Lebanon’s caretaker PM tipped as favorite to form next government

Special Lebanon’s caretaker PM tipped as favorite to form next government
Najib Mikati arrives at the Grand Serail in Beirut. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 16 June 2022

Lebanon’s caretaker PM tipped as favorite to form next government

Lebanon’s caretaker PM tipped as favorite to form next government
  • New premier to be named on June 23, with Najib Mikati emerging as front-runner
  • Independent MP Abdul Rahman Al-Bizri: We are living through tough times and the traditional political forces tend to renominate the caretaker PM Najib Mikati

BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun will hold binding consultations with members of the country’s recently elected parliament to name a new prime minister on June 23.

Caretaker PM Najib Mikati is widely seen as the front-runner for the post.

Once named, the new prime minister must form a government, a process that often takes several months.

However, the incoming government will last for only four months, as its term will end with the completion of the presidential term in October.

After Saad Hariri, leader of the Future Movement, declared the suspension of his political career and that of his party, political groups began looking for a Sunni figure who could be nominated to head the new government.

By convention, the prime minister of Lebanon is a Sunni Muslim.

Independent Sunni MP Abdul Rahman Al-Bizri told Arab News that the nomination of a new premier is still underway and talks are taking place between various groups “to reach a formula that is relieving for Lebanon.”

He said: “We are living through tough times and the traditional political forces tend to renominate the caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.”

A political observer said that this week might witness political deals to form the government due to “the weakness of the Sunnis in the political equation.”

A meeting on Wednesday between the Grand Mufti of Lebanon Abdullatif Darian and Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Bukhari assumed special significance as it coincided with the launch of the process to nominate the new premier.

Bukhari highlighted “the important role of the grand mufti in strengthening the unity of the Lebanese and Islamic stance, especially during the hard times Lebanon is passing through.”

He said that Saudi Arabia hopes to see the “unity of the people of Lebanon in front of the challenges that it is facing,” and praised the efforts of the mufti to guarantee national unity and ensure civil peace in the country.

Doubts remain over how the parliamentary blocs will handle the process of nominating the new premier. Until now there has been no agreement among the opposition forces on any nominee, and there is no guarantee Mikati will be renominated despite the fact that he is the clear favorite.

MP Ibrahim Mneimneh told Arab News: “Lawmakers from the ‘Together Toward Change’ list did not form a unified bloc. However, they are making contacts and consultations to reach a unified stance. We want a nonpolitical figure who has a program that fits the new era and whose government can bring in reforms, the most important thing for Lebanon.”

Those who do not want a premier with these qualifications “will take the country into the unknown,” Mneimneh said.

“They have proven that they are irresponsible people who have led the country to ruins.”

The MP said that the minimum expected from the new government is to introduce economic reforms in accordance with the demands of the International Monetary Fund.

“There is a possibility that we do not elect a new president in due time. Hence, the term of the government might get extended,” he said.

However, former governments whose heads were nominated by Hezbollah and its allies failed, and disagreements developed between its ministers despite the fact that they were from the same side. This is what happened with the Mikati government whose call was “together for salvation.”

In a recent interview, Gebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement, criticized Mikati over his refusal to grant Bassil’s party the energy portfolio in the new government.


Port director general dismissed after Aqaba investigation findings of deadly gas leak

Port director general dismissed after Aqaba investigation findings of deadly gas leak
Updated 25 sec ago

Port director general dismissed after Aqaba investigation findings of deadly gas leak

Port director general dismissed after Aqaba investigation findings of deadly gas leak

Jordanian Prime Minister, Bishr al-Khasawneh, said on Sunday that the Director General of the Ports Management and Operations Company and a group of officials in the company have been dismissed due to findings of the Aqaba gas leak incident. 

Thirteen people were killed, including at least four Asian migrants, when toxic chlorine gas escaped on the dockside in the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba last week.

The Director General of the Maritime Authority has also been dismissed following the report's findings. 

Khasawneh said that the Aqaba incident report, in all its details, will be referred to the Public Prosecution. 

He added that the investigation found major "inability and failure in safety procedures and dealing with hazardous materials in the port."

