PM-elect Mikati optimistic about new Lebanon government

Lebanon's premier-designate Najib Mikati holding a press conference following his meeting with the president at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of the capital Beirut, on August 16 26, 2021. (AFP)
Lebanon's premier-designate Najib Mikati holding a press conference following his meeting with the president at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of the capital Beirut, on August 16 26, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 18 August 2021

PM-elect Mikati optimistic about new Lebanon government

Lebanon's premier-designate Najib Mikati holding a press conference following his meeting with the president at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of the capital Beirut, on August 16 26, 2021. (AFP)
  • Aoun and Mikati to focus on naming ministers as PM-elect claims support of former premiers

BEIRUT: The 11th meeting between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati on Tuesday showed promise for eliminating the obstacles hindering the long-awaited formation of a government in Lebanon.

Following the meeting, Mikati said: “We still have a few meters left in the race, and I hope we can eliminate the remaining obstacles in a decent manner that suits everyone.

“Everyone is seeking to form a government, because if we do not, it would be a sin against the nation.”

He added: “The dialogue has been positive, and we hope that a government will be born soon. We are working hard to eliminate all obstacles. The formation of a government in Lebanon is much like a complicated math problem that starts with calculating the representation of sects, regions and political parties and ends with people’s allegiances.”

Mikati claimed he received the support of former premiers, including Saad Hariri, who recently resigned, after nine months of fruitless efforts to form a new administration.

Mikati said on Monday that talks with Aoun would “mainly focus on naming the ministers.”

Talks between Aoun and Mikati are being fueled by US and French pressure and the suffocating conditions that the Lebanese have been living in.




Pharmacists hold signs reading in Arabic ‘no gasoline = no ambulance’ and ‘no electricity = no hospital’ as they protest in Beirut, denouncing the critical condition facing the country’s hospitals. (AFP)

Elsewhere, an argument on Tuesday at a gas station in Kafaat, Beirut’s southern suburbs, developed into a heavy firefight.

The Lebanese Army intervened, arresting some of the shooters and settling the dispute.

FASTFACT

Last week, the central bank announced it could no longer finance imports of gasoline and diesel at heavily discounted exchange rates, effectively ending a subsidy scheme.

The station was set ablaze after a B7 rocket-propelled grenade was fired at it by members of Zaiter family, who are protected by the dominant forces in the region and supported by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement.

While rows over the limited supply of fuel blaze on, the army has been carrying out raids in search of subsidized gasoline and diesel that distributors have been hoarding to be smuggled to Syria or sold on the black market.

The army raided a depot in the industrial city in Zouk Mosbeh and seized 65,000 liters of diesel and 48,000 liters of gasoline. The fuel was later distributed for free to the hospitals and bakeries in the area.

A fuel tanker was also raided in Wadi Hunin in southern Lebanon, where the army seized over 47,000 liters of gasoline.

Security forces also seized more than 70,000 liters of gasoline, hidden inside tanks and cisterns in an abandoned zone on the road leading to the airport, in addition to other quantities that were hidden inside a sand plot in the same area. The seized fuel was distributed to hospitals and owners of private generators.

The power crisis has worsened amid the severe shortages of gasoline, forcing dozens of private generator owners to scale down or completely cut supplies, with Lebanon’s state-owned electricity company providing less than one hour a day. Most regions have plunged into darkness and hospitals have intensified appeals for diesel supplies to be able to continue operating.

Head of the Syndicate of Private Hospital Owners Suleiman Haroun said “the seized fuel distributed to hospitals is not enough because hospitals require 350,000 liters of diesel per day to operate.”

But positive signs regarding the diesel importation issue emerged on Tuesday, where it was reported that Lebanon’s central bank had approved financing for two fuel shipments at the subsidized rate of 3,900 Lebanese pounds to the dollar. The two shipments contain 80 million liters of diesel that would suffice the market for five to six days.

The Lebanese parliament will convene on Friday to discuss a strategy for dealing with the fuel crisis.

Speaker Nabih Berri called the session to discuss “appropriate action” over crippling fuel shortages.

Last week, the central bank announced it could no longer finance imports of gasoline and diesel at heavily discounted exchange rates, effectively ending a subsidy scheme, surrendering the Lebanese to a sharp increase in prices.

The bank’s governor, Riad Salameh, has been at odds with the government over the move, claiming that it should only have been done after the provision of prepaid cash cards for the poor.

