Nasrallah defies Lebanese state, says he will import Iranian oil

Nasrallah defies Lebanese state, says he will import Iranian oil
An image grab taken from Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV on June 8, 2021, shows the leader of the Lebanese Shiite party Hassan Nasrallah delivering a televised speech from an undisclosed location. (AFP)
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Updated 09 June 2021

Nasrallah defies Lebanese state, says he will import Iranian oil

Nasrallah defies Lebanese state, says he will import Iranian oil
  • MP Bilal Abdallah said the suffering of the Lebanese people ‘should not be used to establish stronger bridges with Iran’

BEIRUT: In a speech seen as an act of defiance against the Lebanese state and the US, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Wednesday insisted that Lebanon should be “negotiating with Iran to buy gasoline and diesel with the Lebanese currency if Lebanon’s shortages persist.”

Seemingly unconcerned about the possibility that this might result in international sanctions being imposed on Lebanon, he said, during a televised speech: “Shipments of fuel will arrive at Beirut’s port, and let the state prevent their access to Lebanon.”

Nasrallah’s speech came hours after reports that the Iraqi government has agreed to double a previous promise to supply Lebanon with oil, from 500,000 to 1 million tons. His comments provoked varying reactions among the Lebanese public. Some were surprised and some rejected the idea of buying oil from Iran, given the risk of sanctions. Washington still has sanctions in place on Iran and has designated the military and political wings of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

“Nasrallah used a high tone when he talked about bringing fuel from Iran,” MP Bilal Abdallah told Arab News. “The Lebanese are suffering from shortages in drugs, food and fuel. Their suffering should not be used to establish stronger bridges with Iran.”

He said such matters “should be discussed within the state, as the Iraqis did. When things happen outside the framework of the state and parliament, I am not sure they can be beneficial for the country.”

Abdallah added: “People’s suffering cannot be used for political purposes that affect Lebanon’s relations with its neighbors and the international community.”

Elias Hankhash, a politician who along with his Kataeb Party colleagues resigned from the parliament after the Beirut explosion last year in protest against government negligence, said that “Hezbollah controls all the state’s assets, including the illegal border crossings and the legal facilities and is a cover for the corrupt mafia.”

He blamed Hezbollah “for the bankruptcy, hunger and the international isolation the Lebanese are facing” and said that “buying fuel from Iran exposes Lebanon to sanctions and more isolation.”

He added: “It would be better for them to bring the fuel directly to Syria and stop the smuggling from Lebanon into Syria. We know exactly who is behind the smuggling of subsidized goods from Lebanon, which has humiliated the Lebanese waiting in never-ending queues at gas stations to fill their cars.”

During his speech, Nasrallah had attempted to show sympathy for the Lebanese public by saying that “humiliating the people is unacceptable.”

Nabih Berri, the speaker of the Lebanese parliament, on Wednesday thanked Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi for “his government’s approval to support Lebanon with fuel, increasing the support from 500,000 tons to 1 million tons, to meet half of Lebanon’s yearly fuel needs.”

Lebanon’s Central Bank had refused to open lines of credit to pay for fuel imports, leading to an electricity crisis.

Mark Ayoub, an expert on energy affairs in Lebanon and the Middle East, told Arab News: “In the absence of political solutions to the current crisis, nobody can oppose Lebanon resorting to foreign countries to secure fuel and overcome this difficult period.”

However, he said Nasrallah’s suggestion of working with the Iranian regime was an act of defiance against those who want to help the Lebanese people.

“Lebanon is in a state of emergency, and if we do not get the support we need the country will soon plunge into total darkness and will be completely isolated from the rest of the world,” he said.

On Tuesday, Nasrallah indirectly suggested that the formation of a new government will take a long time yet, dashing hopes of success for efforts by Berri to mediate between prime minister-designate Saad Hariri and the head of the Free Patriotic Movement Gebran Bassil.

The previous Lebanese government resigned in August last year amid public anger about the Aug. 4 explosion at Beirut’s port that destroyed a large section of the city. President Michel Aoun and Hariri have been unable to agree the formation of a new government, as they disagree on who should get to name the two Christian ministers. Aoun insists on naming them but Hariri says that this goes against the constitution and would give Aoun control of a “blocking third” of government portfolios, allowing him to block any proposal that requires a two-thirds majority.

On Wednesday, rumors that Hariri was ready to abandon the negotiations caused another spike in the dollar’s black market exchange rate, where it was selling for between 14,500 and 14,600 Lebanese pounds. Angry Lebanese people took to the streets once again to protest against the economic crisis and their poor living conditions.


