hassan Firouzabadi, the Secretary of the Supreme Council to Regulate Virtual Space, told the news agency.


Lebanon PM says minister’s criticism of Saudi is not government position

Lebanon PM says minister’s criticism of Saudi is not government position
Updated 27 October 2021

Lebanon PM says minister’s criticism of Saudi is not government position

Lebanon PM says minister’s criticism of Saudi is not government position
  • The Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council said in a statement he rejected Kordahi’s comments

CAIRO: Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati said late on Tuesday that comments made by a member of his cabinet who criticized the Saudi military intervention in Yemen did not reflect the cabinet’s position.
“Lebanon is keen on having the best relations with Saudi Arabia and condemns any interference in its internal affairs,” Mikati said.
Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi said late on Tuesday that comments he made around the Yemen war, which started circulating on social media on Tuesday, were made in an August interview before he joined Mikati’s cabinet.
Saudi and Lebanese relations were tested earlier this year when former Lebanese foreign minister Cherbel Wehbe made comments in a television interview about how Gulf states were to blame for the rise of Daesh in Iraq and Syria. Wehbe resigned over the comments in May.
In April, Saudi Arabia banned the imports of fruit and vegetables from Lebanon claiming shipments were used for drug smuggling. The ban weighed heavily on a Lebanese economy struggling with the worst financial crises in modern times.
Late on Tuesday, Interior Minister Bassem Mawlawi also made a statement, after the controversy over Kordahi’s comments, emphasizing the strong relations between the two countries followed by a statement by the foreign minister, who also supported Saudi ties.
The Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council said in a statement on Wednesday he rejected Kordahi’s comments adding they reflected little understanding and a superficial reading of the events in Yemen.
Gulf monarchies, who have traditionally channeled funds into Lebanon, have been loathe to come to its rescue amidst its economic meltdown so far, alarmed by the rising influence of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group.


Saudi Arabia issues calming statement as Lebanese tensions rise over port explosion case

Saudi Arabia issues calming statement as Lebanese tensions rise over port explosion case
Updated 27 October 2021

Saudi Arabia issues calming statement as Lebanese tensions rise over port explosion case

Saudi Arabia issues calming statement as Lebanese tensions rise over port explosion case
  • Politicians denounce intelligence office’s decision to summon Geagea in connection with October violence
  • Lebanon’s grand mufti thanks Saudi Arabia for message of solidarity as factions continue to bicker and issue threats

BEIRUT: Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Lebanon Waleed Bukhari told Lebanese religious figures on Tuesday that the Kingdom “cares for Lebanon’s security, stability, institutions and co-existence between Christians and Muslims.”

The Saudi embassy’s media office said: “There is no legitimacy for the discourse of strife, nor for one that goes against Lebanon’s Arab identity.”

This was the first Saudi statement since the bloody clashes in Tayouneh on Oct. 14.

At least seven people were killed in the violence in Beirut amid a protest organized by Hezbollah and its allies against the lead judge probing last year’s blast at the city’s port.

The protestors, gathered by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, demanded the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar from the investigation.

According to the embassy’s statement, Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian “expressed his appreciation for the Kingdom, led by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for never abandoning Lebanon and its people, despite the unfair stances against the Kingdom by some Lebanese parties that only represent themselves.”

Sheikh Derian added that “the Saudi-Lebanese relations have always been and will remain solid regardless of any offensive speeches because our relations are above these speeches and Saudi Arabia will always see Lebanon as an Arab brotherly country.”

The statement comes after the Intelligence Directorate summoned the head of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea, to the Defense Ministry on Wednesday as part of the investigation into the bloodshed in Tayouneh.

The summoning was the motivation for Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi’s spontaneous visits on Tuesday to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and President Michel Aoun.

Al-Rahi denounced “the summoning of Geagea only by the Intelligence Directorate to testify.”

Charles Jabbour from the Lebanese Forces party told Arab News that “Geagea will not appear at the Defense Ministry on Wednesday.

“They should start with summoning Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah. All parties should give testimonies, beginning with the party that called for the demonstration. Only when a judge dares to summon Nasrallah, will we be able to talk about a state and a judiciary in Lebanon.”

The move to summon Geagea was condemned by several political figures.

Former Premier Saad Hariri refused “to engage in an absurd conflict and the frontlines of a civil war and sectarian divisions.”

He added: “Announcing that Dr. Geagea was informed to appear before the Intelligence Directorate via a plastered notification is absurd and leads the country into further division along with using state machinery for revenge politics.”

Former Premier Fouad Siniora also denounced “the bias of the judicial authorities in the military court over the deplorable Tayouneh events and the continuing violations of the constitutions by those who were entrusted with the task of preserving and protecting it.”

