Mikati continues consultations on draft government as delay extends

Mikati continues consultations on draft government as delay extends
Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati speaks following his meeting with the president in Baabda, east of the capital Beirut, on June 23, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 28 June 2022

Mikati continues consultations on draft government as delay extends

Mikati continues consultations on draft government as delay extends
  • FPM and Lebanese Forces continue to block PM-designate’s attempts to put an end to the political blockage

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati, who has been tasked with forming a new Lebanese government at the end of his non-binding parliamentary consultations on Tuesday, said that he “went over the opinions of the MPs and we will take most of what they said into consideration, but what matters is that national interest prevails.”

Mikati said that the opinions shared by the MPs “are in the national interest, even if from different angles.” 

He hoped to be able to form a government “that can carry out its duty and continue what the previous government has started, especially with the IMF, the electricity plan and the file of maritime border demarcation,” hoping that things “would take shape in a proper way.”

If Mikati succeeds in forming this government, it will be his second government under President Michel Aoun’s term; if not, he will remain a prime minister-designate as a caretaker.

The second day of consultations saw the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, issue an ambiguous position. 

Bassil confirmed that “the bloc isn’t interested in participating in the new government but we didn’t meet as a bloc yet to confirm the matter.”

He opposes Mikati and the FPM did not name him in the formation of a government.

He said: “We told Mikati why we don’t agree with the government formation. There’s a real problem with the credibility of the designation and we raised the issue with him, but we overcame this problem given the country’s situation.”

Bassil said that the movement is “against any government stripped of its powers, and we emphasized that it’s important for the government to deal with important files, including the file of the governorship of the central bank.”

At the same time, Bassil denied that he had made a “demand or imposed a condition before Mikati.” 

He said that “making amendments to the current government is a wrong bet,” adding: “We are against a presidential gap and we will prevent it from happening.”

Bassil’s statement was remarkable, especially when he said that “Mikati’s designation lacks credibility” but decided to turn a blind eye given the country’s situation.

The Free Patriotic Movement bloc and the Lebanese Forces bloc did not propose Mikati to form a government during the binding parliamentary consultations held by President Aoun last week. 

However, a source close to Mikati pointed out that the two Christian parties do not fully represent all Christians and that some MPs with popular representation nominated Mikati.

The source said that “the FPM is insisting on having an efficient government that isn’t stripped of its powers for the purpose of implementing a political agenda, as the president’s bloc wants to appoint people affiliated with the party to critical positions before the end of the term, including appointing a new governor for the central bank.”

Head of the Kataeb party Samy Gemayel warned against “the danger of adopting a no-government logic before the presidential elections.” 

He believes that “wasting time in these dangerous circumstances the country is going through is deadly for the Lebanese who are suffering on all levels.” 

Gemayel emphasized “the need to form an independent government as fast as possible to stop the collapse.”

After meeting with Mikati, MP Oussama Saad said that “Lebanon needs a government that can safely transport the country from the current political reality to a new reality capable of facing challenges and crises.” 

He added: “The presidential elections are imminent. Can we elect a new president who is independent of the internal and external axes? Are the internal blocs controlling the state’s decision ready to carry out a rescue project?”

MP Jihad Al-Samad ruled out the possibility of forming a new government “as it is hard to form a government with the ongoing petulance and selfishness.” 

He said that he demanded “that the current government be activated, either by regranting it the parliament’s confidence to revive it, or by expanding the concept of caretaking.”

MP Bilal Houshaymi said that “the decision not to participate in the government is wrong. The previous government implemented some reforms that should be completed and all blocs should cooperate to form a government. People put their trust in the parliament and we should seek to get out of the axis of hell.”

The Armenian MPs bloc expressed its interest in participating in the government. MP Hagop Pakradounian said: “A new government should be formed as soon as possible and we should avoid the game of conditions and counter-conditions. We hope that Mikati will have a governmental lineup in the coming couple of days.”

Head of the Lebanese Forces Media and Communication Department Charles Jabbour ruled out the possibility of a new government formation “because the formation of governments in Lebanon usually takes between two to three months at least, noting that the new government, if formed, will have four months to be able to assume its role.”

Regarding the position of MP Gebran Bassil, the political rival of the Lebanese Forces, Jabbour told Arab News: “The stated position is different from the implicit one. Bassil has said before that competent governments ended and a political government is what is needed. He refuses that the caretaker government remains until the end of the term because the FPM continues to hold on to appointments that are in its interest and wants to be part of the government in case of a presidential gap.”

Mikati is now working on a draft government expected to be submitted to the president so they can both sign the decree of its formation. The current ongoing prevention of its formation is being caused by the parliamentary blocs representing significant political forces that have decided not to participate in the government. 

Few expect this to change. Charles Jabbour said that “the blocs that didn’t nominate Mikati to form a government and won’t participate in the government will surely not grant it confidence in the parliament.” 

He added that the matter might depend on the ministerial statement but “I think that there will be a difficulty facing the formation of the new government.” 


US studying Iran’s response to EU proposal to save nuclear deal

US studying Iran’s response to EU proposal to save nuclear deal
Updated 10 sec ago

US studying Iran’s response to EU proposal to save nuclear deal

US studying Iran’s response to EU proposal to save nuclear deal

WASHINGTON: The United States is studying Iran’s response to the European Union’s proposal to save a nuclear deal and is sharing its views with the bloc, a US State Department spokesperson said on Tuesday, after receiving Iran’s comments from the EU.
Iran responded to the European Union’s “final” draft text to save a 2015 nuclear deal on Monday, an EU official said, as the Iranian foreign minister called on the United States to show flexibility to resolve three remaining issues.


