Crucial for Lebanese to interact with Arab neighbors, says Pope Francis

Crucial for Lebanese to interact with Arab neighbors, says Pope Francis
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati meets Pope Francis at the Vatican, November 25, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 25 November 2021

Crucial for Lebanese to interact with Arab neighbors, says Pope Francis

Crucial for Lebanese to interact with Arab neighbors, says Pope Francis
  • Vatican keen on maintaining Lebanon’s stability and stopping emigration
  • Families of Beirut port blast victims: Army was aware of stored ammonium nitrate risk

BEIRUT: Pope Francis has called on “all the Lebanese to cooperate to save their country so that it can restore its role as a model for dialogue and convergence between East and West.”

The pope on Thursday received Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who visited to seek guidance from the Vatican in light of the difficulties Lebanon is facing.

Mikati quoted the pope as stressing “how crucial the Lebanese’s role and interaction with their Arab environment are to keeping Lebanon a pioneering, unique country.”

He said that Pope Francis told him that he “will make the necessary efforts in all international forums to help Lebanon pass this difficult stage and restore peace and stability.”

Mikati said: “We both agreed on the importance of activating Islamic-Christian relations.”

The prime minister is counting on the pope’s ability to promote the Lebanese cause with other countries.

“In these difficult times, we are in dire need of the support of our friends,” Mikati said following the meeting.

He added: “The more Christians in Lebanon feel safe, the more this will be reflected on all Christians in the East. I am confident that the Holy See can play a great role in this respect.”

Mikati said Christians in the East “have been among the pillars of freedoms, human rights and freedom of belief, and have always found a haven in Lebanon.”

Mikati also met with the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

“Lebanon is essential to the Christian presence in the East, and it has always been an example to the world about how societies can coexist,” Mikati’s media office quoted Parolin as saying.

He continued: “Lebanon receives special attention from the Holy See.

“Any credible government ought to secure the country’s obligations, especially with the international community.”

Parolin expressed concerns about the economic and social situation in Lebanon.

“The Vatican will make efforts to support Lebanon in international forums,” he said, stressing “the need for Lebanon to maintain the best relations with its Arab surroundings and the international community.”

Following the meetings, Mikati said he detailed “the government’s plans to address the challenges facing Lebanon,” to Vatican officials.

Mikati said he felt that the pope was pleased with the efforts “we are making in maintaining security and stability in Lebanon, addressing the enormous difficulties facing the country, and continuing to adhere to the national choices upon which the Lebanese unanimously agree, as well as strengthening relations between Lebanon and the world.”

The prime minister added that that Pope Francis “is fully aware of the Lebanese situation and the prevailing conditions, and stressed the need for everyone to cooperate to preserve the Lebanese message and stop the massive emigration from all sects.”

Lebanon is currently attracting broad international attention, with influential countries monitoring the behavior of the Lebanese forces on constitutional requirements, the first of which are the parliamentary elections.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is scheduled to visit Lebanon in December. The Vatican’s Foreign Minister Paul Gallagher is also expected to visit in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, there have been developments in one of the crises that has attracted global attention. The families of the victims of the Beirut port explosion made significant accusations as they held a sit-in at the Palace of Justice in Beirut in solidarity with Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the blast probe.

William Noun, brother of explosion victim Joe Noun, said: “Documents revealed that on July 20, 2020, i.e. two weeks before the explosion, the Lebanese army was informed of the dangerous quantities of ammonium nitrate that were stored at the port.”

Noun claimed that the army “knew, just like the president, the prime minister and the public prosecutor, all of whom have fallen short in their duties.”

Noun named an army general, saying that he “continues to provide false information for the investigation and the judiciary.”

On Thursday, the General Authority of the Court of Cassation rejected lawsuits to dismiss Bitar filed by a group of politicians accused of being involved in the port explosion.

While there are no internal political solutions for the Cabinet impasse and the crisis with the Gulf, Deputy Prime Minister Saadeh Al-Shami announced on Thursday that the technical negotiations with the International Monetary Fund were almost over.