The results of the investigation will be announced with full transparency to public opinion.

 


Shark attack kills two women in Egypt’s Red Sea: ministry

Shark attack kills two women in Egypt’s Red Sea: ministry
Updated 51 min 46 sec ago

Shark attack kills two women in Egypt’s Red Sea: ministry

Shark attack kills two women in Egypt’s Red Sea: ministry
  • All beaches in the area have been closed down

CAIRO: Two women were killed in a shark attack in a resort town on Egypt’s Red Sea coast, the environment ministry said Sunday, after video said to be of one attack emerged.
“Two women were attacked by a shark while swimming” in the Sahl Hasheesh area south of Hurghada, the Egyptian ministry said on Facebook, adding that they had both died.
The statement did not provide any detail on their identities.
But Red Sea governor Amr Hanafi had ordered on Friday the closure of all beaches in the area for three days after “an Austrian tourist had her left arm torn off, seemingly in a shark attack.”
Social media users on Friday had shared a video — the authenticity, date and location of which AFP could not independently verify — showing a swimmer struggling before what appeared to be a pool of blood emerged around her.
A task force is working to “identify the scientific causes and circumstances of the attack” and determine “the reasons behind the shark’s behavior that resulted in the incident,” the environment ministry said.
The Red Sea is a popular tourist destination, where sharks are common but rarely attack people swimming within authorized limits.
In 2018, a Czech tourist was killed by a shark off a Red Sea beach. A similar attack killed a German tourist in 2015.
In 2010, a spate of five attacks in five days unusually close to the shore of tourist hotspot Sharm el-Sheikh killed one German and injured four other foreign tourists.
Egypt is currently struggling to overcome rising inflation and a recent currency depreciation.
The country relies heavily on tourism revenues from the Red Sea, which accounts for some 65 percent of tourists visiting the country.
The tourism industry has been battered by successive blows over the past decade, including the country’s 2011 uprising, ensuing unrest and the coronavirus pandemic.


Iran purges security apparatus amid Israeli espionage fears

Iran purges security apparatus amid Israeli espionage fears
Updated 03 July 2022

Iran purges security apparatus amid Israeli espionage fears

Iran purges security apparatus amid Israeli espionage fears
  • IRGC intelligence chief sacked after assassinations, document leaks embarrass regime

LONDON: The Iranian regime has purged senior leaders in its security apparatus, including a general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, amid fears that Israeli espionage has caused a recent spate of blunders and assassinations, the Telegraph reported.

The British daily said a senior general in the IRGC had been arrested on suspicion of spying for Israel a week after the corps’ intelligence boss Hossein Taeb lost his job. 

Taeb was fired after several embarrassing security blunders, with Israeli officials describing the Iranian regime as “shocked” and “rattled.”

Israel scuppered an Iranian plot to kill Israelis in Turkey, publicly warning its citizens of an imminent attack and arresting several people allegedly linked with IRGC cells.

In May, Israel published a collection of Iranian documents that detailed threats to its nuclear program.

More recently — and most troublingly for the regime — two nuclear scientists were poisoned and killed at separate dinner parties, which Tehran suspects was carried out by Israel.

Israeli officials told the Telegraph that the recent mixture of information and attacking operations were part of a strategy called the “Octopus doctrine,” which compares the regime’s leadership to the head of an octopus and its various proxies and forces — such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the IRGC across the region — as the tentacles.

But rather than limiting the effect of those tentacles, Israeli forces are now shifting to directly striking the head of the beast.

“The Iranians saw all of that information released by Israel as a huge slap in the face. And they were shocked. They were rattled by it,” an Israeli security official told the Telegraph, adding that the doctrine “has proven to be effective. It has caused shockwaves throughout the leadership of Iran.” 

Iran analysts told the Telegraph that Taeb was a major figure in Tehran’s leadership, enjoying a close relationship with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

“His unceremonious sacking heralds more political purges within the regime as it faces growing domestic discontent and challenges to its regional policy,” said Dr. Reza Taghizade, a London-based Iran observer.