Iran identifies its first case of monkeypox

Iran identifies its first case of monkeypox
Updated 17 min 1 sec ago

Iran identifies its first case of monkeypox

Iran identifies its first case of monkeypox

DUBAI: Iran has identified its first case of monkeypox, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Tuesday.
A 34-year-old woman in the southwestern city of Ahvaz has been put under quarantine after testing positive for the disease, Fars added. 


Iraq’s Sadr backtracks on call for huge protest

Iraq’s Sadr backtracks on call for huge protest
Updated 34 min 5 sec ago

Iraq’s Sadr backtracks on call for huge protest

Iraq’s Sadr backtracks on call for huge protest
  • The populist cleric's announcement came amid behind the scenes talks aimed at steering Iraq out of crisis
  • Sadr wants parliament dissolved to pave the way for new legislative elections

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr backtracked Tuesday after earlier urging his supporters to join a massive rally as a standoff with his political rivals appeared to be getting worse.
The populist cleric’s announcement came amid behind the scenes talks aimed at steering Iraq out of crisis, with the country’s two branches of Shiite Islam jockeying for supremacy.
More than 10 months on from elections, Iraq still has no government, new prime minister or new president, because of disagreement between factions over forming a coalition.
Sadr wants parliament dissolved to pave the way for new legislative elections, but his rivals the pro-Iran Coordination Framework want to set conditions and are demanding a transitional government before new polls.
The cleric’s bloc emerged from last October’s elections as parliament’s biggest, but still far short of a majority.
Sadr, whose supporters have been staging a sit-in protest outside parliament in Baghdad’s high security Green Zone for more than two weeks, had called for a “million-man demonstration” in the capital on Saturday.
But on Tuesday he announced on Twitter “the indefinite postponement of Saturday’s protest.”
“If you had been betting on a civil war, I am betting on preserving social peace. The blood of Iraqis is more precious than anything else,” Sadr said.
Late on Monday, a committee organizing demonstrations in support of the Coordination Framework also announced new gatherings, but without setting a date.
The Coordination Framework launched their own Baghdad sit-in on Friday, camping out on an avenue in the capital.
The Coordination Framework comprises former paramilitaries of the Tehran-backed Hashed Al-Shaabi network and the party of former premier Nuri Al-Maliki, a longtime Sadr foe.
So far, the rival Shiite protests have been peaceful, with attempts at mediation ongoing.
Hadi Al-Ameri, leader of a Hashed faction, has also called for calm and for dialogue. He has had a series of meetings with political leaders including allies of Sadr.
Also on Tuesday, Finance Minister Ali Allawi who is in the current government submitted his resignation to the Council of Ministers, the INA state news agency reported.
Iraq has been ravaged by decades of conflict and endemic corruption.
It is blighted by ailing infrastructure, power cuts and crumbling public services, and now also faces water shortages as drought ravages swathes of the country.
Despite its oil wealth, many Iraqis are mired in poverty, and some 35 percent of young people are unemployed, according to the United Nations.


Fire breaks out at church in Minya days after church blaze in Egyptian capital

Fire breaks out at church in Minya days after church blaze in Egyptian capital
Updated 31 min 13 sec ago

Fire breaks out at church in Minya days after church blaze in Egyptian capital

Fire breaks out at church in Minya days after church blaze in Egyptian capital
  • A person was treated on the scene for suffocation but did not require hospital treatment
  • Abdel Ghaffar said that ambulances will continue to be stationed at the scene until the the area is deemed safe

CAIRO: Four ambulances were sent to the site of a fire that broke out in a church in Egypt’s Minya governorate on Tuesday, the Health Ministry said.

The fire at Anba Bishoy church comes two days after a blaze ripped through the Abu Sefein Coptic Church in Cairo’s Imbaba neighborhood on Sunday, killing 41 people.

The spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Population, Hossam Abdel Ghaffar, said that although the fire did not result in any deaths, a person was treated on the scene for suffocation but did not require hospital treatment.

Abdel Ghaffar said that ambulances will continue to be stationed at the scene until the the area is deemed safe in case of further developments.

He added the ambulances arrived at the site of the fire within six minutes of receiving an alert at 2.30 p.m.

The spokesman said that Minister of Health and Population Khaled Abdel Ghaffar is following the incident and has directed hospitals in the area to raise their degree of preparedness.


Kuwait appoints Naser Al-Hain as UN representative

Kuwait appoints Naser Al-Hain as UN representative
Updated 41 min 45 sec ago

Kuwait appoints Naser Al-Hain as UN representative

Kuwait appoints Naser Al-Hain as UN representative
  • UN chief praises Kuwait’s humanitarian efforts

GENEVA: Kuwait has appointed Naser Al-Hain as its permanent representative to the United Nations.

The ambassador submitted his credentials to the head of the UN Office in Geneva, Tatiana Valovaya, on Monday, the Kuwait News Agency reported.

Al-Hain acknowledged the UN’s pivotal contributions in a variety of fields and in particular its humanitarian efforts.

Valovaya praised Kuwait’s humanitarian efforts and emphasized the country’s strong ties to the UN and other international organizations.

Al-Hain is a time-served diplomat and has represented his country at multiple international events.