Lebanese president sparks Christian anger by defending Hezbollah at the Vatican

Lebanese president sparks Christian anger by defending Hezbollah at the Vatican
Pope Francis poses with Lebanon's President Michel Aoun during a private audience at The Vatican. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 23 March 2022

Lebanese president sparks Christian anger by defending Hezbollah at the Vatican

Lebanese president sparks Christian anger by defending Hezbollah at the Vatican
  • Aoun said that Hezbollah’s weapons had “no influence in any way” on the security situation of the Lebanese
  • Words led Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi to reiterate position on importance of Lebanon’s neutrality

BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun has sparked Christian anger by defending Hezbollah during his Vatican visit.

In an interview with the Italian daily La Repubblica, Aoun said that Hezbollah’s weapons had “no influence in any way” on the security situation of the Lebanese and that “resisting the (Israeli) occupation” was not terrorism.

His words led Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi to reiterate his position on the importance of Lebanon’s neutrality.

Lebanon’s top Christian cleric told MTV on Wednesday that the country was not a ground for conflict and that its interest lay in neutrality which, he said, maintained its sovereignty and preserved it from Israel and other hostile elements.

There was online anger, with activists sharing photos of dates and events where Hezbollah’s weapons had been “directed at Christians and not in their defense.”

These included the assassinations of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the pilot Samer Hanna, and Hezbollah opponents Hashem Suleiman and Luqman Slim.

The activists cited a military conflict from May 7, 2008, between Hezbollah militias and pro-government Sunnis after an 18-month-long political crisis spiraled out of control.

They also mentioned the clashes that erupted in Beirut’s Tayouneh neighborhood last October between Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, unidentified gunmen, and the armed forces.

Activists said the president’s position at the Vatican did not represent them and reminded him that Hezbollah was “listed as a terrorist organization by the nations of the world, including the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council.”

On Wednesday morning, several young people in Tripoli, mostly Sunnis, wrote anti-Iran slogans on the city’s walls rejecting “Iranian occupation.” Their actions were documented on video and posted on social media.

Aoun visited the Vatican earlier this week under the slogan “Christians are well,” causing astonishment, especially in the Maronite Church, with one of its officials noting that the patriarch had been “constantly warning” in his sermons about the migration of young Christians and the collapse of sectors and institutions established by Christians.

The Vatican’s statement was limited to Pope Francis and Aoun’s meeting highlighting “the grave socio-economic problems the country is experiencing, and the situation of refugees.”

It expressed hope for the global aid reaching Lebanon, the organization of upcoming legislative elections, and that “the necessary reforms may contribute to strengthening peaceful co-existence between the various religious communities” who lived in the land of the cedars.

The statement also stressed the “demand for justice” in the Beirut port explosion case.

Messages on the platforms of Hezbollah and its supporters tried to imply that there was a disagreement “between the Vatican and Patriarch Al-Rahi vis-a-vis Hezbollah.”

Former parliamentarian Fadi Karam, secretary of the Strong Republic Parliamentary bloc, said: “Through his visit to the Vatican and his statements, Aoun tried to acquit Hezbollah, saying that it protects Christians in Lebanon, and that is the epitome of fabrication and offense to Lebanon and completely contradicts the truth.”

He told Arab News: “Hezbollah and Aoun are the ones who led Lebanon to its collapse and hell, and it is necessary to correct Aoun’s discourse as he is wrong.”

He denied there was any disagreement between the Vatican and Al-Rahi, and said the Vatican did not approve of Aoun’s discourse and that “it focused in its closing statement on Lebanon’s identity.”

He added: “Aoun tried to exonerate Hezbollah to allow his son-in-law Gebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement, to become the next president in the next parliamentary elections on May 15.

“That is the visit’s goal. However, Aoun did not succeed in acquitting Hezbollah, which cannot be done in the first place. His discourse is no longer heard in either East or the West, nor in the political and financial circles.”


