Saad Hariri expects the worse for Lebanon

Special Saad Hariri expects the worse for Lebanon
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri gestures to his supporters after he paid his respects at the grave of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, on the 17th anniversary of his assassination in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, Feb. 14, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 14 February 2022

Saad Hariri expects the worse for Lebanon

Saad Hariri expects the worse for Lebanon
  • On 17th anniversary of his father’s assassination, former PM fears extension of parliament’s mandate

BEIRUT: The situation in Lebanon is deteriorating, said former Prime Minister Saad Hariri during a meeting with his parliamentary bloc on Sunday.

Hariri met his supporters after he had paid his respects at the grave of his father, Rafik Hariri, on the 17th anniversary of his assassination in Beirut.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati and former premier Fouad Siniora also prayed at the grave.

Hariri said that his home in Beirut will remain open, and the Future Movement will continue to work with the people and provide services and assistance to them, and it will never abandon its people.

The anniversary is  a few weeks after Hariri announced he was leaving politics for now and would not run in upcoming parliamentary elections.

Thousands gathered in front of Hariri’s tomb in Beirut for a moment of silence at 12:55 p.m., to commemorate the murder.

The supporters raised blue Future Movement banners and pictures of Saad Hariri, cheering and waving as he walked past them.

One supporter said: “How will become of life in Lebanon? The day of the assassination was a dark one, and it has gotten darker with Hariri’s withdrawal from political life.”

A woman from Tariq Al-Jadida said: “They killed the father and betrayed the son, so we became orphans, but we will never hand over our fate to them.”

The size of the crowd at Martyrs’ Square in downtown Beirut surprised event organizers.

People climbed the stairs of the Al-Amin Mosque next to the tomb and filled the parallel road.

The Future Movement did not invite its supporters to participate but supporters rallied for the commemoration on social media.

The annual gathering was different this year, as Hariri did not give his usual speech.

He simply recited Al-Fatihah in front of his father’s tomb, along with his aunt, MP Bahia Hariri, her husband and some family members.

He seemed very moved as he waved to the people who waited for him to greet them.

“The scene at the tomb says it all,” Hariri told the media.

Political, religious, diplomatic, social and economic figures visited Rafik Hariri’s tomb to mark the occasion. They included a Russian delegation, headed by Minister Plenipotentiary at the Russian Embassy in Lebanon Ivan Medvedsky.

Japanese Ambassador to Lebanon Takeshi Okubo tweeted on Monday, “We commemorate PM Rafik Hariri’s efforts with many countries, including Japan, for the reconstruction of Lebanon.”

Walid Jumblatt, head of the Progressive Socialist Party, said after visiting the tomb: “It was written for us to recite Al-Fatihah in Moukhtara, and in Beirut in Martyrs’ Square every year. It was written for us to persevere and we will.”

Former Future Movement MP Mustafa Alloush said: “We are seeing the results of the project that began with Rafik Hariri’s assassination, which is the invasion of the entire region that led to the destruction of Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.”

MP Mohammed Al-Hajjar noted: “Seventeen years have passed, and we are witnessing a state of denial and rejection of all calls for reform and commitment to Lebanon’s interests.

“Some still insist on dragging Lebanon away from our Arabism and true belonging. President Michel Aoun said we were going to Hell and Rafik Hariri’s assassination was certainly the gateway.”

Addressing his bloc MPs on Sunday, Hariri reaffirmed his withdrawal from political life, which he announced on Jan. 24.

He called on the Future Movement to take the same step and not to run for parliamentary elections or submit any nominations in the movement’s name.

He reportedly said: “Regardless of my political position and my decision, but my personal reading of the situation is that it will get worse, and my advice to you as a brother and not as a leader, is not to run for elections, because nothing portends positivity; spare yourselves the insults.”

Hariri had expressed his conviction that this step was correct because “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.”

When the MPs asked what they should do in the next stage in parliament, Hariri said: “Everyone must abide by their legislative duty, not boycott parliament. Participate in sessions and discuss the draft budget.

“Should there be a decision to extend the parliament mandate, then the bloc must boycott the session. The option to resign from parliament entirely would then be discussed.”

Hariri reportedly told MPs who wish to run for elections: “Every person who wants to run, believes they can win and has the financial, political and popular requirements to fight the electoral battle, can do whatever they want, but without using the name of Saad Hariri or the Future Movement.”

He added: “I will not provide cover for anyone and I do not want to be on anyone’s side.

“Make the alliances you believe serve you best, but you know who I do not want you to ally with.”

The bombing on Feb. 14, 2005, killed Rafik Hariri and Minister Bassem Fleihan and dozens of people who were in the Ain Al-Mraiseh area at the time.