Dr. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Australian-British academic and former hostage of the regime, said Taeb was referred to as “The Judge” because he observed interrogation and hostage practices.

“Most theories for Taeb’s removal are due to IRGC Intel’s inability to prevent Israel from operating inside Iran’s borders, including conducting high-profile assassinations,” said Moore-Gilbert. 

“The IRGC Intelligence Organization is not a professional intelligence agency, its members are recruited on the basis of ideological and religious affiliation, and everything is kept ‘in the family’ — you have to have contacts and already know people on the inside in order to get a foot in the door,” she added.

“As a result, many of its operatives are incompetent and poorly skilled for the job. Many of them lack a security mindset or a proper understanding of the conduct of espionage.”


Israel says it will test bullet that killed reporter, Palestinians disagree

Israel says it will test bullet that killed reporter, Palestinians disagree
Updated 03 July 2022

Israel says it will test bullet that killed reporter, Palestinians disagree

Israel says it will test bullet that killed reporter, Palestinians disagree

JERUSALEM/RAMALLAH: Israel said on Sunday it would test a bullet that killed a Palestinian-American journalist to determine whether one of its soldiers shot her and said a US observer would be present for the procedure that could deliver results within hours.
The Palestinians, who on Saturday handed over the bullet to a US security coordinator, said they had been assured that Israel would not take part in the ballistics.
Washington has yet to comment. The United States has a holiday weekend to mark July 4.
The May 11 death of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh during an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank, and feuding between the sides as to the circumstances, have overshadowed a visit by US President Joe Biden due this month.
The Palestinians accuse the Israeli military of killing her deliberately. Israel denies this, saying Abu Akleh may have been hit by errant army fire or by one of the Palestinian gunmen who were clashing with its forces.
“The (ballistic) test will not be American. The test will be an Israeli test, with an American presence throughout,” said Israeli military spokesman Brig.-General Ran Kochav.
“In the coming days or hours it will be become clear whether it was even us who killed her, accidentally, or whether it was the Palestinian gunmen,” he told Army Radio. “If we killed her, we will take responsibility and feel regret for what happened.”
Akram Al-Khatib, general prosecutor for the Palestinian Authority, said the test would take place at the US Embassy in Jerusalem.
“We got guarantees from the American coordinator that the examination will be conducted by them and that the Israeli side will not take part,” Al-Khatib told Voice of Palestine radio, adding that he expected the bullet to be returned on Sunday.
An embassy spokesperson said: “We don’t have anything new at this time.”
Biden is expected to hold separate meetings with Palestinian and Israeli leaders on July 13-16. The Abu Akleh case will be a diplomatic and domestic test for new Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
Israeli Deputy Internal Security Minister Yoav Segalovitz said Lapid had been involved in “managing the arrival and transfer of this bullet.”
“It will take a few days to conduct a ballistic test, with several experts, to ensure that there is an unequivocal assessment,” Segalovitz told Army Radio.


Tunisian constitution committee head blasts president’s latest draft

Sadok Belaid submitting a draft of the new constitution to President Kais Saied (L) in Tunis. (AFP file photo)
Sadok Belaid submitting a draft of the new constitution to President Kais Saied (L) in Tunis. (AFP file photo)
Updated 03 July 2022

Tunisian constitution committee head blasts president’s latest draft

Sadok Belaid submitting a draft of the new constitution to President Kais Saied (L) in Tunis. (AFP file photo)
  • Belaid said the final constitution published by the president contains chapters that could pave the way for “a disgraceful dictatorial regime”

TUNIS: The head of Tunisia’s constitution committee blasted the proposed constitution published by President Kais Saied this week, local Assabeh newspapers reported on Sunday.
Sadok Belaid, a former constitutional law professor was named by Saied to draft a “new constitution for new republic,” said Saied’s version was dangerous and did not resemble the first draft proposed by the constitution committee.
Belaid said the final constitution published by the president contains chapters that could pave the way for “a disgraceful dictatorial regime.”
The president has not commented on the constitution since he published the text on Thursday in Tunisia’s official gazette. The constitution would give Saied far more powers and will be put to a referendum next month.