Former Jordan royal court chief faces trial over destabilization plot

Former Jordan royal court chief faces trial over destabilization plot
Updated 1 min 25 sec ago

Former Jordan royal court chief faces trial over destabilization plot

Former Jordan royal court chief faces trial over destabilization plot

CAIRO: Jordan's military court will start the trial next week of former royal court chief Bassem Awadallah and Sherif Hassan Zaid Hussein on charges of agitating to destabilise the monarchy, state media said on Sunday.

Prosecutors last week referred to court the defendants case.


Two thirds of eligible people in Dubai fully vaccinated against COVID-19

Two thirds of eligible people in Dubai fully vaccinated against COVID-19
Updated 31 min 40 sec ago

Two thirds of eligible people in Dubai fully vaccinated against COVID-19

Two thirds of eligible people in Dubai fully vaccinated against COVID-19
  • For six months the UAE has been running one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns against COVID-19

DUBAI: About two-thirds of people eligible for inoculation against COVID-19 have now received two doses of the vaccine in Dubai, the tourist and business hub of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai Health Authority (DHA) said.
Dubai is the most populous of the seven emirates that make up the UAE and has one of the world’s busiest airports.
For six months the UAE has been running one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns against COVID-19, initially using a vaccine developed by the China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and then adding the Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca shots and Russia’s Sputnik V.
DHA deputy director general Alawi Alsheikh Ali told Dubai Television late on Saturday that 83 percent of people aged over 16 — or about 2.3 million people — had now received at least one dose of a vaccine and that 64 percent had received two doses in the emirate.
The UAE recently said nearly 85 percent of its total eligible population had received at least one dose of a vaccine, without saying how many people had had both doses.
The UAE, which does not break down the number of cases by emirate, has seen a rise in the number of infections in the past month. It recorded 2,281 new cases on Saturday, bringing the total so far to around 596,000 cases. Daily cases peaked at almost 4,000 a day in early February.
DHA said 90 percent of the COVID-19 patients admitted to intensive care units in Dubai hospitals were unvaccinated, without specifying when that statistic was recorded.


Algerian parliamentary election results expected within days, authority says

Algerian parliamentary election results expected within days, authority says
Updated 23 min 22 sec ago

Algerian parliamentary election results expected within days, authority says

Algerian parliamentary election results expected within days, authority says

ALGIERS: The results of an Algerian parliamentary election in which fewer than a third of voters took part will be announced within a few days, the head of the voting authority said late on Saturday.
The ruling establishment has tried to use elections along with a crackdown on dissent as a way to end two years of political unrest, with Algeria facing a looming economic crisis.
Supporters of the “Hirak” mass protest movement said it showed the system lacked legitimacy. Two prominent journalists, Khaled Drareni and Ihsane El Kadi, and the opposition figure Karim Tabbou, were detained last week but released on Saturday.
Politicians said the turnout of 30.2 percent, the lowest ever officially recorded for a parliamentary election in Algeria, was “acceptable.”
“The election took place in good conditions. Voters were able to vote and choose the most suitable candidates to serve Algeria,” said election authority head Mohamed Chorfi on television.
The protests erupted in 2019 and unseated veteran President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, continuing weekly until the global pandemic struck a year later. After a year-long pause they resumed in February but police mostly quashed them last month.
Many Algerians believe real power rests with the military and security establishments who have dominated politics for decades, rather than with elected politicians.
“We have grown accustomed in the past to high turnout due to fraud,” said Arslan Chikhaoui, an Algerian analyst, saying the authorities had manipulated the results of elections before the Hirak protests to suggest greater enthusiasm.
After Bouteflika was forced to step down, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune was elected with a turnout of 40 percent. Last year he held a referendum on an amended constitution that gained only 25 percent of votes.
The old parties that traditionally dominated have been tarred with corruption and abuse scandals, giving space to independents and moderate Islamist parties that hope to gain a majority of seats in the new parliament.
Those that win a lot of seats are likely to be included in the next government.
During parliament’s coming five-year term, Algeria is likely to face a fiscal and economic crunch, after burning through four fifths of foreign currency reserves since 2013.
The government has maintained expensive social programs and the state’s central role in the economy despite plummeting oil and gas sales.
Reforms to strengthen the private sector contributed to corruption that fueled the Hirak. Spending cuts could trigger a new wave of protests against the ruling establishment.
Laws passed by the outgoing parliament to encourage foreign and private investment and strengthen the energy sector have so far had little effect.


