Protests held in Beirut against draft capital control law

Protests held in Beirut against draft capital control law
A money exchange vendor displays Lebanese pound banknotes at an exchange shop in Beirut, Lebanon March. (File/Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 19 April 2022

Protests held in Beirut against draft capital control law

Protests held in Beirut against draft capital control law
  • Formal capital controls are an International Monetary Fund policy recommendation
  • Depositors gathered in the vicinity of parliament to prevent MPs from attending the session

BEIRUT: Protests were held in Beirut on Tuesday against a draft capital control law, even as parliamentary committees discussed the proposed legislation.
Formal capital controls are an International Monetary Fund policy recommendation, and Lebanon hopes to secure an IMF aid package after the country’s financial system imploded in 2019, paralyzing the banking system and freezing depositors out of their US dollar accounts.
Depositors gathered in the vicinity of parliament to prevent MPs from attending the session. Members of the Free Professions Syndicates also held sit-ins at their headquarters in protest against the draft law.
They said it was unjust on depositors who they believed were being forced to bear the consequences of the country’s economic crisis and corruption.
Nader Kaspar, head of the Beirut Bar Association, said: “One of the most immoral issues in Lebanon is depositors’ money. It is a national, humanitarian, and social issue par excellence. We lost our entire life savings and now, after over two years, they want to talk about capital control.
“The banks did not shut down, and the owners still have their private jets and luxurious villas. Now they want to talk about distributing losses without any concrete plans?
“We will escalate our action. A strike is not enough. There is a constitution that must be respected and we will not accept laws that legitimize taking over people’s money.”
The Federation of Syndicates of Bank Employees in Lebanon said: “Touching depositors’ money is forbidden. The federation will join in every action to confront those trying to take over people’s money.”
The Lebanese Press Editors Syndicate also objected to the attempt to pass a capital control bill, along with the continued restrictions on union deposits and funds, and banking restrictions.
Syndicate head Joseph Kossaifi said: “The unions have deposits in banks and there are mutual funds that deposit large sums in banks, which are subscriptions and donations to ensure people’s pensions. Does this mean that the money of about a million people has evaporated?”
In a letter to Prime Minister Najib Mikati, the Association of Banks in Lebanon said: “The IMF’s proposal to make banks bear the losses is unfair, just as the proposal to charge a large part of these losses to depositors means exempting the state and the Banque du Liban from debt and losses.
“If this were to happen, banks, shareholders, and depositors would file lawsuits against the state and BDL, which benefited from the funds of the banks and depositors and still refuse to find satisfactory solutions to solve the issue.”
Mikati told an ABL delegation on Tuesday: “One of the government’s priorities in the economic process is to preserve the rights of depositors. The recovery plan gives priority to preserving people’s rights, reactivating the various productive sectors, and preserving the banking sector.”
With the government insisting on its amendments to the draft law and demanding that parliament approve it quickly having signed a staff-level agreement with the IMF, the head of the Administration and Justice Committee, MP George Adwan, said after the parliamentary committee meetings: “The government did not present any recovery plan. We have removed some articles of the draft so no one can say that parliament does not want the Capital Control Law.”
Adwan added that Mikati’s claims about not wasting people’s deposits were “mere words without any concrete action.”
Meanwhile, pharmacies across Lebanon closed on Tuesday in protest against the country’s security turmoil and the killing of a pharmacist at her workplace on Monday in the town of Mrouj in Mount Lebanon.
Leila Rizk was found dead in the pharmacy toilet on Monday evening.
Rizk, a mother of three, had been working as a pharmacist for 20 years.
Joe Salloum, head of the Pharmacists Syndicate, condemned the crime and demanded that the security forces protect pharmacies in light of the “ongoing security chaos.”
While the preliminary investigation did not reveal the reasons for the crime, information suggested that the crime was not about stealing money or drugs.
President Michel Aoun called Salloum and assured him that instructions had been given to the security services to “pursue and arrest” the perpetrators.
On Tuesday, Aoun met Lebanon’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia Fawzi Kabbara before he left for the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Walid Bukhari, returned to Beirut last week.
“The president’s directives have always been to ensure the best relations between Lebanon and the brotherly Arab countries in general, and the Gulf states in particular, especially Saudi Arabia,” Kabbara said.


Qatar provides $60m in support for Lebanese Army

Qatar provides $60m in support for Lebanese Army
Updated 9 sec ago

Qatar provides $60m in support for Lebanese Army

Qatar provides $60m in support for Lebanese Army
  • The announcement comes within the framework of Qatar’s firm commitment to support Lebanon

BEIRUT: Qatar announced on Thursday it was providing $60 million in support to the Lebanese Army in implementation of the GCC state’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani’s directives.
As reported by Qatar News Agency, the announcement came as Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD) Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani was visiting Lebanon to attend the Arab Foreign Ministers Consultative Meeting
The announcement comes within the framework of Qatar’s firm commitment to support Lebanon, stand by the brotherly Lebanese people, and its firm belief in the importance and necessity of joint Arab action, QNA reported.
Qatar announced last July that it would support the Lebanese army with 70 tons of foodstuff every month for a year.