Salameh has said he can resume subsidizing imports only if a law is passed allowing him to dip into the mandatory reserves.

 


US and France discuss ways to promote Libya’s democratic process

US and France discuss ways to promote Libya’s democratic process
Updated 16 January 2022

US and France discuss ways to promote Libya’s democratic process

US and France discuss ways to promote Libya’s democratic process
  • Egyptian and Algerian foreign ministers met to discuss Libya, Sudan, Mali, and the Sahel and Sahara regions
  • Arab League chief and UN envoy to Libya also held talks

LONDON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian to discuss efforts to promote the democratic process in Libya, the State Department said on Sunday.
Efforts to lead Libya into elections at the end of December were thrown into disarray when the country’s electoral commission said a vote could not take place, citing what it called inadequacies in the electoral legislation and the judicial appeals process.
Blinken also spoke about the recent informal EU foreign ministers’ meeting, that was held in the western French city of Brest on Friday as part of the French presidency of the Council of the EU. 
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had reiterated following the meeting on Friday his view that talks to revive a 2015 Iran nuclear deal are progressing “much too slowly to be able to reach a result.”
“We now have to conclude and come to a decision: Either the Iranians want to complete this, in which case we have the impression that there will be flexibility in the Americans’ stance.
“Or they don’t want to complete this, and in that case we will be faced with a major proliferation crisis,” Le Drian said.
“There will be nothing more to negotiate if nothing happens,” he warned.
Negotiations to salvage the nuclear deal resumed in late November after they were suspended in June as Iran elected a new, ultraconservative government.
“Secretary Blinken reiterated the United States’ firm commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of continued Russian aggression and discussed US resolve to respond swiftly and strongly to any further Russian invasion into Ukraine,” the State Department also said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met with his Algerian counterpart Ramdane Lamamra in Cairo to discuss developments in Libya, Sudan, Mali, and the Sahel and Sahara regions.
The two ministers stressed the need to intensify coordination within the framework of joint African action in a way that enhances efforts to achieve peace and security on the African continent, especially in light of the various security challenges imposed by the successive developments in the region, the Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman said on Facebook.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Algerian counterpart Ramdane Lamamra meet in Cairo. (Twitter/@MfaEgypt)

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit stressed the importance of encouraging the Libyan institutions to assume their responsibilities toward the Libyan people during this important and critical stage that would lead to the desired electoral process.
He was speaking during a meeting with Stephanie Williams, the UN secretary-general’s special adviser on Libya, in the Egyptian capital, the Arab League’s General Secretariat said in a statement.
The two parties agreed on the importance of holding elections that will reflect the will of the Libyan people, while continuing the security, military and economic agenda.
(With AFP and Reuters)


Sudan doctors protest state violence in post-coup rallies

Sudan doctors protest state violence in post-coup rallies
Updated 16 January 2022

Sudan doctors protest state violence in post-coup rallies

Sudan doctors protest state violence in post-coup rallies
  • “During every protest they fire tear gas inside the hospital where I work,” one doctor, Houda Ahmad, said
  • “They even attack us inside the intensive care unit,” she added at the rally