Siniora rejected “the practices seeking to use the judiciary for reprisals against political opponents, and not for its main mission: To seek the truth and achieve justice.”

Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat criticized the “selectivity instead of a transparent and just investigation for a comprehensive justice.”

He said: “All those who fired shots in the Tayouneh events should be arrested, without discrimination, and this destructive and futile political dispute must be ended.”

Samy Gemayel, head of the Lebanese Kataeb Party, announced his rejection to “all the means Hezbollah and the Amal Movement have resorted to in hampering the investigation into the Beirut port blast.”

Hezbollah accused Geagea of firing the first shot on Oct. 14 at the demonstrators who penetrated the anti-Hezbollah and Christian-majority Ain Remaneh area.

Former Prime Minister Hassan Diab, who is also a defendant in the Beirut port explosion investigation, visited Sheikh Derian on Tuesday, reiterating his demand “to either lift immunity from everyone without exception, or adopt the legal and constitutional mechanisms in force in the Supreme Council for the Trial of Presidents and Ministers.”

So far, all the politicians who have been accused of being involved in the Beirut port blast have declined to appear before Judge Bitar.

Amal Movement and Hezbollah ministers have refused to attend Cabinet sessions unless Judge Bitar is removed and the investigations into Tayouneh are halted, causing a governmental paralysis at a time when Lebanon is in desperate need of reforms to unblock the international aid that would lessen its dire economic situation.

Prime Minister Mikati hoped on Tuesday that “Cabinet meetings will resume as soon as possible to make the decisions required to activate the work of commissions and committees and do what is needed from the government.”

Mikati added that he hoped his government would supervise “the parliamentary elections with full integrity, to enable these elections to renew the political life in Lebanon.”

The joint parliamentary committees held a session on Tuesday and voted to keep the electoral law as it was, thus rejecting Aoun’s proposal to make amendments.

Aoun had objected to holding the elections on March 27 and to the proposals to change the expatriate voting formula by canceling the six seats allocated for Lebanese voters who live abroad.


Damascus bookshops disappear as crisis hits culture

Damascus bookshops disappear as crisis hits culture
Updated 27 October 2021

Damascus bookshops disappear as crisis hits culture

Damascus bookshops disappear as crisis hits culture
  • Damascus boasted an abundance of busy bookshops and publishing houses printing and distributing original and translated works

DAMASCUS: The Damascus bookshops and publishing houses that once stood as beacons of Syria’s intellectual life are being replaced with shoe shops and money changers, as culture falls casualty to crisis.

Syria is home to some of the Arab world’s literary giants, and Damascus boasted an abundance of busy bookshops and publishing houses printing and distributing original and translated works. But the city’s literary flare has faded.

A decade-old civil war, a chronic economic crisis and a creative brain drain that has deprived Syria of some of its best writers and many of their readers, have compounded worldwide problems facing the industry, such as the growing popularity of e-books. “People can’t afford to read and bookstores can’t cover the expenses of staying open,” said Muhammad Salem Al-Nouri, 71, who inherited one of the capital’s oldest bookshops from his father.

Last month, the iconic Nobel bookshop in Damascus, founded in 1970, closed its doors.

The Al-Yaqza bookshop, founded in 1939, shut seven years ago, with a shoe store now taking its place.

A money exchange office has replaced the Maysalun bookshop which was open for four decades.

The Al-Nouri bookstore, founded in 1930, is at risk of meeting the same fate.

“We wanted it to remain for our children and grandchildren,” Nouri told AFP. “But the Al-Nouri bookshop is threatened with closure, as are other bookstores.”

The Nouri family currently runs two bookshops in central Damascus.

Three years ago, the family was forced to close a third bookshop they had opened in the capital in 2000 because of poor sales and growing costs.

Its stock remains in place, gathering dust on fully stacked shelves.

On a wooden desk, old photos of celebrity customers, including politicians, artists and poets, are placed on display.

For Sami Hamdan, 40, the cultural heyday of the 1950s and 1960s is long gone. “The war has destroyed what was left” of a cultural scene that was already in retreat, said the former owner of the Al-Yaqza bookstore.

With 90 percent of the population living below the poverty line and prices skyrocketing in the face of the plummeting value of the Syrian pound, “no one is going to invest in a bookshop during conflict,” Hamdan told AFP.

For Khalil Haddad of the Dar Oussama publishing house, books have become a “luxury” for Syrians.

Surging printing costs and logistical difficulties linked to power cuts have combined to make books too expensive for most, the 70-year-old told AFP.

“People’s priorities are food and housing,” he said.