Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch accuses state of collusion against the people

Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch accuses state of collusion against the people
Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi said that the crisis was caused by ‘greed and monopoly.’ (Getty Images)
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Updated 31 May 2021

Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch accuses state of collusion against the people

Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch accuses state of collusion against the people
  • Lebanon lacks people characterized by a ‘pure patriotic thought,’ says top cleric

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi on Sunday accused the state of colluding against its people and said the political elite was unable to form a government even “to secure medicine, a loaf of bread, electricity and fuel.”

Al-Rahi, whose mediation efforts to unlock the impasse between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri are faltering, also said the country lacked “courageous people” who had the will to build a homeland for the Lebanese and who were characterized by a “pure patriotic thought liberated from loyalty to the foreign powers.”
On Oct. 22 last year, Hariri was instructed to form a new government following the resignation of then-Prime Minister Hassan Diab in the aftermath of the Aug. 4 explosion at Beirut Port.
But Hariri and Aoun have been unable to agree on who should be in the new government and which portfolios should be allocated to whom. Each man has blamed the other for the lack of progress, even as the country battles with financial collapse and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cleric said part of the crisis being experienced by the Lebanese was caused by “greed and monopoly” and that he would adhere to the neutrality of Lebanon, so that it would not be a “platform for war, conflict and weapons.”
He called on security and judicial agencies “to raid the warehouses in which medicines are stored to gain after the removal of subsidies, and to stop the monopoly and close the smuggling routes.”
Earlier, activists from the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) circulated rumors on social networking sites about Hariri’s absence from Lebanon. The whispering campaign came after two proposed government lineups, sent by the president to Al-Rahi, were leaked.

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The cleric is mediating to unlock political impasse between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri.

Hariri’s team viewed the two draft formations as “interfering with the powers of the prime minister-designate and an attempt to restrict his authority.”
MP Mohammed Al-Hajjar, from the Future Parliamentary Bloc, said while Hariri had no objection to the adoption of new initiatives to form a government, Aoun’s “imposition of a new, unconstitutional method for naming ministers was unacceptable.”
“There is an internal and international agreement on forming a government of specialists, not partisans, but Hezbollah does not want a government,” Al-Hajjar added. “Had it (Hezbollah) wanted, a government would have been formed from the beginning, and it is using its ally to implement its agenda.”
MP Nazih Najm, from the Future bloc, warned that without a government, there were no solutions for electricity, flour, diesel or medicine. He described the current propositions for solutions as “morphine injections.”
“The country, without an executive authority, is going to ruin,’ he said. “The president and the leader of the FPM, MP Gebran Bassil, need to realize that it is not possible to form a government that has more than one head because it will not work or produce. If the intention is to form a government similar to the current caretaker government, then things should remain as they are today.”
The country is experiencing shortages of basic items. Medicines are missing from pharmacies and fuel is rarely found at petrol stations.
Figures issued by the Banque du Liban showed that, during 2020, the bank sold foreign currencies for the import of medicines, medical supplies and raw materials for the pharmaceutical industry at a value of $1.17 million. From the start of 2021 until May 20, the bank sold these at a value of $1.43 million. Excess quantities of medicine were either lost to smuggling outside Lebanon or hidden pending the removal of subsidies.
The bank recorded a 30 percent increase in the amount of money in hard currencies to import fuel during the current year compared to the whole of 2020, meaning that fuel was either smuggled to Syria or stored, which is less likely.


US won’t resume assistance to Sudan without civilian government —

US won’t resume assistance to Sudan without civilian government —
Updated 6 min 41 sec ago

US won’t resume assistance to Sudan without civilian government —

US won’t resume assistance to Sudan without civilian government —
  • US will consider measures to hold accountable those responsible for failure to move forward on transition

KHARTOUM: The United States will not resume economic assistance to Sudan that was paused after a coup unless there is an end to violence and a civilian-led government is restored, a statement posted by the US embassy in Khartoum on Thursday said.
The statement, issued during a visit to Sudan by two senior US envoys, said the United States would consider measures to hold accountable those responsible for a failure to move forward on a political transition and create a “peaceful environment” for it to proceed. It did not say what such measures could involve.
During their visit, Assistant Secretary of State Molly Phee and Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa David Satterfield called for independent investigations into deaths and injuries among those protesting against the military since the Oct. 25 coup.
“They strongly condemned the use of disproportionate force against protesters, especially the use of live ammunition and sexual violence and the practice of arbitrary detention,” the statement said.
Sudanese authorities say peaceful demonstrations are allowed and any violations against protesters will be investigated.
October’s military takeover interrupted a transition that began after the ouster of former leader Omar Al-Bashir in a 2019 uprising and was meant to lead to democratic elections.