Al-Shami said: “We have entered the negotiation stage on monetary and economic policies to start negotiations in earnest with the IMF team, which we hope will visit Lebanon soon.”

He said: “Every minister is working on the files within their jurisdiction, provided that the government's plan is announced as soon as it is completed,” stressing that the Cabinet needs to convene to approve the plan.

“Our goal is still to reach a preliminary agreement before the end of the year, after which we can reach a final agreement in January 2022,” Al-Shami said, adding: “We also need to address the exchange rate, monetary policy, and the banking and financial sector, and we are preparing a vision for how to solve this issue, which we will announce upon completion.”

Speaking about the impact of the parliamentary elections on the negotiations with the IMF, he noted: “The IMF will not associate any issue to the elections, but they can sometimes affect the negotiations.”


Egyptian, Algerian presidents hold talks in Cairo

A handout picture released by the Egyptian Presidency shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) meeting with his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune on January 24, 2022 in the capital Cairo. (AFP)
A handout picture released by the Egyptian Presidency shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) meeting with his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune on January 24, 2022 in the capital Cairo. (AFP)
Updated 12 sec ago

Egyptian, Algerian presidents hold talks in Cairo

A handout picture released by the Egyptian Presidency shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) meeting with his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune on January 24, 2022 in the capital Cairo. (AFP)
  • Tebboune hails ‘complete consensus of visions, points of view’
  • El-Sisi cites agreement on Libya, water security, Palestinian state

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Tuesday expressed their agreement on the need to hold simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections in Libya.

During a joint press conference in Cairo, Tebboune said his talks with El-Sisi represented “a complete consensus of visions and points of view.”

El-Sisi said the talks included the issue of “water security,” adding that “our visions coincided with the need to reach a comprehensive agreement on the Renaissance Dam” in Ethiopia, which threatens to reduce Egypt’s and Sudan’s shares of Nile water.

El-Sisi said he and Tebboune also agreed on the need for foreign fighters to leave Libya “in a way that achieves security” for the country and its people.

Egypt’s president added that they held “intensive and constructive discussions that dealt with international and regional issues,” and “reflected the common will to strengthen all frameworks of cooperation between the two countries … taking into account confronting and rejecting foreign interference in the region.”

He said they also agreed on the need for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with East Jerusalem the capital of a Palestinian state.

El-Sisi wished Algeria success in its presidency of the upcoming Arab Summit.

 


Lebanese cleric seeks implementation of Taif Agreement

Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros al-Rahi. (AFP)
Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros al-Rahi. (AFP)
Updated 8 min 4 sec ago

Lebanese cleric seeks implementation of Taif Agreement

Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros al-Rahi. (AFP)
  • Discontent abounds following Hariri decision to suspend involvement in politics

BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi has reiterated the necessity of implementing the Taif Agreement, international resolutions and the removal of illegal weapons from Lebanon.

The Taif Agreement, signed in 1989, aimed to provide "the basis for the end of the civil war and the return to political normality in Lebanon."

Al-Rahi’s points are the demands mentioned in a paper handed last week to Lebanese authorities by Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al-Sabah as the conditions for rebuilding trust between the Gulf states and Lebanon, after Saudi Arabia and others severed diplomatic and economic relations with Beirut.

Al-Rahi reiterated his demand for “holding an international conference, announcing Lebanon’s neutrality and finding a solution to the problem of Syrian and Palestinian refugees.”

He said he was surprised by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s decision to suspend his involvement in political activities and his call to the Future Movement to neither contest the upcoming parliamentary elections nor nominate anyone to run on its behalf.

He told a delegation of the Union of Editors: “I was surprised by the decision and did not expect it, as Hariri is moderate and I hope it does not lead to any crack in the Lebanese structure.”

Earlier, Hariri said: “There is no room for any positive opportunity for Lebanon in light of Iranian influence, international confusion, national division, the rise of sectarian tensions and the deterioration of the state.”

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said he was “saddened by Hariri’s decision,” and the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt said he felt “orphaned.”

