Lebanese protests erupt as grim economic strain worsens

Lebanese protests erupt as grim economic strain worsens
A farmer collects wheat in field at Houla village in southern Lebanon. (Reuters)
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Updated 05 July 2022

Lebanese protests erupt as grim economic strain worsens

Lebanese protests erupt as grim economic strain worsens

BEIRUT: The Lebanese have once again sporadically taken to the streets of Beirut and other urban areas to protest the continued strain on their living conditions, but no official nationwide movement has erupted to unify their anger.

On Tuesday, protesters closed the offices of a mobile phone operator in Tripoli, north Lebanon, and asked employees to leave their offices in protest against the rise in prices.

There are growing concerns in Tripoli as thousands of families are unable to provide their basic daily necessities.

Security reports have indicated that nighttime crime is on the rise, punctuated by random shootings in popular neighborhoods. Fears have been compounded after a majority of people in Tripoli have stopped paying their private generator subscriptions, practically living in the dark 24/7, because they can no longer afford the fees.

Many Lebanese have also given up another basic service — the internet — after bundles were priced in dollars. Caretaker Minister of Communications Johnny Korm said: “The new cell phone bill is calculated by dividing the previous bill by three and multiplying it by the Central Bank’s Sayrafa exchange rate (25,300 LBP/USD) or multiplying it by 2.5 for the Ogero service.”

Korm added: “Indeed, we expect many to stop using cellphones altogether, but it is too early to give accurate figures. Consumption has so far decreased by 8 percent since the beginning of July.”

Protesters blocked roads in Beirut, complaining about the loss of access to the public water network for the third week, and lamenting the regular power cuts that have blighted all areas due to the suspension of production plants.

Just one power station, the Deir Ammar plant, has continued operations amid a scarcity of fuel coming from Iraq, which is less than the expected quantity as Baghdad battles its own power sector struggles.

Although the Ministry of Economy said that there is enough flour to meet Lebanon’s consumption needs, citizens are still queuing at bakeries that are only selling one bundle of bread per customer in an attempt to provide bread to the largest possible number of customers.

Meanwhile, some are selling bread on the black market amid fears that wheat will not be available after Eid Al-Adha since the Central Bank is yet to open credits for wheat imports.

MP Wael Abu Faour reported: “According to the security services, organized gangs are stealing subsidized flour and selling it on the black market.”

The World Bank country classifications by income level on July 1 showed that Lebanon has become a lower-middle-income country.

“For the eleventh consecutive year, Lebanon’s real GDP per capita fell in 2021, and the country also experienced sharp exchange rate depreciation,” the report stated, as the per capita gross national income in 2021 amounted to $3,450, after it was $5,510 in 2020.

Representatives from the General Labor Union, the Forces for Change groups, the private sector and civil society bodies discussed on Tuesday “a mechanism of action to end the government’s policies of starvation and humiliation and its petty decisions to increase prices, through the deliberate killing of the Lebanese people and the financing of corruption that has been rampant for many years.”

They unanimously agreed on “the absolute rejection of any increase in prices, especially telecommunications and the internet, because it is deliberate theft to continue financing the corrupt system and its groups that are holding on to their posts and suffocating citizens.”

They further called on the Lebanese to be ready to participate in the upcoming moves to restore their rights, the most basic of which are telecommunications services and the internet.

While Lebanon’s economic deterioration worsens and politicians fail to form a government that can approve the reforms required by the International Monetary Fund, the EU’s Electoral Observation Mission — which monitored the Lebanese parliamentary elections on May 15 — issued a report that slammed several aspects of how the elections were held.

Gyorgy Holvenyi, the head of the EU team, said during a press conference in Beirut: “The conclusion in the mission’s final report is that although preparations were affected by limited financial and human resources, the election authorities delivered the May 15 parliamentary elections in the scheduled time. However, these elections were overshadowed by widespread practices of vote-buying and clientelism, which distorted the level playing field and seriously affected the voters’ choice.”

In its report, the mission noted: “The campaign was vibrant but marred by various instances of intimidation (including on social media) and cases of campaign obstruction. Besides, the legal framework for campaign finance suffers from serious shortcomings concerning transparency and accountability.”

The mission included a series of recommendations to improve the electoral process in the future. “These recommendations are setting a framework for a gradual Lebanese-led reform process,” Holvenyi emphasized, adding: “The EU stands ready to support Lebanon in implementing these recommendations to improve future election processes if deemed necessary, feasible, and useful.”


