Aoun, Mikati agree to convene cabinet to discuss 2022 budget

Aoun, Mikati agree to convene cabinet to discuss 2022 budget
Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati speaks at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon January 5, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 05 January 2022

Aoun, Mikati agree to convene cabinet to discuss 2022 budget

Aoun, Mikati agree to convene cabinet to discuss 2022 budget
  • Latest budget is expected within two days, and comes after another all-time low for the Lebanese pound
  • Over 70 MPs are expected to sign a petition calling for an extraordinary session

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has agreed to convene the cabinet to discuss the 2022 budget following a meeting with President Michel Aoun on Wednesday.

Mikati said: “We have agreed to sign a decree to open an extraordinary session of Parliament immediately, because the 2022 budget is ready,” noting that he would call for the cabinet to convene “to discuss the budget since it is the most important issue.”

A source close to Mikati told Arab News: “No discussions regarding the attendance of the ministers of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement preceded the call for the cabinet to convene.

“The agreement was reached between Aoun and Mikati, and the session will be held to discuss the budget. Ministers can choose to either attend or not.”

The cabinet has not met since Oct. 12, 2021, after the ministers of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement decided that they would not be attending any sessions unless Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the probe into the Beirut port blast, was removed.

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah had accused Bitar of “politicizing the investigation,” but the judiciary ignored requests to dismiss Bitar and Mikati refused to interfere in the work of the judiciary.

Mikati said that he informed Aoun that he will be receiving the 2022 budget within two days, after which it will be crucial to hold a cabinet session for approval. 

“I don’t think anyone will fall short on their national duties. It is a prerequisite for the IMF and all reform issues that we are working on,” the prime minister said.

He assured public sector employees and public administrations that “the financial benefits that we had previously promised to deliver will be provided, that is, half a month’s salary for November and half a month’s for December.”

On Wednesday morning, the Lebanese pound hit an all-time low of 30,000 to the dollar. The ration card for needy families has not yet been put into practice, the minimum wage has not increased and chaos prevails in the markets.

Amid these crippling economic crises, Mikati has tried to reassure public sector employees, including the security and military services, in a bid to curb popular resentment and calm the protesters who took to the streets on Tuesday night and blocked several roads across Lebanon.

An IMF delegation is expected to arrive in Lebanon between Jan. 15 and 17 to start official negotiations with the Lebanese government, despite the conflicting plans and figures regarding the financial gap and its distribution.

Meanwhile, as of Tuesday night, over 40 MPs had signed a petition calling for an extraordinary session. Over 70 MPs were expected to sign out of a total of 118. 

Elsewhere, after meeting with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Wednesday, former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora stressed the need for “constitutional institutions to resume their work, as it is not enough to take many financial, economic and administrative measures without a political solution.

“Berri informed me that an extraordinary session will be opened and that the cabinet will convene to approve the 2022 budget. We must stop sabotaging our parliamentary democratic system, and we must straighten out our ties with our Arab brothers and the rest of the world,” Siniora said.

Although Aoun and Mikati do not share perspectives on several complex issues, they both rejected Nasrallah’s violent attack against Saudi Arabia during his speech on Monday.

In this context, Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi instructed the Internal Security Forces on Tuesday night to remove offensive banners that were raised in some Hezbollah-affiliated streets in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

Meanwhile, Candice Ardell, deputy director of the UNIFIL Media Office, said: “Peacekeepers working to maintain security and stability in southern Lebanon were attacked on Tuesday night, and their vehicles were sabotaged and official items were stolen.

“The peacekeepers were neither taking pictures nor on private property as some might claim. They were on their way to meet with their counterparts from the Lebanese army for a routine patrol.”

She added: “UNIFIL condemns the attacks against men and women who serve the cause of peace, which violate Lebanese and international law,” denouncing those manipulating the residents of the area to serve their political purposes.

Ardell called on the “Lebanese authorities to open an investigation into the incident and prosecute all those responsible for these crimes.”

Several people had previously attacked a UNIFIL patrol in the southern town of Shaqra, claiming that the troops had entered private property and taken pictures.

Several members of the French patrol were injured as a result and their military vehicles were stomped on and pelted with stones. The Lebanese army had to intervene to secure their safe withdrawal from the town. According to eyewitnesses, the assailants were members of Hezbollah.