Iranian women in anti-regime protests being targeted in breasts and genitalia, say medics

Iranian women in anti-regime protests being targeted in breasts and genitalia, say medics
Updated 09 December 2022

Iranian women in anti-regime protests being targeted in breasts and genitalia, say medics

Iranian women in anti-regime protests being targeted in breasts and genitalia, say medics
  • Doctors and nurses, working in secret to avoid arrest and potential punishment, said they have noted the practice

LONDON: Women are being targeted at anti-regime protests by Iranian security forces focusing their shotgun fire at faces, breasts and genitals, according to interviews with medics across the country.

Doctors and nurses, working in secret to avoid arrest and potential punishment, said they have noted the practice after noticing women arriving for treatment with different wounds.

The medics said men more commonly had shotgun wounds to their legs, buttocks and backs, while shots to the eyes of women, men and children were also common.

The Guardian reportedly spoke to 10 medical professionals, who warned that the severity of the injuries could leave hundreds of young Iranians with permanent damage.

“I treated a woman in her early 20s, who was shot in her genitals by two pellets. Ten other pellets were lodged in her inner thigh,” one doctor told the newspaper.

“These 10 pellets were easily removed, but those two were a challenge because they were wedged in between her urethra and vaginal opening.”

Photographs seen by The Guardian showed bullet wounds all over bodies from so-called birdshot pellets, with X-rays showing evidence of tiny shot-balls in flesh.

Another doctor from Karaj, a city near Tehran, said medics believed security forces were shooting at the genitals of women because they have “an inferiority complex and they want to get rid of their sexual complexes by hurting these young people.”

Protests have been raging across Iran demanding the overthrow of the clerical rulers of the country following the death in morality police custody of Mahsa Amini.

The Iranian woman was arrested for not properly covering her hair, and the doctor who treated her wounds told The Guardian they found the experience of treating Amini “harrowing,” adding: “She could have been my own daughter.”

Meanwhile, the first death penalty on a demonstrator involved in the recent protests was carried out on Thursday by the Tehran regime.


China can help bring end to Yemen war, says official

China can help bring end to Yemen war, says official
Updated 08 December 2022

China can help bring end to Yemen war, says official

China can help bring end to Yemen war, says official
  • Beijing can persuade Tehran to stop supporting Houthis, government analyst tells Arab News

RIYADH: Yemeni experts and officials have called on China to do more to help bring an end to the country’s civil war by helping peace talks and by increasing economic and humanitarian aid.

“Yemen needs China’s assistance,” Najeeb Ghallab, undersecretary at Yemen’s Information Ministry and a political analyst, told Arab News.

“Achieving peace in Yemen is in China’s interest because it will revitalize Yemen’s ports, which would aid China’s Belt and Road Initiative and open the nation to Chinese businesses.” 

His comments come as Rashad Al-Alimi, the leader of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, is traveling to Riyadh to attend an Arab-Chinese summit on Friday.

Ghallab said that can press Iran to cease supplying and funding its proxy militias across the Middle East, including Yemen. “China can persuade Iran to stop supporting its organizations, particularly the Houthis in Yemen,” he said.

The UN Yemen envoy Hans Grundberg’s efforts to end the war have come to a standstill after the Houthis refused to extend a ceasefire that ended in October, and threatened to strike oil infrastructure in regions under government control. 

The Houthis have said they would not extend the ceasefire until the government pays public workers in regions the group controls.

Al-Alimi is expected to update President Xi Jinping on Houthi efforts to thwart peace, and to request Chinese assistance to end the conflict and aid Yemen’s recovery.

China has taken a neutral stance from the warring parties for almost a decade but backed international peace measures to bring an end to the conflict.

Beijing typically expresses support for the UN-led efforts to end the war and urges the internationally recognized government of Yemen and the Iran-backed Houthis to achieve peace. 

In 2011, China backed the GCC-brokered peace initiative that led to the removal of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh after major demonstrations inspired by the Arab Spring. 

It voted in favor of UN Security Council Resolution 2216 in 2015, which condemned the Houthi takeover and reduced penalties on Houthi leaders and Ahmed Saleh, the son of the former president’s son.

Samuel Ramani, associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, told Arab News, however said that Beijing has maintained a pragmatic and impartial approach to the conflict to retain connections with regional powers, including Iran.

“China wants to balance positive relations with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran, and likely views detachment from the Yemen war as the most effective means of preserving good relations with all regional powers,” he said.

“China is very selective in its engagement in conflict resolution in the Middle East and is unlikely to transfer its somewhat more assertive role in promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace to the Yemeni theatre.”