EU worries may not cross ‘finishing line’ to revive Iran nuclear deal

EU worries may not cross ‘finishing line’ to revive Iran nuclear deal
Updated 30 June 2022

EU worries may not cross ‘finishing line’ to revive Iran nuclear deal

EU worries may not cross ‘finishing line’ to revive Iran nuclear deal
  • “Iran has yet to demonstrate any real urgency to conclude a deal, end the current nuclear crisis and achieve important sanctions lifting,” Richard Mills said

UNITED NATIONS: The European Union said on Thursday it was worried it may not be possible to strike an agreement to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal after indirect talks between the United States and Iran ended this week with no progress.
“I am concerned that we might not make it over the finishing line. My message is: Seize this opportunity to conclude the deal, based on the text that is on the table. The time to overcome the last outstanding issues, conclude the deal, and fully restore the (agreement) is now,” European Union Ambassador to the United Nations Olof Skoog told the UN Security Council.
The Security Council met to discuss the latest report by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the implementation of a 2015 council resolution that enshrines the nuclear deal, under which Iran limited its nuclear program to make it harder to develop an atomic weapon in return for sanctions relief.
“Iran has yet to demonstrate any real urgency to conclude a deal, end the current nuclear crisis and achieve important sanctions lifting,” Richard Mills, Deputy US Ambassador to the United Nations, told the meeting.
Indirect talks between Tehran and Washington aimed at breaking an impasse over how to salvage the nuclear pact ended in Qatar without the progress “the EU team as coordinator had hoped for,” EU envoy Enrique Mora tweeted on Wednesday. 


Four killed in Sudan as protesters rally on uprising anniversary

Four killed in Sudan as protesters rally on uprising anniversary
Updated 30 June 2022

Four killed in Sudan as protesters rally on uprising anniversary

Four killed in Sudan as protesters rally on uprising anniversary
  • Security forces fired tear gas and water cannon as they tried to prevent swelling crowds from marching towards the presidential palace
  • Some protesters carried banners calling for justice for those killed in previous demonstrations

KHARTOUM: Four protesters were shot dead in Sudan on Thursday, medics said, as large crowds took to the streets despite heavy security and a communications blackout to rally against the military leadership that seized power eight months ago.
In central Khartoum, security forces fired tear gas and water cannon as they tried to prevent swelling crowds from marching toward the presidential palace, witnesses said.
They estimated the crowds in Khartoum and its twin cities of Omdurman and Bahri to be at least in the tens of thousands, and to be the largest so far this year. In Omdurman, witnesses reported tear gas and gunfire as security forces prevented protesters from crossing into Khartoum.
The protests mark the third anniversary of huge demonstrations during the uprising that overthrew long-time autocratic ruler Omar Al-Bashir and led to a power-sharing arrangement between civilian groups and the military.
Last October, the military led by General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan toppled the transitional government, triggering rallies that have called on the army to quit politics.
Some protesters carried banners calling for justice for those killed in previous demonstrations. Others chanted, “Burhan, Burhan, back to the barracks and hand over your companies,” a reference to the Sudanese military’s economic holdings.
Earlier, protesters barricaded some of the capital’s main thoroughfares with stones and burning tires.
June 30 also marks the day Bashir took power in a coup in 1989. “Either we get to the presidential palace and remove Al-Burhan or we won’t return home,” said a 21-year-old female student protesting in Bahri.
It was the first time in months of protests against the October coup that Internet and phone services had been cut. After the military takeover, extended Internet blackouts were imposed in an apparent effort to hamper the protest movement.
Staff at Sudan’s two private sector telecoms companies, speaking on condition of anonymity, said authorities had ordered them to shut down the Internet once again on Thursday.
BRIDGES SHUT
Phone calls within Sudan were also cut and security forces closed bridges over the Nile linking Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri — another step typically taken on big protest days to limit the movement of marchers.
In recent days there have been daily neighborhood protests.
On Wednesday, medics aligned with the protest movement said security forces shot dead a child during protests in Bahri. Thursday’s four deaths, all in Omdurman, brought the number of protesters killed since the coup to 107. There were large numbers of injuries and attempts by security forces to storm hospitals in the capital where they were being treated, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said.
There was no immediate comment from Sudanese authorities.
The United Nations envoy in Sudan, Volker Perthes, called this week on authorities to abide by a pledge to protect the right of peaceful assembly. “Violence against protesters will not be tolerated,” he said.
Military leaders said they dissolved the government in October because of political paralysis. As a result, however, international financial support agreed with the transitional government was frozen and an economic crisis has deepened.
Burhan said on Wednesday the armed forces were looking forward to the day when an elected government could take over, but this could only be done through consensus or elections, not protests.
Mediation efforts led by the United Nations and the African Union have so far yielded little progress.


