Fire destroys 250,000 liters of petrol in Lebanese oil facility

Special Fire destroys 250,000 liters of petrol in Lebanese oil facility
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Firefighters attempt to put out a fire at the Zahrani oil facility in southern Lebanon. (AP)
Special Fire destroys 250,000 liters of petrol in Lebanese oil facility
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Smoke billows from a fire at the Zahrani oil facility in southern Lebanon on Oct. 11, 2021. (Reuters)
Special Fire destroys 250,000 liters of petrol in Lebanese oil facility
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Water is sprayed on a fire at the Zahrani oil facility in southern Lebanon on Oct. 11, 2021. (Reuters)
Special Fire destroys 250,000 liters of petrol in Lebanese oil facility
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Smoke billows from a fire at the Zahrani oil facility in southern Lebanon on Oct. 11, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 12 October 2021

Fire destroys 250,000 liters of petrol in Lebanese oil facility

Fire destroys 250,000 liters of petrol in Lebanese oil facility
  • Army donates gas oil to help country out of blackout; Central Bank to secure $100m for fuel import

BEIRUT: Firefighters extinguished a blaze that broke out on Monday morning at Al-Zahrani oil facility, south of Beirut, with Lebanese Energy Minister Walid Fayyad estimating that 250,000 liters of petrol had been destroyed in the incident. 

He suggested the fire had been caused by a “mistake during the process of transporting the fuel that was in the tank, whose ceiling was tilted.”

As many as 15 fully staffed fire trucks worked to control the fire by isolating the tank to prevent the flames from spreading.

The fire provoked memories of the massive blast at Beirut Port 14 months ago, which killed more than 200 people, injured thousands, and devastated the capital. 

People went on social media to express their fears about the Al-Zahrani fire being deliberate, while others regretted their “bad luck and the never-ending daily catastrophes.”

An investigation has been launched into the fire. 

“We must wait for the results of the investigation in order to know whether anyone is responsible or whether the fire was caused by natural factors,” Fayyad noted.

Civil Defense Director-General Brig. Gen. Raymond Khattar said it was “too early” to know the causes of the fire.

The Lebanese army gave 6,000 kiloliters of gas oil to Electricite du Liban from its reserves to reconnect the electrical grid in production plants to bring the country out of its total blackout due to fuel shortages. 

Fayyad said: “Today, the Jiyeh reverse engine plant was connected to the grid with a power of 50 megawatts, Deir Ammar plant with a power of 210 megawatts, and the reverse engine plant in Zouk with a power of 120 megawatts, as well as Al-Zahrani.

“This quantity is enough for three days, after which the plants’ production capacity will be replaced by another from the Zouk and Jiyeh thermal plants after supplying them with the fuel oil that arrived on Sunday evening, samples of which were examined by the Bureau Veritas labs in Dubai. The total production capacity will thus remain within limits at 500 megawatts to maintain the grid’s stability.

“The Central Bank has agreed to secure $100 million to conduct a bid to import fuel, which will help raise the hours of electricity supply by the end of this month.”

Energy experts believed that Lebanese authorities were “patching up” the electricity crisis instead of finding concrete solutions. 

Lebanon is facing a deficit in electricity generation because of the difficulty in securing fuel due to the Central Bank’s failure to open sufficient credits.

Huge losses

The electricity sector in Lebanon is considered one of the largest sectors causing huge losses, amounting to $43 billion, and most likely one of the main reasons for Lebanon’s current economic crises.

Lebanon relies on worn-out, low-efficiency thermal plants that use imported, expensive, and polluting heavy oil and diesel. 

Corruption has wrecked this sector and the reform process has been marred by political differences. 

The sector’s regulatory body, which was recognized years ago as a reliable authority that could take independent decisions, has yet to be formed because the energy minister argued it was limiting his powers.

After Hezbollah and Iran made their way into the sector by bringing Iranian fuel into Lebanon through illegal crossings with Syria, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian tried to extend a hand to the electricity sector through an offer he made during his visit to Beirut on Oct. 7 “to build two power stations, one in Beirut and another in the south, within one and a half years.”