He added that for the time being, its role will be limited to areas that do not indicate support for any group, such as humanitarian aid and economic investment.


Lebanon MPs again fail to fill vacant presidency

Lebanon MPs again fail to fill vacant presidency
Updated 08 December 2022

Lebanon MPs again fail to fill vacant presidency

Lebanon MPs again fail to fill vacant presidency
  • Ninth session to elect president: Hezbollah opponent Moawad’s votes are equal to ‘blank’ votes
  • Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri reiterates calls for dialogue among MPs to find consensus candidate 

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s divided parliament failed to elect a new president on Thursday for a ninth time, with many MPs spoiling their ballots, including one who cast a vote for “Nelson Mandela.”

Hezbollah opponent Michel Moawad won the support of 39 MPs, but fell well short of the required majority.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri adjourned the session and announced a new meeting next Thursday, the last session for 2022.

Berri reiterated calls for dialogue among MPs to find a consensus candidate to prevent the process dragging on for months.

Only 105 of 128 MPs showed up for the vote on Thursday and many of them spoilt their ballots.

For the first time, and after eight parliamentary sessions, the number of blank ballots cast by Hezbollah and its allies was equal to the number of votes received by Mouawad.

This tie came against the backdrop of the dispute that arose between Hezbollah and its Christian ally in Lebanon, the Free Patriotic Movement, since the Cabinet session last Monday.

According to a parliamentary observer, the FPM decided to stop casting blank ballots as before and distribute its votes in a calculated manner.

Although the session failed to elect a president, the FPM’s move sent a calculated message to Hezbollah on its open decisions by leaking some of its deputies’ votes in favor of Mouawad, thereby reducing the number of blank votes, the observer said.

The winning candidate requires at least 86 votes in the first round of voting, and an absolute majority of 65 votes in subsequent rounds.

The parliament again failed to hold a second round for loss of quorum after the withdrawal of Hezbollah, the Amal Movement and MPs from other blocs.

Nine MPs voted for “The New Lebanon,” five for Issam Khalifeh and three for the customs chief Badri Daher, who is in detention in relation to the investigation into the Beirut port explosion.

Former deputy Ziad Baroud, legal expert and candidate Salah Honein, and activist and candidate Fawzi Bou Malhab received one vote each.

One vote contained the inscription “For Lebanon,” and another “the agreement.” One vote was cast for “Nelson Mandela,” in addition to canceled votes.

The results of the ballot showed that the FPM deputies amounting to 17 chose their options carefully, as they did not direct all their votes toward Mouawad.

Some votes containing the inscriptions “Mouawad,” “Michel” and “Mouawad Badri Daher” were annulled, among others.

Hezbollah and the FPM deputies did not give any statement after the session, but engaged in a quick side talk.

The Amal Movement MPs avoided discussing the dispute between Hezbollah and the FPM.

MP Ali Hassan Khalil said every party should review its stances, so “we can move forward with this dialogue.”

He said: “We are keen on preserving the relationships between the political forces and we don’t intervene in this matter.

“Everyone should know that the only way to overcome this crisis is through dialogue and communication.”

Mouawad said that “what happened emphasized the solid stances of the blocs voting for me. Some wanted to send a message but they cannot keep doing so till the end. What is happening is disgusting.”

The MP said that he is refusing to get caught up in what he calls “the votes exchange.”

He said: “What is needed is a sovereign president and not a consensual one in the negative sense.”

The dispute between Hezbollah and the FPM has deteriorated to this point for the first time.

A few hours before the parliamentary session, Hezbollah issued a statement in response to Gebran Bassil’s harsh criticism of the party, accusing it of failing to fulfill its promises.

The accusation came against the backdrop of Hezbollah’s participation in the Cabinet’s session seen by the FPM as an illegal way to take over the presidential prerogatives.

Hezbollah affirmed in its statement that the party did not promise anyone that the cabinet won’t convene unless upon the approval of all its components, and therefore, there was no reason for Bassil to consider this move a broken promise.”

The statement added: “Hezbollah didn’t promise the FPM that it won’t attend the Cabinet’s urgent meetings if the ministers of the party (the FPM) boycott it.”

Hezbollah said that “using the language of betrayel and distrust is an unwise and inappropriate behavior.”

Hezbollah said “what Lebanon needs today is communication and dialogue.”

Lebanon has been quick to confirm the safety of Rafik Hariri International Airport and those traveling through it.

Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said that they will continue to “combat smuggling at all border crossings in cooperation with all security and military bodies.”

He made the remarks after inspecting the airport security service and meeting with officers on Thursday.