Yemen truce deadline approaches as wait for peace drags on

Yemen truce deadline approaches as wait for peace drags on
Updated 56 min 15 sec ago

Yemen truce deadline approaches as wait for peace drags on

Yemen truce deadline approaches as wait for peace drags on

SANAA: As a cease-fire deadline in war-ravaged Yemen draws near, civilians hope the truce will be extended — fearing any fresh fighting would wipe out the small gains they have made.
In the rebel-held capital Sanaa, agriculture graduate Loujain Al-Ouazir has been working to raise goats and chicken poultry for three years on a farm on top of one the ancient city’s iconic mud brick tower houses.
Ouazir only managed to make the farm successful in recent months amid the truce, which allowed goods to move more freely and cut the price of supplies.
“Thanks to the truce, the prices of animal feed and fuel have come down,” Ouazir said. “It’s easier to bring in feed and goats from other regions.”
Yemen’s war between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the The Coalition has left hundreds of thousands dead and created what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
A UN-brokered cease-fire, which took effect in April and has twice been renewed, has reduced casualties by 60 percent and quadrupled fuel imports into the rebel-held Hodeida port, more than 40 humanitarian groups said on Thursday.
The truce has largely held, although the rival sides have traded blame over violations.
Ouazir said the relative peace — especially an end to air strikes in Sanaa — has created a safer environment for her business of selling milk and eggs.
“I hope the truce will continue until the war stops completely,” she said, adding that she dreamt of expanding her farm “on the ground, and not on the roof of the house.”
The truce is due to expire on Sunday, with the UN working to ensure each side agrees to extend once again.
Under the truce, commercial flights have resumed from the rebel-held capital Sanaa to Jordan and Egypt, while oil tankers have been able to dock in Hodeida, also under Houthi control.
The series of temporary truces have brought some respite to a people exhausted by eight years of war, where about 23.4 million of Yemen’s population of 30 million rely on humanitarian aid.
But there has been little fundamental progress toward peace.
A seige remains in place on Taiz, a large city in the southwest controlled by the government but surrounded by Houthi forces.
Despite the cease-fire, the main roads around the mountainous city remain shut.
In the center of Taiz, old pickups are packed tight with passengers who want to go to the nearby town of Al-Hawban, taking bumpy back roads through the mountain.
Before the war, it was a simple journey of 15 minutes.
“Now I need four or five hours,” Taiz resident Bassem Al-Sabri said.
Diego Zorrilla, UN deputy humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, said the truce had improved the situation “in many respects” but “life remains difficult” for the vast majority.
“From a humanitarian point of view, the renewal of the truce on October 2 is a moral imperative,” Zorrilla said.
“Only a resolution of the conflict can allow the economy to recover, lift people out of poverty and reduce humanitarian needs,” he added.
Talks to strike a lasting peace deal and a definitive end to the war remain at a standstill.
In May, the UN envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, said the truce “presented a window of opportunity to break with the violence and suffering of the past.”
But in view of the stalled peace talks, a key aim of the truce, it has therefore “fundamentally changed nothing” and is proving to be “a failure in certain respects,” said Thomas Juneau, from the University of Ottawa.
“On the Houthi side, there is no serious will to negotiate and therefore to make compromises with the government,” said Juneau.
On the government side, differences between multiple anti-rebel factions have widened.
“We have seen the lines of fracture which were very deep widen, tensions worsen and, in many cases, become violent,” he said.
For Juneau, there is an “absurdity in renewing a truce which does not work,” and which therefore only “delays the return” of violence.
But, he added, “I don’t see any other alternative.”


Kuwait announces winners of National Assembly elections

Kuwait announces winners of National Assembly elections
Updated 30 September 2022

Kuwait announces winners of National Assembly elections

Kuwait announces winners of National Assembly elections

DUBAI: Kuwait has announced the winners of Thursday’s National Assembly elections after months of political gridlock in the oil-rich country.

Thousands of Kuwaitis turned up at polling stations to select 50 members out of the 305 candidates, who will be in office for the next four years, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported.

The candidates also included 22 women who competed for the seats in five different constituencies. The Parliament has been all-male since the only woman MP lost her seat in December 2020.

Only two women were elected, according to the results published on KUNA.