KHARTOUM: Sudanese doctors protested Sunday against violent attacks by security forces targeting medical personnel during pro-democracy rallies following last year’s military coup.
“During every protest they fire tear gas inside the hospital where I work,” one doctor, Houda Ahmad, said at the rally in Khartoum.
“They even attack us inside the intensive care unit,” she added at the rally, where medical personnel carried pictures of colleagues they said had been killed.
The demonstration was the latest in the crisis-hit north-east African country, where protesters in the north also blockaded roads to vent their anger against an electricity price hike announced last week, and that has since been frozen.
Sudan’s October 25 coup led by military leader General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan derailed a fragile transition to civilian rule, that had started with the 2019 ouster of strongman Omar Al-Bashir following youth-led mass protests.
The military power grab has sparked an international outcry and triggered a new wave of street demonstrations, with another rally expected on Monday.
During the turmoil of recent months, prime minister Abdulla Hamdok was detained and later reinstated but then quit, warning that Sudan was at a dangerous crossroads threatening its very “survival.”
Deadly crackdowns have claimed the lives of 64 protesters, according to pro-democracy medics. A police general has also been killed in the street violence that has rocked Sudan, one of the world’s poorest countries.
The UN World Health Organization said last week there had been 11 confirmed attacks on Sudanese health facilities since November.
The WHO said it was “also aware of the interception of ambulances, medical personnel and patients during their attempts to seek safety.”
It called for the attacks to “stop now,” pointing out that they threaten health care services needed more than ever during the Covid pandemic.
Covid-19 is a “grave threat” for Sudan, where 94 percent of the population has not been vaccinated, said the WHO.
Sudan has confirmed 93,973 coronavirus infections and about 4,000 deaths. In September, it said 64 percent of about 1,000 health workers tested had been found to be Covid-positive.
Sudan’s 45 million people have also been dealing with a severe economic crisis and inflation approaching 400 percent.
On Sunday, hundreds blocked key roads in the Northern Province, 350 kilometers (229 miles) from the capital, angered by recent news electricity prices would double — a move that was then frozen, but not officially abolished.
“No vehicle will pass until the authorities have canceled this increase, because it signs the death certificate of our agriculture,” protester Hassan Idriss told AFP by phone.
The protests that led to the 2019 ouster of Bashir had started after the government decided to triple the price of bread.
During the recent protests, Sudan has also often shut down the Internet and moved to limit reporting on the unrest.
In the latest move it revoked the license of Al Jazeera Mubasher, the live TV unit of the Qatar-based network, accusing it of “unprofessional” coverage of protests, the channel said.
The United Nations is now seeking to organize talks involving political, military and social actors to resolve the crisis.
UN special representative Volker Perthes announced the bid last week saying it was “time to end the violence and enter into a comprehensive consultative process.”
The mainstream faction of the Forces for Freedom and Change, the leading civilian pro-democracy group, said Sunday it would accept the offer of dialogue if it were to revive the transition to civilian rule.
Sudan’s military in April 2019 put an end Bashir’s three-decade rule, leading to the arrest and imprisonment of the autocrat and many regime officials.
Bashir is also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
An imprisoned former foreign minister under Bashir, Ibrahim Ghandour, has begun a hunger strike along with several ex-regime officials, his family said Sunday.
They will only end it “once they have been freed or brought before an impartial tribunal,” his family said in a statement.
The public prosecutor’s office had recently ordered the release of several ex-officials, but Burhan instead ordered they stay in detention.
Ghandour’s family decried the “interference in judicial affairs.”
The protester movement however accuses Burhan, who was Bashir’s ground forces commander, of helping old regime figures come back to power.


Coalition in Yemen kills more than 280 Houthis in airstrikes on Marib, Al-Bayda

Coalition in Yemen kills more than 280 Houthis in airstrikes on Marib, Al-Bayda
Updated 16 January 2022

Coalition in Yemen kills more than 280 Houthis in airstrikes on Marib, Al-Bayda

Coalition in Yemen kills more than 280 Houthis in airstrikes on Marib, Al-Bayda
  • Coalition forces carried out 64 operations targeting the Houthi militia in Al-Bayda and Marib
  • A total of 30 military vehicles were destroyed during the operations

RIYADH: The Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen said on Sunday that more than 220 Houthi militants were killed in airstrikes on Marib province, Saudi Press Agency reported.
The coalition added that 17 military vehicles were also destroyed during 45 operations targeting the Iran-backed Houthi militia in the oil-rich Marib province over the last 24 hours.
The coalition also said it had carried out 19 other operations targeting the Houthis in Al-Bayda province, killing more than 60 fighters and destroying 13 vehicles.
Meanwhile, Yemeni Information Minister Moammar Al-Eryani said the government strongly condemned the targeting with mortar shells a hospital in Taiz, which has been providing services to thousands of people since the war began.

“Since the coup, Al-Thawra Hospital and the government, private hospitals, schools, facilities, infrastructure, private objects, citizens’ homes in Taiz was subject to indiscriminate attacks by the militia, which killed and wounded thousands of civilians,in flagrant violation of international laws,” Al-Eryani said in a tweet.
He also said they were surprised by the international community’s silence, including the UN and US envoys, “regarding the war crimes and crimes against humanity against Taiz, which accommodates largest population in Yemen.”
He called for adopting firm stances to stop the Iran-backed Houthi from sniping and bombing civilians civilian objects in Taiz.