But it turned out that the proposal required Ghobeiry municipality, which is affiliated with Hezbollah, to take control of the Golf Club of Lebanon, which is located on a 410,000-square-meter property south of Beirut, on the pretext that the club had not paid fees owed to the municipality for four years, the total of which has been estimated at about LBP1 billion ($663,349).

The government did not take a stance on the Iranian offer despite pressure from Hezbollah, which began preparing to implement Iran’s plan on the golf club’s land.

Ghobeiry Mayor Maan Al-Khalil tweeted: “The property is rented from the state for LBP75 million, equivalent to $4,000. Khosh Amadid (Persian for welcome) to the Iranian grant, a 1,000-megawatt power plant to illuminate Beirut, its southern suburbs, and Mount Lebanon.”

The club’s lawyer, Imad Hamdan, denied claims the facility had dodged municipality fees and stressed the management’s confidence in “the state, its institutions and judiciary.”

The Iranian proposal provoked negative reactions, especially since the golf club is one of Beirut’s last green spaces. 

Former MP Fares Souaid warned against “Hezbollah, backed by Iran, putting its hand on Lebanon’s real estate history and abolishing it.”


Quad condemns Houthi military reinforcement, attacks that threaten to derail Yemen truce

Quad condemns Houthi military reinforcement, attacks that threaten to derail Yemen truce
Updated 19 sec ago

Quad condemns Houthi military reinforcement, attacks that threaten to derail Yemen truce

Quad condemns Houthi military reinforcement, attacks that threaten to derail Yemen truce

LONDON: Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the UK, and the US have condemned the Houthis’ large scale military reinforcement and all attacks that threaten to derail the truce in Yemen.

The countries, known as the Quad, recently met to discuss the situation in Yemen and also condemned recent Houthi attacks on Taiz and a Houthi military parade that was put on in Hodeidah at the beginning of this month which violated the Hodeidah Agreement.

The Quad welcomed the tangible benefits of the truce in Yemen for the country’s people since it began on April. 2 and the continued implementation of agreed confidence building measures by its government.

The countries welcomed the flow of fuel into Hodeidah Port despite a Houthi order that delayed the established process for clearing ships, and the resumption of flights in and out of Sanaa airport.

They called for the implementation of outstanding measures including the opening by the Houthis of the main roads around Taiz and an agreement on a joint mechanism for the payment of civil servant salaries.

The Quad said it fully supports the efforts of UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg to extend and expand the truce which is due for renewal on Oct. 2, and that all terms of the truce must be fully implemented.

The governments of the four countries also agreed that a permanent ceasefire and a durable political settlement must be the ultimate objectives of the Yemeni political process, under UN auspices, and that such a settlement must be based on the agreed references and relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

They reaffirmed their support to Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, stressed the importance of cohesion in the council, and welcomed the council’s commitment to improving basic services and economic stability in the war-torn country.


Iran summons UK and Norway ambassadors amid violent unrest

Iran summons UK and Norway ambassadors amid violent unrest
Updated 28 min 11 sec ago

Iran summons UK and Norway ambassadors amid violent unrest

Iran summons UK and Norway ambassadors amid violent unrest
  • Protests over Amini’s death have spread across at least 46 cities, towns and villages in Iran
  • At least 41 protesters and police have been killed since the protests began

DUBAI: Iran’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday it summoned Britain’s ambassador to protest what it described as a hostile atmosphere created by London-based Farsi language media outlets. The move comes amid violent unrest in Iran triggered by the death of a young woman in police custody.
The state-run IRNA news agency reported the ministry also summoned Norway’s ambassador to Iran and strongly protested recent remarks by the president of the Norwegian parliament, Masud Gharahkhani.
The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in custody after being detained by Iranian morality police launched unrest across Iran’s provinces and the capital of Tehran.
Protests over Amini’s death have spread across at least 46 cities, towns and villages in Iran. State TV has suggested that at least 41 protesters and police have been killed since the protests began Sept. 17. An Associated Press count of official statements by authorities put the toll at least 11, with more than 1,200 demonstrators arrested.
The Foreign Ministry’s website said it summoned Simon Shercliff, the UK’s ambassador to Iran, on Saturday and protested the hosting of critical Farsi-language media outlets. The ministry alleges the news outlets have provoked disturbances and the spread of riots in Iran at the top of their programs.
Iran said it considers the news agencies’ reporting to be interference in Iran’s internal affairs and acts against its sovereignty.
The crisis in Iran began as a public outpouring of anger over the the death of Amini, who was arrested by the morality police in Tehran for allegedly wearing her Islamic headscarf too loosely. The police said she died of a heart attack and was not mistreated, but her family has cast doubt on that account.
Amini’s death has sparked sharp condemnation from Western countries and the United Nations.