The winning candidates for the first constituency:

1. Abdullah Al-Mudhaf

2. Hasan Johar

3. Osama Al-Zaid

4. Ahmad Lari

5. Issa Al-Kanderi

6. Adel Al-Damkhi

7. Osama Al-Shaheen

8. Saleh Ashour

9. Hamad Al-Medlej

10. Khaled Al-Amairah

Second constituency:

1. Bader Al-Mulla

2. Mohammad Al-Mutair

3. Shuaib Shabaan

4. Hamed Al-Bathali

5. Khalil Al-Salih

6. Falah Al-Hajri

7. Aliya Al-Khaled

8. Hamad Al-Mutar

9. Abdulwahab Al-Issa

10. Abdullah Al-Anbaie

Third constituency:

1. Ahmed Al-Saadoun

2. Mahalhal Al-Mudhaf

3. Abdul Karim Al-Kanderi

4. Muhanad Al-Sayer

5. Abdulaziz Al-Saqebi

6. Jenan Ramadan

7. Ammar Al-Ajmi

8. Hamad Al-Obaid

9. Fares Al-Otaibi

10. Khalil Abul

Fourth constituency:

1. Shuaib Shabab Al-Muwaizri

2. Mohammed Al-Mutairi

3. Mubarak Al-Tasha

4. Mubarak Al-Hajraf

5. Thamer Al-Dhafiri

6. Marzouq Al-Shimarri

7. Saad Al-Rashidi

8. Abeed Al-Mutairi

9. Abdullah Al-Enezi

10. Yousef Al-Bathli

The Kuwaiti government has not officially released the winners for the fifth constituency.

The polls are the sixth to take place in 10 years in Kuwait – the only Gulf Arab state with a fully elected parliament.

The elections came after Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah announced the dissolution of parliament in June following disputes between lawmakers and the government, the fourth to be named in two years.


Russian strikes in Syria decreased since Ukraine war: monitor

Russian strikes in Syria decreased since Ukraine war: monitor
Updated 30 September 2022

Russian strikes in Syria decreased since Ukraine war: monitor

Russian strikes in Syria decreased since Ukraine war: monitor
  • A total of 241 people have been killed by Russian strikes in Syria during the past year
  • Moscow has been among the top political, economic and military backers of the government in Damascus since 2011

BEIRUT: Russian strikes in Syria have decreased since it invaded Ukraine, resulting in fewer deaths, a war monitor said Friday, seven years into Moscow’s intervention in the Middle Eastern country.
A total of 241 people have been killed by Russian strikes in Syria during the past year, mostly fighters from the Daesh group but also including 28 civilians, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
That marked the lowest annual death toll since Russia launched its strikes in Syria in support of the government of President Bashar Assad on September 30, 2015.
“Russia’s role has generally declined in Syria since the start of the war on Ukraine” in late February, said the Britain-based monitor, which relies on a network of sources on the ground in Syria.
This led to a “significant decline in its strikes on the Syrian desert” where Russia has been targeting IS jihadists, the Observatory said.
Moscow has been among the top political, economic and military backers of the government in Damascus since the start of the conflict in Syria in March 2011.
Its military intervention was crucial in turning the tide for Assad and lending him the upper hand in the conflict after his forces had lost large swathes of territory to rebel and jihadist groups.
The Observatory has put the death toll from the Russian strikes throughout seven years at more than 21,000 — including 8,697 civilians, a quarter of whom were children.
Almost half a million people have been killed, with millions more displaced and large swathes of the country devastated during the conflict.


Bahrain and Japan Foreign Ministers set sights on closer economic and business ties

Bahrain and Japan Foreign Ministers set sights on closer economic and business ties
Updated 30 September 2022

Bahrain and Japan Foreign Ministers set sights on closer economic and business ties

Bahrain and Japan Foreign Ministers set sights on closer economic and business ties

TOKYO: Japan Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi held a meeting with his Bahraini counterpart, Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, on Thursday and stated that he hopes that the relationship between the two countries will become closer in areas such as economy and business, based on the Japan-Bahrain Investment Agreement and other agreements.

Minister Zayani concurred with his statement and said he was pleased to see the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Bahrain.