UAE confirms 3,014 new COVID-19 cases

UAE confirms 3,014 new COVID-19 cases
Updated 20 January 2022

UAE confirms 3,014 new COVID-19 cases

UAE confirms 3,014 new COVID-19 cases
  • The UAE has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates at 233.98 doses administered per 100 people

DUBAI: The UAE on Thursday confirmed 3,014 new coronavirus infections, pushing active cases to 50,010 in the country.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention also said that 4 patients died as a result of COVID-19 complications.

An additional 1,067 individuals have recovered.

The country’s caseload stands at 816,945 known confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 2,204 deaths since the pandemic started.

The UAE has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates, at 233.98 doses administered per 100 people, with 23,141,751 vaccines provided so far.

Despite this, health authorities continue the call for residents to adhere to basic health and prevention protocols, including social distancing and wearing masks.

The World Health Organization earlier said new infections globally have increased by 20 percent over the past week, with nearly 19 million total reported cases, mostly attributed to the omicron variant.


Egypt FM outlines plans for COP27 climate summit

Egypt FM outlines plans for COP27 climate summit
Updated 20 January 2022

Egypt FM outlines plans for COP27 climate summit

Egypt FM outlines plans for COP27 climate summit

CAIRO: Egypt Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has urged the global community to “move from the stage of pledges to the stage of actual implementation” on initiatives to combat climate change.

Shoukry, the president-designate of the UN climate change summit (COP27) to be held in Egypt in November 2022, held a phone discussion with Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, to outline Egypt’s preparations for the presidency of the next summit.

Following the talks Shoukry said that Egypt intends to build on the achievements of the Glasgow COP26 forum and "harness the rising international momentum to confront climate change."

He said that Egypt plans to take a leadership role in global climate action in coming months, as previously highlighted by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi during the last session of the World Youth Forum.

Espinosa praised the work and coordination at all levels to enhance international efforts on climate change and ensure the next session of the conference in Egypt is a success.


Storm blankets Syrian tented camps in snow, at least one child dead

Storm blankets Syrian tented camps in snow, at least one child dead
Updated 20 January 2022

Storm blankets Syrian tented camps in snow, at least one child dead

Storm blankets Syrian tented camps in snow, at least one child dead
  • The child died and its mother was in intensive care after snow caused their tent to collapse in the Qastal Miqdad area

ZAITOUN CAMP, Syria: At least one child was killed in northern Syria this week when a storm blanketed tented camps in snow and brought freezing temperatures, compounding the misery of thousands of people displaced by the Mediterranean country’s decade-long war.
The child died and its mother was in intensive care after snow caused their tent to collapse in the Qastal Miqdad area, as a result of the storm that struck on Jan. 18, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.
Two children were hospitalized due to the cold, it said.
“I was scared the tent would fall down on the kids,” Abu Anas said in Zaitoun camp in northern Syria, after his family fled from eastern Gouta, an area on the outskirts of Damascus that was devastated by the conflict.
“It is a miserable situation. No heating, a tent that is not suitable even for animals. Our situation is bad,” he said after Storm Hiba struck.
In his camp, people laid stones across puddles to create footpaths.
The United Nations, which warned about flooding once the snow started to melt, said 362 tents had been damaged in the region as of Jan. 19 and more than 400 families had been affected.
In the northern camp of Abraz, one of the worst affected places, families had to be evacuated, the United Nations said.
The storm also disrupted life elsewhere in Syria. In government-held areas, universities and other educational institutions postponed exams. Syria’s ports temporarily closed.
Syria’s civil war has killed hundreds of thousands of people, forced millions to flee their homes, creating one of the worst refugee crises since World War Two.
With Russian backing, the Syrian government has regained control of most of the country, driving rebel opponents to pockets of territory in the north.


Cruise missiles, drones used in Houthi attack on Abu Dhabi says ambassador

Cruise missiles, drones used in Houthi attack on Abu Dhabi says ambassador
Updated 20 January 2022

Cruise missiles, drones used in Houthi attack on Abu Dhabi says ambassador

Cruise missiles, drones used in Houthi attack on Abu Dhabi says ambassador

DUBAI: The Houthi attacks targeting civilian sites in Abu Dhabi were carried out with a battery of weapons including cruise missiles, and drones, the UAE Ambassador to Washington Yousef Al-Otaiba said.

It is the first time the UAE has said missiles were used in Monday’s attack in which three people were killed and seven others were injured.

The Houthi militia launched a number of drones and ballistic missiles, causing three tankers to explode near storage facilities owned by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (ADNOC).

There was also a fire at a construction site at Abu Dhabi during the attack.

Al-Otaiba said the UAE intercepted some of the missiles.

Earlier, the ambassador called on the US to Support re-designating the militia as a terrorist Organization.

In response to the attacks, US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday his administration was considering re-designating the Houthis an international terrorist organization.

The UAE had "long left the Yemen war," Otaiba said in his comments to JINSA. "Attacking a country that is not in combat makes a very clear case" to reinstate the Houthi terrorist designation.