Egypt, UK ministers talk climate change agenda ahead of COP27

Egypt, UK ministers talk climate change agenda ahead of COP27
Updated 16 January 2022

Egypt, UK ministers talk climate change agenda ahead of COP27

Egypt, UK ministers talk climate change agenda ahead of COP27
  • Both parties promised to work together through 2022 and beyond to keep the 1.5 degrees Celsius target within reach
  • Also agreed to support the efforts of developing countries in adapting to negative effects of climate change

CAIRO: Egypt and the UK have committed to tackling climate change in a “critical decade” following a ministerial meeting.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, president-designate of COP27, and COP26 President Alok Sharma, discussed climate change issues, priorities and areas of cooperation as part of a post-COP26 meeting to prepare for the next session of the summit, which Egypt will host this year.

In a joint statement after the meeting, the two sides promised to work to advance the guidelines of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Paris Agreement.

The statement said: “As the current and incoming UNFCCC COP Presidencies, we affirm our joint commitment to accelerating the fight against climate change during this critical decade.

“In this context, we agreed that the UK and Egypt would strengthen bilateral cooperation to fight climate change and to maintain and build on the current momentum for global climate action.”

Both parties promised to work together through 2022 and beyond to keep the 1.5 degrees Celsius target within reach, and to support the efforts of developing countries in adapting to the negative effects of climate change.

The UK will “extend its full support to Egypt to achieve ambitious results during COP27,” the statement added.

“We will work together to encourage all parties to meet their commitments across mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage and finance; requesting that by the end of 2022, parties revisit and strengthen their 2030 emissions target to align with the Paris temperature goals and make progress towards doubling of adaptation finance on 2019 levels, as envisaged in the Glasgow Climate Pact,” the statement said.

“To this end, we agree to continue close consultations in the months ahead, both on the ministerial and technical levels.”


Iran jails anew French academic for ‘violating’ house arrest: Judiciary

Iran jails anew French academic for ‘violating’ house arrest: Judiciary
Updated 16 January 2022

Iran jails anew French academic for ‘violating’ house arrest: Judiciary

Iran jails anew French academic for ‘violating’ house arrest: Judiciary
  • Adelkhah, 62, is an expert on Iran and Shiite Islam at France's prestigious Sciences Po university
  • She was arrested on June 5, 2019, at Tehran airport and sentenced to five years' imprisonment

TEHRAN: French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah was jailed anew for breaking house arrest restrictions, an official from the Islamic republic’s judiciary authority said on Sunday.
Her Paris-based support group had on Wednesday announced “with great shock and indignation” her reincarceration, which comes during sensitive talks in Vienna aimed at reviving a 2015 nuclear deal which offered Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
“Ms Adelkhah... has unfortunately knowingly violated the limits of house arrest dozens of times,” Kazem Gharibabadi, deputy head of the judiciary, was quoted as saying by Mizan Online, the authority’s news agency.
“She has insisted on doing so despite repeated warnings from judicial authorities. So now, like any other prisoner who has violated the same rules... she has been returned to prison,” he added.
Adelkhah, 62, an expert on Iran and Shiite Islam at France’s prestigious Sciences Po university, was arrested on June 5, 2019, at Tehran airport.
She was sentenced in May 2020 to five years’ imprisonment for conspiring against national security, accusations her supporters have always denounced as absurd. In October of that year, she was placed under house arrest with an electronic bracelet.
The French foreign ministry said the reimprisonment “can only have negative consequences on the relationship between France and Iran and reduce confidence between our two countries.”
French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday called the decision “entirely arbitrary,” adding that “the whole of France” was “mobilized for her release.”
Gharibabadi insisted that Adelkhah is “a citizen of the Islamic republic of Iran,” adding that Tehran “firmly condemns the intervention of other countries in (its) judicial process.”
Iran does not recognize dual nationality so denies French consular staff access to Adelkhah.
“It is very unfortunate that the French authorities... by issuing hasty statements, make baseless and unfounded remarks that are definitely unacceptable,” Gharibabadi said.
She is one of at least a dozen Western nationals believed to be held in Iran who rights groups abroad say are being detained for political reasons to extract concessions from the West.
Talks between Tehran and global powers on the 2015 nuclear deal entered the New Year with positive signals emerging, including the European Union saying on Friday that a deal remained possible.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman last week cited “good progress” but French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Friday reiterated his view that the talks were progressing “much too slowly to be able to reach a result.”
Then-president Donald Trump had pulled the US out of the agreement in 2018 and reimposed biting sanctions, prompting Tehran to begin rolling back on its commitments.