Japan’s Foreign Ministry reported that the two ministers noted the upcoming resumption of visa-free travel from Bahrain to Japan, which had been suspended during the pandemic, and confirmed the early introduction of visa waiver measures for Bahraini diplomatic and official passport holders.

The ministers exchanged views on the situation in Ukraine and confirmed that it is essential for the international community to cooperate to ensure that Russia ends its aggression in Ukraine as soon as possible. They also agreed on the need for United Nations reform, including that of the United Nations Security Council.

Hayashi expressed his appreciation for the visit by Minister Zayani to Japan to attend the State Funeral for Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Minister Zayani, expressed his heartfelt condolences on the demise of the former Prime Minister, stating that he was a great leader and left a significant diplomatic legacy, according to the foreign ministry in Tokyo.

• This article originally appeared on Arab News Japan.


Tehran regime faces international isolation as protests spread abroad

Tehran regime faces international isolation as protests spread abroad
Updated 30 September 2022

Tehran regime faces international isolation as protests spread abroad

Tehran regime faces international isolation as protests spread abroad
  • At least 76 people have been killed in Iran’s violent crackdown on the protests
  • Taliban disperse demo in Kabul, clashes at embassy in Oslo, threat of new EU sanctions

JEDDAH: The Tehran regime faced growing international isolation on Thursday as a wave of unrest inside Iran spread across borders. 

In Afghanistan, Taliban forces fired shots into the air to disperse a women’s rally in front of the Iranian embassy in Kabul in support of the protests in Iran. 

Afghan women rally in front of the Iranian embassy in Kabul on September 29, 2022 in a sympathy protest for Mahsa Amini. (AFP)

Demonstrators carried banners that read: “Iran has risen, now it’s our turn” and “From Kabul to Iran, say no to dictatorship,” and chanted the “Women, life, freedom” mantra used in Iran. Taliban forces snatched the banners and tore them in front of the protesters. 

One of the protest organizers said it was staged “to show our support and solidarity with the people of Iran and the women victims of the Taliban in Afghanistan.” 

In Norway, two people were injured and 90 were arrested in clashes at a demonstration in front of the Iranian embassy in Oslo. Several dozen protesters, some draped in the Kurdish flag, tried to break into the embassy compound. 

Norwegian police restrain activists protesting outside Iran's embassy in Oslo on Sept. 29, 2022. (AFP)

The demonstration came a day after Iran launched missile and drone strikes that killed 13 people in Iraqi Kurdistan. Tehran accuses Kurdish dissidents there of fueling two weeks of protests in Iran, which began when 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini died in morality police custody. 

Amini had been on a visit to Tehran with her family when she was arrested and accused of wearing her hijab with “insufficient modesty.” 

At least 76 people have been killed in Iran’s violent crackdown on the protests, with security forces using tear gas, batons, birdshot and live ammunition. 

Germany’s foreign minister on Thursday urged the EU to impose further sanctions on Iran because of its treatment of protesters.

“The Iranian authorities must immediately end their brutal treatment of demonstrators,” Annalena Baerbock told the German parliament.

Activists protest in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, on September 28, 2022, against the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran. (Reuters)

She said she would do everything within the EU framework to impose sanctions against those responsible for oppressing women in Iran.

France’s Foreign Ministry has said it would back sanctions as a response to “new massive abuses on women’s rights and human rights in Iran.”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc would “consider all the options at its disposal ... to address the killing of Mahsa Amini and the way Iranian security forces have responded to the ensuing demonstrations.”

Inside Iran, the regime warned prominent sports and entertainment figures against any further support of the protests. “We will take action against the celebrities who have fanned the flames of the riots,” Tehran provincial governor Mohsen Mansouri said.

Former TV host Mahmoud Shahriari has already been arrested for “encouraging riots and solidarity with the enemy,” and Oscar-winning film director Asghar Farhadi urged people to “stand in solidarity” with the protesters.

“They are looking for simple yet fundamental rights that the state has denied them,” he said.
 

 

A Cup of Gahwa
The taste and traditions of Saudi coffee
Enter
keywords