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.


Lebanon’s politician Geagea misses hearing over Beirut violence

Lebanon’s politician Geagea misses hearing over Beirut violence
Updated 15 min 4 sec ago

Lebanon’s politician Geagea misses hearing over Beirut violence

Lebanon’s politician Geagea misses hearing over Beirut violence

BEIRUT: Supporters of the Christian Lebanese Forces party on Wednesday blocked roads to leader Samir Geagea’s residence as he failed to turn up for a hearing at army intelligence over fatal clashes in Beirut.
Geagea was summoned to the hearing, scheduled for 9 a.m. local time on Wednesday, amid claims by the Iran-backed Hezbollah and its ally the Amal Movement that Lebanese Forces (LF) supporters shot dead seven of their followers in clashes on Oct. 14.
Geagea has denied the claims and said he is being unfairly targetted for his support of a probe by Judge Tarek Bitar into the August 2020 Beirut port explosion that Hezbollah opposes.
“We won’t let anyone, not Hezbollah nor Iran nor Syria or anyone try to subjugate us,” LF protester Fadi told Reuters.
“We are here today in 2021 sacrificing for Samir Geagea just like he sacrified for us in 1994 so Lebanon could remain and we could remain,” Fadi, who did not give his last name, said.
Geagea, a former warlord, was imprisoned after Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war and released in 2005 following the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon after three decades of occupation.


UN, US sanction Libyan official over human trafficking

UN, US sanction Libyan official over human trafficking
Updated 30 min 55 sec ago

UN, US sanction Libyan official over human trafficking

UN, US sanction Libyan official over human trafficking
  • The Al-Nasr Martyrs detention center is located in the western town of Zawiya
  • A spokesman for the Libyan government did not answer calls seeking comment

CAIRO: The United Nations Security Council and the United States have imposed sanctions on a Libyan official over the alleged abuse and torture of migrants in a detention center.
The Security Council and the US said in separate statements late Tuesday that Osama Al-Kuni is the de facto head of a detention center in the North African nation’s west. Migrants there are said to have been subjected to torture, sexual and gender-based violence and human trafficking.
Libya emerged as a major conduit for African migrants hoping to reach Europe after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed the country’s longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The country subsequently slid into chaos, with rival governments and parliaments based in its western and eastern regions, each backed by different militias and tribes.
The Al-Nasr Martyrs detention center is located in the western town of Zawiya, home of two of the country’s most wanted human traffickers, Abdel-Rahman Milad, and militia leader Mohammed Kachlaf.
Both Milad and Kachlaf were sanctioned by the Security Council in 2018 over allegations of human trafficking and abuse of migrants.
A spokesman for the Libyan government did not answer calls seeking comment.
In its statement Tuesday, the UN sanctions committee said Al-Kuni “has acted for or on behalf of or at the direction” of Milad and Kachlaf.
The Department of the Treasury blamed Al-Kuni on “systematic exploitation of African migrants at the detention center where these migrants are subject to various human rights abuses.”
It said he or others under his direction “have been involved in or facilitated the killing, exploitation, abuse, and extortion of migrants at the detention center, including through sexual violence, beatings, starvation, and other mistreatment.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the Libyan government to hold Al-Kuni and others implicated in human rights abuses accountable.
Libya holds migrants in overcrowded detention centers, like Al-Nasr, where torture, sexual assault and other abuses are rife. Detention center guards beat and tortured migrants, then extorted money from their relatives, supposedly in exchange for their freedom, The Associated Press reported earlier this month.
UN-commissioned investigators said earlier this month that abuse and ill treatment of migrants in Libya amount to crimes against humanity.


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

Khartoum airport will reopen on Wednesday: Head of Sudan civil aviation
Updated 27 October 2021

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 27 October 2021

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.