Emir says Qatar is ready to contribute to every effort to mediate between Russia and Ukraine

Emir says Qatar is ready to contribute to every effort to mediate between Russia and Ukraine
Updated 23 May 2022

Emir says Qatar is ready to contribute to every effort to mediate between Russia and Ukraine

Emir says Qatar is ready to contribute to every effort to mediate between Russia and Ukraine
  • Sheikh Tamim criticized governments for double standards on value of people based on religion and race
  • Emir hit out at what he called unprecedented attacks on Qatar becoming first Arab country to host FIFA World Cup

LONDON: Qatar’s emir said on Monday that he is ready to contribute to every international and regional effort to find an immediate peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine.
Addressing the World Economic Forum taking place in Davos, Switzerland, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani said that solving disputes through aggression is on the rise, and that he is in touch with all parties concerned in the Ukrainian crisis.
“We should never give up trying to bring parties together. As long as we believe our efforts could save even a single life, our attempts to mediate will be worth it,” the emir said.
He expressed sympathy with the millions of people who have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict regardless of their race and religion.
“We consider the value of each European life to be just as precious as someone from our region.
“We stand in solidarity with the millions of innocent refugees who are victims of this European war, and the victims of all other wars taking place right now — victims of every race, nationality and religion. I want us to help all of them.”
Sheikh Tamim also highlighted the suffering of the Palestinian people “who have been occupied for decades with no relief in sight.
“As we rightly apply laser focus to finding a diplomatic solution to the Ukrainian crisis, I hope we can equally give as much attention and effort to resolving all those forgotten or ignored conflicts.
“The most clear example is in Palestine which has been an open wound since the establishment of the United Nations. The escalation in illegal settlement aggression has been relentless, and the same goes for the continued attacks against the Palestinian people” Sheikh Tamim said.
To applause from the audience, the emir paid tribute to veteran Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who was killed in Jenin while covering Israeli raids on a refugee camp in the West Bank on May 11.
“Shireen was covering the suffering of the Palestinian people for decades and our hearts are broken. Her death was just as horrific as the seven journalists killed in Ukraine since March this year, 18 other journalists killed in Palestine since 2000, and many other journalists killed in the line of duty in Iraq, Syria and Yemen,” he said.
The emir criticized governments for displaying double standards on the value of people based on their religion, region or race.
“In the 21st century we should not tolerate these aggressions, and we should not accept a world where governments have double standards about the value of people based on their religion, region or race,” he said.
He also hit out at what he called unprecedented attacks on Qatar becoming the first Arab country to host the FIFA World Cup.
“For decades now, the Middle East has suffered from discrimination,” he said.
“And I have found that such discrimination is largely based on people not knowing us, and in some cases, refusing to get to know us. Even today, there are still people who cannot accept the idea, that an Arab-Muslim country would host a tournament like the World Cup.
“These individuals, including many in positions of influence, have launched attacks, at a pace never seen before,” he said.


Kuwait airport resumes flights after massive dust storm

This picture taken on May 23, 2022 shows an aerial view of a massive dust storm advancing into Kuwait City above Kuwait Universi
This picture taken on May 23, 2022 shows an aerial view of a massive dust storm advancing into Kuwait City above Kuwait Universi
Updated 23 May 2022

Kuwait airport resumes flights after massive dust storm

This picture taken on May 23, 2022 shows an aerial view of a massive dust storm advancing into Kuwait City above Kuwait Universi

LONDON: Kuwait airport on Monday has resumed international flights after halting them for nearly three hours due to a dust wave that has swept across the area.
“The General Administration of Civil Aviation announced the normal return of air traffic at Kuwait International Airport at 5.50 p.m.,” Deputy Director General for Air Navigation Services Imad Al-Jalawi told Kuwait News Agency.
He added that the dates of incoming and outgoing flights have been rescheduled.
The country’s weather conditions were affected by a decrease in visibility due to dust, reaching less than 500 meters in some areas, accompanied
by active winds that reached a speed of 60 kilometers per hour.
Meanwhile, Iraqi authorities also suspended flights at all airports due to the weather conditions, while the Iraqi government also announced a suspension of official working hours.


Senior Israeli lawmaker warns of ‘religious war’ over Jerusalem moves

Senior Israeli lawmaker warns of ‘religious war’ over Jerusalem moves
Updated 23 May 2022

Senior Israeli lawmaker warns of ‘religious war’ over Jerusalem moves

Senior Israeli lawmaker warns of ‘religious war’ over Jerusalem moves
  • Palestinian factions have denounced Israeli moves in Jerusalem’s Old City, the heart of their decades-old conflict

