Lebanon PM holds talks in push for ‘last minute’ new government

Lebanon PM holds talks in push for ‘last minute’ new government
Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati, waves as he arrives for a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, east of Beirut. (AP)
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Updated 27 June 2022

Lebanon PM holds talks in push for ‘last minute’ new government

Lebanon PM holds talks in push for ‘last minute’ new government
  • If the proposed government fails to receive Aoun’s approval, then Lebanon will face fresh political gridlock

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati has held an initial round of nonbinding parliamentary consultations to discuss the formation of the country’s new government.

After the end of the consultations on June 28, Mikati is expected to submit a draft government to President Michel Aoun. The mission of the new government will be defined in a brief ministerial statement, including the urgent issues that could be accomplished in the few remaining months of Aoun’s presidency, which ends on Oct. 31.

If the proposed government fails to receive Aoun’s approval, then Lebanon will face fresh political gridlock.

That scenario could further damage the country’s ability to tackle urgent issues, “because we are running out of time and crises are succeeding one another, and are getting magnified,” one political observer said.

They warned that if Aoun blocks the proposal, “it means that the term of the new government will not exceed two months.

“If we take into consideration that drafting the ministerial statement, approving it and submitting it to the parliament for the government to gain the confidence vote, then this means that the government term will be of two months and would not be expected to resolve the crises or start the necessary 27 administrative and financial reforms determined by the International Monetary Fund.”

The Development and Liberation bloc headed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called for “forming the government as soon as possible.”

After the bloc met Mikati, lawmaker Ali Hassan Khalil said: “We stressed the necessity of approving the financial recovery plan — which has not yet been referred to Parliament according to the constitutional procedures — while preserving the depositors’ credits in full.”

Berri’s bloc stressed the “necessity of resolving the issue of the electricity plants away from the debates that have been taking place lately, and of restructuring this sector.”

Khalil said: “We did not propose the form of the government because Mikati is aware of the current balances of power, and what concerns us is that the government be efficient.”

After meeting with Mikati, Deputy Parliament Speaker Elias Bou Saab said that he is “keen on forming the government fast in collaboration with President Aoun.”

Bou Saab, a member of the Free Patriotic Movement bloc, a Hezbollah ally, stressed the need to “form a government of political representation,” and called on the new government “to communicate with the Syrian government to resolve the crisis of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.”

The new government must repatriate Syrian refugees and revive the Kuwaiti initiative to rehabilitate Lebanon’s relations with the Gulf countries, he added.

The Lebanese Forces bloc said: “The Lebanese Forces will not participate in the new government.”

Lawmaker Georges Adwan said: “We want a government that recuperates the state’s decision and that rehabilitates Lebanon’s relations with other countries.”

Adwan called on Parliament to “elect a new president of the republic as soon as possible.”

The Democratic Gathering bloc, which represents the Progressive Socialist Party, declared that it would not feature in the new government. However, Taymur Jumblatt, president of the bloc, said: “We will help in forming it.”

President of the Hezbollah bloc, lawmaker Mohammed Raad, said: “We are not against the participation of anybody in the government, and we tender our hand to everybody.”

Before the parliamentary consultations began, Hezbollah Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassim called for amendments to be made to the standing caretaker government “in order not to waste time and exhaust the formation of the government with conditions and counter-conditions.”

He said: “Let anybody who wants to participate in the government to do so and cooperate, or let the prime minister-designate change some ministers in order not to fall into the trap of new names, which might take a long time.”

In Sunday’s sermon, Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al-Rai said that he opposed the Christian blocs’ refusal to nominate a leader of the new government during compulsory consultations last week. He called on political parties to cooperate with Mikati “away from conditions that are not adequate for this crucial period, nor for the time available to them.”

He urged the need to “form a national government fast, and focus on preparing for the election of a rescue president to save the country, for any delay would only be explained by the desire to distract us from this constitutional duty.”

The two biggest Christian parties in Lebanon, the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement, did not nominate Mikati to head the new government. Political observers fear that Aoun’s party, the FPM, will try to impose strict conditions on the formation of a new government.