Lebanon stops Syrians attempting illegal sea crossing

Lebanon stops Syrians attempting illegal sea crossing
Updated 41 min 8 sec ago

Lebanon stops Syrians attempting illegal sea crossing

Lebanon stops Syrians attempting illegal sea crossing

BEIRUT: The Lebanese army on Sunday said it intercepted a small boat carrying 11 people, mostly Syrians, attempting an illegal sea crossing out of the crisis-hit country.
A statement said a naval force spotted the boat off the northern port city of Tripoli and that its passengers were all detained and referred for investigation, the army added.
The boat was carrying “10 people of Syrian nationality and a Lebanese national,” it said.
Their journey’s end was not specified but neighboring Cyprus, a member of the European Union, has been a popular sea smuggling destination in recent months.
In May, the Lebanese army intercepted a boat near Tripoli carrying 60 people, including 59 Syrians.
Lebanon, home to more than six million people, says it hosts more than a million Syrian refugees.
They have been hit hard by widening poverty rates and growing food insecurity brought on by the country’s economic crisis.
In a report released this month, the World Bank warned that Lebanon’s economic collapse is likely to rank among the world’s worst financial crises since the mid-19th century.


Israel to swear in government, ending Netanyahu’s long rule

Israel to swear in government, ending Netanyahu’s long rule
Updated 13 June 2021

Israel to swear in government, ending Netanyahu’s long rule

Israel to swear in government, ending Netanyahu’s long rule
  • The Knesset vote will either terminate the hawkish premier’s uninterrupted 12-year tenure or return Israel to a stalemate

JERUSALEM: Israeli lawmakers are to vote Sunday on a “change” coalition government of bitter ideological rivals united by their determination to banish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from power.
The crunch Knesset vote will either terminate the hawkish premier’s uninterrupted 12-year tenure or return Israel to a stalemate likely to trigger a fifth general election since 2019.
Netanyahu, who is battling a clutch of corruption charges in an ongoing trial he dismisses as a conspiracy, has pushed Israeli politics firmly to the right over the years.
On Saturday night, around 2,000 protesters rallied outside the 71-year-old’s official residence to celebrate what they believe will be his departure from office.
“For us, this is a big night and tomorrow will be even a bigger day. I am almost crying. We fought peacefully for this (Netanyahu’s departure) and the day has come,” said protester Ofir Robinski.
A fragile eight-party alliance, ranging from the right-wing Jewish nationalist Yamina party to Arab lawmakers, was early this month cobbled together by centrist politician Yair Lapid.
On Friday, all coalition agreements had been signed and submitted to the Knesset secretariat, Yamina announced, a moment party leader Naftali Bennett said brought “to an end two and a half years of political crisis.”
But the ever-combative Netanyahu has tried to peel off defectors that would deprive the nascent coalition of its wafer-thin legislative majority.
If the new government is confirmed, Bennett, a former defense minister, would serve as premier for two years.
Coalition architect Lapid, who heads the Yesh Atid party and is a former television presenter, would then take the helm.
The anti-Netanyahu bloc spans the political spectrum, including three right-wing, two centrist and two left-wing parties, along with an Arab Islamic conservative party.
The improbable alliance emerged two weeks after an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the Palestinian enclave of Gaza and following inter-communal violence in Israeli cities with significant Arab populations.
“We will work together, out of partnership and national responsibility — and I believe we will succeed,” Bennett said Friday.
Sunday’s crucial Knesset session is due to open at 4:00 p.m. local time (1300 GMT), with Bennett, Lapid and Netanyahu all set to speak before the vote.
Netanyahu has heaped pressure on his former right-wing allies to defect from the fledgling coalition while attacking the legitimacy of the Bennett-Lapid partnership.
He has accused Bennett of “fraud” for siding with rivals, and angry rallies by the premier’s Likud party supporters have resulted in security being bolstered for some lawmakers.
Netanyahu’s bombastic remarks as he sees his grip on power slip have drawn parallels at home and abroad to former US president Donald Trump, who described his election loss last year as the result of a rigged vote.
The prime minister has called the prospective coalition “the greatest election fraud in the history” of Israel.
His Likud party said the accusations refer to Bennett entering a coalition that “doesn’t reflect the will of the voters.”
Sunday’s vote arrives hot on the heels of police crackdowns on Palestinian protests over the threatened eviction of families from homes in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem to make way for Jewish settlers, a month after similar clashes fueled the latest war between Israel and Hamas.
It also comes amid right-wing anger over the postponement of a controversial Jewish nationalist march.
Netanyahu favored finding a way to allow the so-called “March of the Flags,” originally scheduled to take place last Thursday, to proceed as planned.
He took that position despite the original route envisaging the march unfolding close to flashpoint areas including the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, where clashes last month triggered the Gaza conflict.
The premier’s insistence saw his opponents accuse him and his allies of stoking tensions to cling onto power via a “scorched-earth” campaign.
If Netanyahu loses the premiership, he will not be able to push through changes to basic laws that could give him immunity in regard to his corruption trial.
The controversial flag march is now slated for Tuesday and ongoing tensions surrounding it could represent a key initial test for any approved coalition.