JERUSALEM: A senior Israeli lawmaker said on Monday the country risked “religious war” after a court ruled in favor of Jews who had tried to pray at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and as nationalists planned a march near the flashpoint site.
Palestinian factions have denounced Israeli moves in Jerusalem’s Old City, the heart of their decades-old conflict, and reiterated threats that echoed their warnings in the run-up to the May 2021 war in Gaza.
Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court on Sunday rescinded a restraining order against three Jews who had prayed while visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
Jews revere the site as vestige of two ancient temples, but are barred from worship there under an Israeli pact with Muslim authorities. The mosque is Islam’s third-holiest shrine.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said it would appeal the ruling. Bennett, who heads a weak coalition government, must also decide whether to green-light an annual Israeli flag march in the Old City next Sunday.
Ram Ben-Barak, chairman of parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, came out against the lower court ruling and voiced concern about the planned route of the march, which includes the Muslim quarter of the Old City.
“I think that during this sensitive period care must be taken,” he told Kan radio. “We should not, with our own hands, cause a religious war here or all kinds of provocations that are liable to ignite the Middle East.”
The flag march celebrates Israel’s capture of the Old City in the 1967 Middle East war. Israel deems all of Jerusalem its capital — a status not recognized internationally. The Palestinians want to establish their own capital in the city.
Weeks of clashes in East Jerusalem last year, including in the Al-Aqsa compound, helped ignite a war in Gaza last May that killed at least 250 Palestinians and 13 people in Israel.
After months of relative calm, tensions have risen again in recent weeks, leaving many dead, with repeated raids by Israeli forces in the West Bank, and attacks by militants on Israelis.
Police and Palestinians also clashed in the mosque area last month on numerous occasions during the holy month of Ramadan.
Ben-Barak, whose centrist party is in the coalition, predicted that Bennett would wait until the night before the march to decide on its final route to prevent possible conflict.
“It is not always worth paying this price for a demonstration that is all about spectacle and little else.”
Speaking in Gaza, a senior official with Islamic Jihad, Khaled Al-Batsh, said that going ahead with the flag march would be a “message of war” against Palestinians.
“The Palestinians will confront the flag march and the resistance will do all it should to protect the Al Aqsa mosque and the sacred sites,” Batsh said in a statement.


Five dead, scores trapped after building collapses in Iran - State TV

Five dead, scores trapped after building collapses in Iran - State TV
A rescue operation was being carried out, with emergency teams being dispatched from other cities to help. (AFP)
Updated 23 May 2022

Five dead, scores trapped after building collapses in Iran - State TV

Five dead, scores trapped after building collapses in Iran - State TV
  • A rescue operation was being carried out, with emergency teams being dispatched from other cities to help

DUBAI: Five people were killed when a 10-story building in Iran’s southern city of Abadan partly collapsed and rescuers were trying to help at least 80 people left trapped under the rubble, Iranian state TV reported on Monday.
The semi-official Mehr news agency identified the building as a residential-commercial property on Amir Kabir street in the city, which is close to the border with Iraq.
State TV said emergency teams were being dispatched from other cities to help with the rescue operation, with two teams of rescue dogs, a helicopter and seven rescue vehicles already at the scene. It showed footage of angry Abadan residents shouting slogans against the city authorities.
The head of Khuzestan province’s judiciary has ordered an investigation into the building’s collapse, and its owner and the contractor who built it have been arrested, state TV said.


Egypt’s PM holds talks on Brazil economic ties

Egypt’s PM holds talks on Brazil economic ties
Updated 23 May 2022

Egypt’s PM holds talks on Brazil economic ties

Egypt’s PM holds talks on Brazil economic ties
  • Mostafa Madbouly met with officials from Arab-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce
  • Egypt is Brazil’s top trade partner among Arab countries, with volume of nearly $2.6bn

CAIRO: Egypt’s Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly discussed with Osmar Chohfi, president of the Arab-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, and its Secretary-General Tamer Mansour, economic ties between the two countries.

Nader Saad, spokesman for Egypt’s Cabinet, said the meeting also reviewed growing ties between Brazil and Arab countries.

Madbouly stressed Cairo’s support for all efforts to bolster economic ties, including proposals related to investment cooperation and the establishment of a Brazilian industrial zone in Egypt.

Egypt is Brazil’s top trade partner among Arab countries, with a trade volume of nearly $2.6 billion.

Khaled Hanafy, secretary-general of the Federation of Arab Chambers of Commerce, who attended the meeting, said Brazil is ready to be a gateway for Egyptian exports to South America, and is willing to invest in Egypt through a Brazilian industrial zone.

Saad said Madbouly was invited to participate in the meetings of the Arab-Brazilian Economic Forum in Sao Paulo in July, under the auspices and presence of Brazil’s president. Brazil’s vice president visited Egypt last September.