After meeting with Mikati, reform lawmakers declared that they will not take part in the new government. Lawmaker Halime El-Kaakour said: “We will not participate in any quota government. We demanded a small government of independents with exceptional prerogatives.”

Independent lawmaker Abdul Rahman Bizri said: “We might be heading towards a minority parliamentary government,” adding: “As independent political powers, we had remarks on the performance of the previous governments, especially the ones that were headed by Mikati.

“Had these government made achievements we would not have reached this point. We will not obstruct, and our dealing with Mikati will be based on his handling of hot issues.”

Meanwhile, employees of the Banque Du Liban declared a warning strike for one day on Tuesday in protest against legislative prosecutions and accusations by the prosecutor general of Mount Lebanon, judge Ghada Aoun, against BDL and its employees.

The BDL syndicate threatened open strikes that would paralyze Lebanon’s banking sector, unless the Supreme Judicial Council and the minister of justice intervene to put an end to the actions of the judge.


PKK blamed for deadly police guesthouse attack in Turkey

PKK blamed for deadly police guesthouse attack in Turkey
Updated 21 min 19 sec ago

PKK blamed for deadly police guesthouse attack in Turkey

PKK blamed for deadly police guesthouse attack in Turkey
  • One of the assailants has been identified as Dilsah Ercan, codenamed Zozan Tolan, who joined the PKK in 2013 in Mersin
  • A judicial investigation has been launched and 22 people are being held for questioning in connection with the incident

ANKARA: Turkey has blamed the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for a deadly attack on a police guesthouse in the country’s southern coastal Mersin province.
One policeman was killed and another injured in the attack reportedly carried out by two women who opened fire with long-barreled weapons and detonated bombs late on Monday.
Another bomb, found in a bag near the guesthouse, was defused.
One of the assailants has been identified as Dilsah Ercan, codenamed Zozan Tolan, who joined the PKK in 2013 in Mersin, the Turkish Interior Ministry said.
A judicial investigation has been launched and 22 people are being held for questioning in connection with the incident.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and the EU, launched a bloody terror campaign against the Turkish state in 1984, which has since claimed 40,000 lives.
The UK Foreign Office has advised British citizens in Turkey not to go to areas within 10 kilometers of the Syrian border.
Monday’s attack coincided with domestic debates taking place in Turkey in the run-up to next year’s election marathon.
Erol Bural, a retired colonel and head of the Ankara-based Research Center for Combating Terrorism and Radicalization (TERAM), told Arab News that the Mersin attack was a message to Ankara from the PKK that it was still active in Turkish towns.
He said: “Terrorism is an instrument to exert political violence. The PKK wanted to show that it is still alive in Turkey to launch terror attacks against specific targets.”
Bural noted that the PKK had not carried out an urban attack on such a scale for some time due to the effectiveness of Turkey’s increased anti-terror, and intelligence-gathering measures.
“This attack was carried out by the urban team of the PKK by people who were familiar with the district and who seem to have been specifically trained for such urban operations. They knew very well that the police guesthouse could not have been protected as strongly as a police station. Therefore, they picked that target,” he added.
Bural pointed out that the PKK may also have used the attack as a signal to discourage Turkey from conducting any potential operations in Syria.
“Another underlying reason for this attack might also be revenge following Turkey’s cross-border operations in northern Iraq against the PKK hideouts,” he said.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced on Monday that around 400 PKK members in northern Iraq had been “neutralized” — surrendered, killed, or captured — since the start of a cross-border operation in April.
On Sept. 23, the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) captured a PKK member against whom a red notice had been issued, and on Wednesday it apprehended another group member, Sabah Ogur. The same day, Akar said the guesthouse attack had been plotted in Syria and added that, “necessary action will be taken against the perpetrators when the time is ripe.”
Meanwhile, in Turkey’s anti-Daesh operation, 16 Daesh suspects were caught in Istanbul and eight in Mersin.
Think tank TERAM closely follows counter-terror operations in Turkey, and Bural said: “Each month, about 1,000 terrorists from different groups are caught in Turkey, and some of them are detained. Therefore, Turkey’s counter-terror operations will continue following this attack with the same vigor.”


Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinians in Jenin raid

Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinians in Jenin raid
Updated 21 sec ago

Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinians in Jenin raid

Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinians in Jenin raid
  • Israeli forces said they shot dead two Palestinians suspected of involvement in recent gun attacks
  • Two more were killed and 44 injured as residents protested against the incursion

RAMALLAH: Four Palestinians were killed and dozens injured, some seriously, during an Israeli military raid early on Wednesday in the Jenin refugee camp in in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli forces said they shot dead two Palestinians suspected of involvement in recent gun attacks. Two more were killed and 44 injured as residents protested against the incursion.

Video footage showed plumes of smoke billowing from a house in the camp, apparently after an explosion. In the streets, men sheltered behind cars as heavy gunfire could be heard.

President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party said one of the men killed in the clashes was Ahmed Alawneh, a 24-year-old intelligence officer.

The party added that the incursion was a “dangerous escalation.” It called for demonstrations to honor the “heroic martyrs” and “unify the battlefields against the Israeli occupation that is trying to single out and isolate Jenin.”

Thousands later participated in the funeral of the four dead amid chants calling for revenge.

Maj. Gen. Akram Rajoub, Jenin’s governor, told Arab News that the Israeli army used excessive force and intended to kill.

He said the two wanted men died in the yard of a house that had been surrounded by Israeli soldiers, despite possessing no weapons and showing no resistance.

Mohammad Shtayyeh, the Palestinian prime minister, called for the men’s killers to be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court. Mosques announced mourning and a general strike in Jenin and Nablus.

Ninety Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army in the West Bank since the beginning of this year.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said the killings showed that “this occupation, which practices terrorism in all its forms against our Palestinian people,” understands only force.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for the Palestinian presidency, said the “dangerous Israeli escalation” would not give legitimacy, security or stability to Israel.

He added that Israel is an international pariah and that the US, its principle ally, has lost credibility with its continued calls for calm while Palestinian lives, land and holy sites are being destroyed.

“The occupation still insists on crossing all red lines, whether in Jerusalem, Jenin, Nablus or the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories,” he said.

Hazem Qassem, a Hamas spokesman, said the “terrorism of the occupation” would not break Jenin’s determination, and “the fall of the martyrs becomes fuel for the resistance.”

He added that the battle against Israel will continue until it is expelled from all Palestinian land.

Israel accused Hamas of stoking tensions in the West Bank, claiming that an explosive device was detonated when its soldiers tried to arrest the wanted men in Jenin and that both died in an exchange of fire.

Hamas was also accused by Israel of stoking Palestinian resistance at the Al-Aqsa compound in East Jerusalem, which has been stormed by Jewish settlers for three consecutive days.


Yemeni parties under pressure for 6-month truce extension

Yemeni parties under pressure for 6-month truce extension
Updated 28 September 2022

Yemeni parties under pressure for 6-month truce extension

Yemeni parties under pressure for 6-month truce extension
  • Hans Grundberg is expected to meet Houthi leaders to persuade them to extend the truce and accept his latest proposal for opening roads in Taiz
  • Hans Grundberg: We are at a crossroads where the risk of a return to war is real, and I am urging the parties to choose an alternative that prioritizes the needs of the Yemeni people

AL-MUKALLA: Hans Grundberg, the UN envoy for Yemen, arrived in Houthi-held Sanaa on Wednesday for talks as he pushes the Yemeni militia and the internationally recognized government to extend the UN-brokered truce for six months and implement truce elements.

Grundberg is expected to meet Houthi leaders to persuade them to extend the truce and accept his latest proposal for opening roads in Taiz, among other things.

The envoy’s visit comes as the Yemeni government and the Houthis received a new draft of the envoy’s proposal, which includes, in addition to the six-month truce, opening secondary roads in the besieged city of Taiz and adding new destinations for commercial flights from Sanaa airport to include Doha, Muscat and Mumbai.