The visit followed a report on Al-Arabiya–Al-Hadath channel that security sources warned that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were using Iranian airline Meraj flights to transport weapons and equipment to Hezbollah.

Regarding the landing of Iranian airline flights linked to the Revolutionary Guards at Beirut airport, Mawlawi said: “We are keen on enforcing the laws and protecting Lebanon.”

Fadi Al-Hassan, Lebanon’s Civil Aviation director-general, denied the claims.

Al-Hassan said the timing of the “baseless” report harmed the airport’s reputation.

The Meraj company is not affiliated with any party, he said.

The airline operated its first flight to Beirut’s international airport on Nov. 14, and meets all the security requirements, Al-Hassan said.

David Hill, former US assistant secretary of state, met with Berri in other developments.

Hill said in a statement that the situation in Lebanon was not hopeless and that political will is needed to carry out reforms.


Egypt says it is not at risk of bankruptcy

Egypt says it is not at risk of bankruptcy
Updated 08 December 2022

Egypt says it is not at risk of bankruptcy

Egypt says it is not at risk of bankruptcy
  • Cabinet says external debt structure is positive amid rising inflation
  • The Cabinet added that Egypt aimed to maintain fiscal discipline and reduce the budget deficit to 5.6 percent of GDP

CAIRO: Egypt’s government has rejected claims that the country is exposed to bankruptcy risk due to its debts and the cost of servicing them during rate rises and inflation.
It also cited a report on the performance of the Egyptian economy from June to November.
The Cabinet said Egypt’s ratio of external debt to GDP was 34.1 percent, below the maximum risk limit of 50 percent.
The report said the structure and diversity of Egypt’s external debt instruments including loans, deposits, issued bonds and short-term credit facilities, were positive.
The Cabinet said that most of Egypt’s external debt was medium and long-term. Around two-thirds of foreign debt was also at fixed interest rates — which mitigates the risks of international rate increases.
It added: “In light of the successive economic crises that the world witnessed during the previous periods, governments all over the world tended to adopt expansionary economic policies to mitigate the consequences of the negative effects of these economic crises on families and companies.
“Such policies led to a significant rise in levels of global indebtedness, which rose to a record 350 percent of the global GDP by the end of the second quarter of 2022.”
The Cabinet added that Egypt aimed to maintain fiscal discipline, reduce the budget deficit to 5.6 percent of GDP, and achieve the first surplus from the state’s general budget permanently at 0.2 percent of the GDP.
These measures would contribute to reducing indebtedness and achieving financial and economic stability for the country’s general budget and ensure safety for current and future generations, said the statement.
The Cabinet statement came as Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics announced on Thursday that the general index of consumer prices rose by 2.5 percent to 140.7 points in November.
The annual inflation rate in November rose to 19.2 percent, compared to 16.3 percent in October, said an agency statement.
The annual inflation rate in urban areas rose during November to 18.7 percent, compared to 16.2 percent in October.
The agency’s statement attributed the rise to prices increase for bread and grain by 52.1 percent, meat and poultry by 30.3 percent, fish and seafood by 38 percent, dairy products and eggs by 40 percent, and coffee and tea by 23.1 percent.
It also cited price increases in tobacco products by 0.3 percent, clothing by 2.1 percent, footwear by 1.3 percent, home furnishings by 2.6 percent, and appliances by 3.1 percent.


US climate envoy hails holding COP28 in UAE

US climate envoy hails holding COP28 in UAE
Updated 08 December 2022

US climate envoy hails holding COP28 in UAE

US climate envoy hails holding COP28 in UAE
  • Fossil fuel economies should be encouraged to lead the transition to clean energy, says John Kerry

WASHINGTON: The US has hailed the decision to hold next year’s 28th UN climate change conference in the UAE.
Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry said that fossil fuel economies should be encouraged to lead the transition to clean energy, the Emirates News Agency reported on Thursday.
“It’s very exciting that the UAE, an OPEC member, is going to host COP28, and it’s so important that you have an oil and gas producing nation step up and say we understand the challenge of the climate crisis,” he told Reuters.
“The UAE leadership has taken very smart steps because they know that what’s coming out of the ground is not forever, either physically or politically, and they’re looking at what the new world is going to look like.”
“If there are going to be new forms of energy, they want to be among the providers of it, just as they are today.”
Kerry said that this year’s COP27 conference, held last month in Egypt, nudged the world closer to the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C above pre-industrial times.
He praised the announcement of 30 upgraded national climate plans along with the summit’s headline agreement on “loss and damage” to help vulnerable countries reeling from climate-driven extreme weather and rising seas.