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said: “Despite our differences with Saad Hariri on political vision and power-sharing, I cannot but personally sympathize with him,” while stressing his “respect and appreciation for friends and brothers in the Future Movement.”

He said he would continue to coordinate with the Sunni community and other sects that believe in the Lebanese cause until Lebanon succeeds as a sovereign and independent state not controlled by Iran.

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian said: “Hariri’s step is regrettable and painful after all his efforts in his national missions.”

He expressed “concern over the developments on the Lebanese scene” and affirmed that “Lebanon’s relations with its Arab brothers, especially the Gulf Cooperation Council states and primarily Saudi Arabia, must be at the highest level."

He said the Lebanese people should be convinced that no group should harm these “brotherly relations,” in order to protect Lebanese and Arab interests.

In a joint statement, several economic bodies called on “political powers to assume their national responsibilities and take steps to stop the collapse and disintegration of the state, in order to restore the work of the state and its legitimate institutions, and to consolidate Lebanon’s stability, role and identity.”


Court told former Irish soldier was prepared to die for Daesh

Court told former Irish soldier was prepared to die for Daesh
Updated 18 min 16 sec ago

Court told former Irish soldier was prepared to die for Daesh

Court told former Irish soldier was prepared to die for Daesh
  • Lisa Smith, 39, accused of encouraging husband to take sniper’s course
  • Her trial for terror offenses began Tuesday in Dublin

LONDON: A woman accused of joining Daesh was prepared to die a martyr, a Dublin court has been told.

Lisa Smith, 39, from Dundalk, County Louth, has pleaded not guilty to being a member of a terrorist organization between October 2015 and December 2019.

Her case opened on Tuesday in a special criminal court with prosecutor Sean Gillane telling the hearing that the former Irish Defense Forces soldier had “enveloped” herself in the “black flag of Islamic State (Daesh).”

He said Smith “tried to access Islamic State-controlled territory and sought out the means in which this could be done.”

The court heard that she had traveled to Syria in 2015 and had married and had a child while there. She later fled to a refugee camp as the group’s territory collapsed and was arrested upon her repatriation to Ireland.

It was also claimed in court that her husband, Sajid Aslam, a Daesh fighter said to have taken border patrol duties for the group, “had done a sniper’s course on her advice,” and that Smith had been involved with various Facebook and Telegram groups. In one discussion about Daesh’s execution of five men by drowning in a cage, the prosecution claimed that in reply Smith said: “OK, now I understand why they were drowned. I didn’t know the other half of the story.”

Smith has also pleaded not guilty to financing Daesh by sending 800 euros ($902) by Western Union money transfer to a named person in 2015.

She has not been accused of using arms while in Syria.

Gillane noted that her membership of Daesh could be adduced by her association, state of mind, and allegiance to the group’s leadership.

Smith converted to Islam in 2011 and left the Irish military after she was refused permission to wear a hijab while working.

Her trial is expected to last up to 12 weeks.


Iran uses Yemen as base for attacking neighbors, says Yemen PM

Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed. (AFP file photo)
Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed. (AFP file photo)
Updated 21 min 41 sec ago

Iran uses Yemen as base for attacking neighbors, says Yemen PM

Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed. (AFP file photo)
  • Calls have escalated to designate the Houthis as an international terrorist organization since earlier this month after the militia seized a UAE-flagged ship in the Red Sea and mounted deadly missile and drone strikes on Saudi Arabia and the UAE

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s prime minister on Tuesday accused the Houthi militia of allowing Iran to use the war-torn country as a base for attacking other countries, the official news agency SABA reported.

Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed told British Ambassador to Yemen Richard Oppenheim that the Houthis have shunned peace efforts to end the war and have served as a stooge for the Iranian regime to launch attacks against Saudi Arabia and the UAE and undermine international maritime navigation through the Red Sea.

He repeated his government’s appeals to the international community to name and shame the Houthis for inflaming violence, aggravating the humanitarian crisis, attacking the country’s neighbors and rejecting peace initiatives.

During a separate meeting with the British ambassador in Aden, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Awadh bin Mubarak urged the world, including the British government, to designate the Houthis as a terrorist organization.