Lebanon’s Grand Mufti appeals for unity in meeting with Sunni MPs ahead of presidential election

Lebanon’s Grand Mufti appeals for unity in meeting with Sunni MPs ahead of presidential election
Updated 25 September 2022

Lebanon’s Grand Mufti appeals for unity in meeting with Sunni MPs ahead of presidential election

Lebanon’s Grand Mufti appeals for unity in meeting with Sunni MPs ahead of presidential election
  • Derian: ‘We hope for government within days’

BEIRUT:  Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel Latif Derian warned on Saturday that Lebanon has become a failed state.

“We are rapidly moving toward no state at all, and the Arabs and the world will soon start ignoring Lebanon’s existence because of political mismanagement at all levels,” he said.

“We need to elect a new president and the MPs are responsible for electing him or creating a presidential vacuum.”

Derian had invited Sunni MPs for a meeting at Dar Al-Fatwa to discuss possible candidates.

All but three of 27 Sunni MPs from different political currents attended the meeting, including one MP affiliated with Hezbollah, in addition to reformist and independent MPs.

Two reformist MPs, Ibrahim Mneimneh and Halima Al-Qaaqour, and independent MP Osama Saad did not attend.

A source in Dar Al-Fatwa said that the meeting was aimed at uniting the Sunni bloc in parliament to allow it to have a meaningful say in the presidential elections.

The bloc also aims stop any attempts to tamper with the Taif Agreement and undermine its provisions regarding Lebanon’s constitution, the source said.

The meeting focused on efforts to preserve national unity, and respect constitutional deadlines on the election of a new president and the formation of a government capable of implementing financial, monetary and legislative reforms, including an economic recovery plan.

During the meeting, Derian said that the survival of nations and states depends on the effectiveness of their constitutional institutions.

The president is the protector of the constitution, and the Christian president in Lebanon is a symbol of coexistence on which the Lebanese system is based, he said.

Arabs “recognize and appreciate the Lebanese experience” because the Lebanese president is the only Christian president in the Arab world, Derian added.

He urged MPs to encourage respect for the president’s position, and help him assume his role at home and abroad.

Derian also said the new president must preserve the principles of the Taif Agreement, the constitution, coexistence, and Lebanon’s national, Arab and international legitimacy.

If these matters are neglected, Lebanon will be unable to maintain order, stability and its national entity, he added.

Derian highlighted the need to put an end to made-up sectarian, divisive clashes over powers and return to the constitutional principle of separating powers but maintaining cooperation between them.

He called for the election of a president characterized by the personal and political qualities of a public businessman who would be ethically responsible for the mission with which he is tasked.

The new president must have wisdom, national responsibility and integrity, as well as the ability to be inclusive of all Lebanese, and to use his powers to help the country out of this crisis and prevent it from reaching total collapse, he said.

Derian reiterated: “Either we elect a president with these qualities, or we see the regime and the state fall before our eyes.”

He also appealed for respect for the prime minister and help for the PM-designate with his mission.

“This is a joint responsibility that rests with everyone. We are looking forward to forming a government as soon as possible, perhaps in the next few days,” said Derain, adding that Lebanon needed a government with full powers  — and not a caretaker government —   in these harsh and difficult circumstances.

Derian said Lebanon can survive only if consensus is reached. There is no salvation without unity, away from tension, sectarian strife and incitement, he added.

Lebanon needed a president “who is not part of the problem or the cause of it.”