Joint Egyptian-Bahraini statement stresses depth of relationship and need for coordination

Joint Egyptian-Bahraini statement stresses depth of relationship and need for coordination
Updated 30 June 2022

Joint Egyptian-Bahraini statement stresses depth of relationship and need for coordination

Joint Egyptian-Bahraini statement stresses depth of relationship and need for coordination
  • Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa conclude Manama talks
  • Both countries affirmed the “unity of a common position and destiny toward all regional and international issues and developments of common interest”

CAIRO: In a joint statement at the conclusion of talks between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Egypt and Bahrain stressed the depth of the two countries’ relations, and the need for coordination and cooperation to confront the challenges of the region, maintain its security and achieve stability. 

The joint statement was issued after bilateral talks at Sakhir Palace in Manama.

Both countries affirmed the “unity of a common position and destiny toward all regional and international issues and developments of common interest,” and an “increase in the pace of economic cooperation for broader horizons that would support the common interests of the two brotherly countries.”

The two sides agreed to “coordinate joint efforts to combat terrorism and its organizations and prevent its financing, and to spare the region the dangers of destabilising activities.”

They also stressed “support for Arab efforts to urge Iran to abide by international principles of non-interference in the affairs of Arab countries, to preserve the principles of good-neighborliness, and to spare the region all destabilising activities, including supporting armed militias and threatening maritime navigation and international trade lines.”

Both countries highlighted “supporting international efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, ensuring the peacefulness of Iran’s nuclear program, strengthening the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency, maintaining the non-proliferation regime, and the importance of supporting efforts to establish a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.” 

With regard to the Renaissance Dam crisis, Bahrain’s ruler expressed “the Kingdom of Bahrain’s full support for Egyptian water security as an integral part of Arab water security,” and urged Ethiopia to abandon its unilateral policy in connection with international rivers, and to abide by the international laws related to filling and operating the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

He also stressed “the necessity of negotiating in good faith with Egypt and Sudan to reach a binding legal agreement in this regard, in implementation of the presidential statement issued by the Security Council in September 2021, in a way that averts the damage caused by this project to the downstream countries and enhances cooperation between the peoples of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.”

The Bahraini side expressed its full solidarity with the Arab Republic of Egypt in all the measures it takes to protect its national security.

On the Yemeni issue, the two sides affirmed their support for international efforts to find a comprehensive political solution to the Yemeni crisis, in accordance with the approved international references, and the Saudi initiative to end the Yemeni crisis. They also expressed their full support for the Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council to perform its constitutional responsibilities “to achieve security, stability and development in Yemen.”

They also affirmed their support for the UN armistice agreement in Yemen and welcomed the announcement of its extension. The Bahraini side appreciated Egypt’s response to the request of the legitimate Yemeni government and the United Nations to operate direct flights between Cairo and Sanaa in support of that armistice and alleviating the humanitarian suffering of the Yemeni people.

The two sides welcomed the upcoming summit to be hosted by Saudi Arabia between the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, Jordan and Egypt, and the Prime Minister of Iraq with US President Joe Biden.


Iran says nuclear deal still possible despite Qatar talks setback

Iran says nuclear deal still possible despite Qatar talks setback
Updated 30 June 2022

Iran says nuclear deal still possible despite Qatar talks setback

Iran says nuclear deal still possible despite Qatar talks setback
  • Indirect talks in Qatar's capital between Iran and US on reviving 2015 nuclear deal concluded with no progress
  • Iran says a deal could still be reached

TEHRAN: Iran insisted Thursday that a revived nuclear agreement with major powers remains achievable despite a negative US assessment of two-way talks in Qatar intended to reboot the stalled negotiations.
The US State Department said the EU-brokered proximity talks in the Qatari capital Doha had concluded late Wednesday with “no progress made.”
But Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said he believed the talks had been “positive” and a deal could still be reached.
“We are determined to continue negotiating until a realistic agreement is reached,” he said after a phone call with his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, who hosted the indirect talks.
“Our assessment of the recent round of talks in Doha is positive,” he said.
“I insist on the fact that we are making serious efforts to reach a good, solid and lasting agreement,” said Amir-Abdollahian.
“An accord is achievable if the United States is realistic.”
The two days of talks, in which EU mediators shuttled between Iranian and US delegations, were intended to reboot wider negotiations between Iran and major powers in Vienna which have been stalled since March.
The talks aim to bring the United States back into a 2015 deal jettisoned by the Donald Trump administration in 2018 by lifting the sweeping economic sanctions he imposed in exchange for Iran’s return to full compliance with the limits set on its nuclear activities.
Washington has “made clear our readiness to quickly conclude and implement a deal on mutual return to full compliance,” the US State Department spokesperson said after the talks wrapped up in Qatar.
“Yet in Doha, as before, Iran raised issues wholly unrelated to the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal) and apparently is not ready to make a fundamental decision on whether it wants to revive the deal or bury it.”
Differences between Tehran and Washington have notably included Iran’s demand that its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps be removed from a US terror list.
The talks in Doha came just two weeks before US President Joe Biden makes his first official visit to the region, with trips to Iran foes Israel and Saudi Arabia.