“We discussed the latest developments in Yemen and the region. I emphasized the importance to designate the Houthi militia as a terrorist organization,” Mubarak said on Twitter after the meeting.

Oppenheim, who touched down in Aden on Tuesday, urged the warring factions in Yemen to work on achieving a peace deal to end the suffering of Yemenis.

“While Yemen suffers ongoing effects of terrible conflict, I can see Yemen’s amazing potential. I call on all parties to put the welfare of Yemenis first & work intensively to find a sustainable political solution with Yemenis at its heart,” Oppenheim said in a Twitter post on Tuesday.

Calls have escalated to designate the Houthis as an international terrorist organization since earlier this month after the militia seized a UAE-flagged ship in the Red Sea and mounted deadly missile and drone strikes on Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The appeal to name the Houthis a terrorist organization came as the government scored new major military gains on the battlefields in the central province of Marib for the first time in several months.

The Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that army troops and the Giants Brigades were advancing toward Malla’a mountain range, south of Marib, a day after taking full control of Hareb town, the center of Hareb district.

A Yemeni military official told Arab News on Tuesday that government troops seized control of new areas outside Hareb, including a strategic road that links Hareb, Juba and Al-Abedia districts, and are marching toward Al-Abedia district.

“Our next target is Al-Abedia,” the official, who preferred anonymity, said, adding that Houthi defenses have crumbled during the past couple of days as government troops pressed to seize control of new areas south of Marib.

On Monday, the Houthis suffered another major blow in Marib after government troops, backed by an air cover from the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen, expelled them from Hareb town and later advanced into the Malla’a mountain range in Juba district.

Since the start of this year, the Houthis have suffered a string of military setbacks in the Marib province after the Giant Brigades liberated three key districts in the oil-rich Shabwa province and then pushed the Houthis out of a large swathe of land in Hareb district.

If the government’s gains are sustained, the Houthis would be pushed out of key districts south of Marib, which would mean securing the city of Marib from the militia’s attacks.

Coalition warplanes played a major role in smoothing the way for government troops to advance in Marib after the jets targeted Houthi military reinforcements and locations in the province.

The coalition on Tuesday announced carrying out 53 airstrikes in support of government troops in the provinces of Marib and Al-Bayda that killed 240 Houthis and destroyed 34 military vehicles.

Government troops scored limited military advances in the southern city of Taiz on Tuesday after attacking the Houthis in Jabal Habashy district, west of Taiz, Abdul Basit Al-Baher, a Yemeni army officer in Taiz, told Arab News by telephone.

 


Libya should hold elections as soon as possible, avoid ‘new transitional phase’: Italy

Libya should hold elections as soon as possible, avoid ‘new transitional phase’: Italy
Updated 25 January 2022

Libya should hold elections as soon as possible, avoid ‘new transitional phase’: Italy

Libya should hold elections as soon as possible, avoid ‘new transitional phase’: Italy
  • Special Envoy Nicola Orlando held talks in Tripoli with interim PM
  • Orlando asked for “more efficient cooperation” on the migration issue

ROME: Libya should hold elections “as soon as possible” so the country does not fall into “a new transitional phase,” Italian Special Envoy Nicola Orlando told interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh.

In a meeting in Tripoli, Orlando told Dbeibeh that another transitional phase could damage the country’s path to political reconciliation, a source in the Italian Foreign Ministry told Arab News.

The meeting was also attended by Libyan Foreign Minister Najla Al-Mangoush and Italian Ambassador Giuseppe Buccino.

It mostly focused on the local political situation, bilateral relations in various fields and the fight against illegal migration, according to a statement issued by Dbeibeh’s office.

Orlando asked for “more efficient cooperation” on the migration issue as most of the ships carrying migrants from North Africa to Europe depart from Libya.

Dbeibeh stressed the “great change that Libya has seen in terms of stability,” and said his country is finally experiencing a “season of reconstruction.”

He said the national unity government “continues to support every effort aimed at establishing a new government elected by the Libyan people.”

Elections that were meant to take place last month were suspended by the High Electoral Commission.