In a statement issued after the meeting, those present stressed the principles advocated by Dar Al-Fatwa, especially in terms of committing to the Taif Agreement, Lebanon’s Arab identity and national unity.

They also condemned the abuses that had harmed and were still harming the foundations of national reconciliation and coexistence.

The Sunni MPs stressed the need to end Lebanon’s suffering under mismanagement and rampant corruption.

“Saving Lebanon requires recognizing the mistakes that were made, holding the perpetrators accountable, whoever they are, and sincerely cooperating with the different Lebanese and Arab parties and the international community to restore Lebanon’s identity and stature,” they said.

The Sunni MPs said that they will work with fellow MPs to elect a new president on the specified constitutional date.

They said that the new president “needs to abide by the constitution and be loyal to the people of Lebanon and their interests.”

The statement added that Lebanon’s enemy was and still is the Israeli army, which continued to occupy parts of the Lebanese territories.

It called for the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions that stipulate the Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories and the recognition of Jerusalem as an occupied city.


Lebanon’s banks to reopen on Monday

Lebanon’s banks to reopen on Monday
Updated 25 September 2022

Lebanon’s banks to reopen on Monday

Lebanon’s banks to reopen on Monday
  • Each bank would determine its own channels for banking operations with commercial and educational institutions

BEIRUT:  Lebanon’s banks will reopen on Monday, the banking association said, after five days of closure following a wave of holdups in the country by depositors seeking access to their frozen savings.
The association said in a statement on Sunday that the decision to reopen “was taken after consideration of the current difficult security conditions and the need to maintain the safety of customers and employees alike, in the absence of adequate protection by the state.”
It added each bank would determine its own channels for banking operations with commercial and educational institutions, and the health care sector among others.
A top Lebanese banker on Friday criticized politicians for failing to enact a capital control law, saying this was the way to avoid bank raids by savers demanding funds from frozen accounts and to stop banks’ “discretionary practices.”
The holdups reflect savers’ desperation three years after Lebanon’s financial system collapsed due to decades of state corruption and waste, and unsustainable financial policies.
The government has agreed neither a financial recovery plan nor enacted reforms deemed vital to get Lebanon out of the crisis. While the government says it is committed to reforms, the International Monetary Fund says progress remains very slow.


At UNGA, UAE minister demands return of 3 islands seized by Iran

At UNGA, UAE minister demands return of 3 islands seized by Iran
Updated 56 min 56 sec ago

At UNGA, UAE minister demands return of 3 islands seized by Iran

At UNGA, UAE minister demands return of 3 islands seized by Iran

NEW YORK: The United Arab Emirates on Saturday urged Iran to return to the Gulf state the three islands it had been illegally occupying for the past five decades.

In an address before the General Debate of the 77th United Nations General Assembly in New York City, Reem Al Hashimy, UAE's Minister of State for International Cooperation, said Iran's occupation of the three islands was a violation of her country's sovereignty.

"... we renew our demand for an end to Iran's occupation of the three UAE islands: Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa – the UAE’s sovereignty over which is proven by history and international law," Hashimy said.

Iran seized the three islands in November 1971 shortly after British forces were pulled out. The islands are all located in the Strait of Hormuz between the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

"Despite the UAE’s sincere calls to peacefully resolve this conflict over the past five decades, we stress here that Iran has not responded. We will never relent in voicing our claim to these islands either through direct negotiations or through the International Court of Justice, as is our legitimate right," Hashimy said.

Iran has been accused by its Arab neighbors and members and the West of seeking to destabilize the region by funding and arming its proxy militias, including the Hezbollah of Lebanon, the Houthis of Yemen, and other militants in the Palestinian territories and in Iraq.

On Sunday, the UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

During the meeting, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed called for strengthening international cooperation to achieve stability and peace in the region and achieve the aspirations of people, according to a statement on the Emirates News Agency (WAM).

Both officials discussed bilateral relations and ways to enhance cooperation between the two countries to achieve their common interests. They also exchanged views on regional and international developments and reviewed several issues on the agenda of the General Assembly.