The proposal would ask the Houthis to use revenue from fuel ships passing through Hodeidah port to pay government employees in their territories based on the 2014 payroll, with the Yemeni government covering any payment shortfall.

A Yemeni government source told Arab News that the government received a copy of the draft and expressed reservations about opening only small roads in Taiz rather than at least one main road leading into and out of the city and requested that the Houthis fully pay the government employees in areas under their control.

“Minor roads in Taiz, such as Osefrah, Al-Sateen, Al-Zulai and Al-Rahedah, will be opened during the first phase. Opening the main Softeel road is important for the government,” said the Yemeni official who preferred anonymity, adding that the government is seeking assurances that the Houthis will adhere to the truce’s terms.

The UN-brokered truce, which went into effect on April 2 and has been extended twice, will expire on Oct. 2.

Despite significantly reducing hostilities throughout the country and allowing commercial flights from Sanaa to Amman and Cairo, as well as allowing fuel ships to enter Hodeidah ports, the truce did not even result in a partial lifting of the Houthi siege of Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city, or the cessation of discriminatory attacks on residential areas in the city.

The UN envoy, after concluding a trip to Riyadh and Muscat, warned on Tuesday that the truce was at serious risk of collapsing and that new fighting could erupt, urging Yemeni parties to achieve peace.

“We are at a crossroads where the risk of a return to war is real, and I am urging the parties to choose an alternative that prioritizes the needs of the Yemeni people,” Grundberg said.

The Houthis rejected the new proposal on Tuesday and other calls for extending the truce and insisted the Yemeni government pay public servants in their areas and end what they called the “blockade” on Sanaa airport and Hodeidah port.

“Any discussion of peace in Yemen lacks credibility and seriousness until these critical humanitarian issues are addressed, which are a demand of all Yemenis,” Mohammed Abdul Sallam, a Houthi chief negotiator, tweeted.


US condemns Iranian attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan region

US condemns Iranian attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan region
Updated 28 September 2022

US condemns Iranian attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan region

US condemns Iranian attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan region
  • Iran's Revolutionary Guards said they fired missiles and drones at militant targets in the Kurdish region

WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday condemned Iran’s use of ballistic missiles and drone attacks against the Iraqi Kurdistan region and called it “an unjustified violation of Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday they fired missiles and drones at militant targets in the Kurdish region of neighboring northern Iraq, where an official said nine people were killed.
“Moreover, we further condemn comments from the government of Iran threatening additional attacks against Iraq,” the US State Department said in a statement on Wednesday.


Tunisia praises Italian envoy for pandemic help 

Tunisia praises Italian envoy for pandemic help 
Updated 28 September 2022

Tunisia praises Italian envoy for pandemic help 

Tunisia praises Italian envoy for pandemic help 
  • Najla Bouden thanked Lorenzo Fanara for his country’s help during the COVID-19 crisis
  • Fanara said Italy is willing “to give more support to Tunisia in its negotiations with the International Monetary Fund”

ROME: Tunisia’s prime minister has praised the Italian ambassador for strengthening relations and helping her country through the pandemic as the envoy prepared to end his stay in Tunis.

Najla Bouden thanked Lorenzo Fanara for his country’s help during the COVID-19 crisis, when Italy sent several ships filled with medical supplies, ventilators and vaccines.

Bouden’s office said she also welcomed Fanara’s efforts to “strengthen relations in several areas of common interest” during his four years in the job.

Bouden highlighted the “solidity of the historical relations” between Tunisia and Italy, which she said “constitute a link between the two shores of the Mediterranean and between the African and European continents.”

Fanara said Italy is willing “to give more support to Tunisia in its negotiations with the International Monetary Fund,” as it seeks a loan of between $2 billion and $4 billion.

Migration and Italian investments in the energy and technology sectors were also discussed at the meeting in Tunis. Bouden also discussed upcoming elections, including legislative polls on Dec. 17.

Fanara has been appointed Italy’s ambassador to the UAE, and will take office in the next few days.