Tunisia’s defense minister visits soldiers wounded in Mount Salloum clashes

Tunisia’s defense minister visits soldiers wounded in Mount Salloum clashes
Updated 16 August 2022

Tunisia’s defense minister visits soldiers wounded in Mount Salloum clashes

Tunisia’s defense minister visits soldiers wounded in Mount Salloum clashes
  • 2 soldiers were wounded in last Friday’s clashes between army units and terrorists

DUBAI: Tunisia’s minister of defense, Imed Memmiche, visited two soldiers who were wounded in last Friday’s clashes between army units and terrorists in Mount Salloum in Kasserine. 
 
Memmiche went to the Tunis military hospital on Monday to commend the men for their ‘patriotism and sense of duty’, according to the Ministry of Defense’s statement released on state news agency TAP.


UAE’s Dar Al Ber Society donates over $56m on global, local aid projects in 20222

UAE’s Dar Al Ber Society donates over $56m on global, local aid projects in 20222
Updated 16 August 2022

UAE’s Dar Al Ber Society donates over $56m on global, local aid projects in 20222

UAE’s Dar Al Ber Society donates over $56m on global, local aid projects in 20222
  • The non-profit organization has donated to 22,517 projects so far this year

Dar Al Ber Society has spent over $56 million during the first half of 2022 on charitable and sustainable development projects that have benefitted 2.9 million people worldwide and in the UAE, the Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported on Monday. 

The non-profit organization has donated to 22,517 projects so far this year, according to WAM. 

More than $13.6 million were donated to a total of 8,901 projects in the first quarter of this year, while $14,128,257 were directed to 13,616 projects in the second quarter, the CEO and Managing Director of Dar Al Ber SocietyMuhammad Suhail Al-Muhairi said. 

Some of these humanitarian projects have been completed while others are underway, he added. 

The Dar Al Ber Society helped build 2,144 mosques – 904 in the first quarter and 1,240 in the second quarter. 

A total of 8,121 water-saving projects were also built with the help of the donations, Al-Muhairi said.

The organization helped set up 4,929 projects for families, as well as launch 5,285 medical projects, according to WAM. 

Dar Al Ber also implemented its seasonal projects in 37 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe, in cooperation with 32 of its partners in the respective countries.

Represented by the Department of Zakat in the Projects and Zakat Sector, Dar Al Ber Society donated more than $11.6 million in local aid to 346,541 beneficiaries.


Tunisia’s Foreign Minister meets chargée d'affaires at US Embassy in Tunis

Tunisia’s Foreign Minister meets chargée d'affaires at US Embassy in Tunis
Updated 16 August 2022

Tunisia’s Foreign Minister meets chargée d'affaires at US Embassy in Tunis

Tunisia’s Foreign Minister meets chargée d'affaires at US Embassy in Tunis
  • The meeting represented “positive and constructive dialogue that reflects the strength of bilateral relations”

DUBAI: Tunisia’s foreign minister discussed ways to rectify the democratic process in the country during a meeting with the chargée d'affaires at the US Embassy in Tunis on Monday. 
Othman Jerandi, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Migration and Tunisians Abroad, met with Natasha Franceschi, chargée d'affaires at the US Embassy, to step up consultations between the two countries, Tunisia’s state news agency TAP reported. 
The meeting represented “positive and constructive dialogue that reflects the strength of bilateral relations,” the Foreign Affairs Department said in a statement.
Upcoming bilateral events, such as the Joint Military Commission, were also discussed at the meeting, according to the same statement.
During the meeting, Jerandi welcomed the ties between the two countries, while Franceschi stressed the US’ keenness to develop partnerships with Tunisia in all sectors.
Franceschi also presented America’s initiative to host the US-Africa Leaders Summit scheduled for Dec. 13-15 in Washington.


Jordan police bust crystal meth lab in Amman, arrest three

Jordan police bust crystal meth lab in Amman, arrest three
Updated 16 August 2022

Jordan police bust crystal meth lab in Amman, arrest three

Jordan police bust crystal meth lab in Amman, arrest three
  • Similar police operations were also undertaken in Zarqa, northeast of Amman

DUBAI: Three people were arrested after Jordanian police on Monday raided a house in East Amman that was being used as a crystal meth laboratory.

The raid was carried out after agents of the anti-narcotics department received a tip off.

The officers did not find the suspect in his home, but discovered and subsequently seized chemicals used for manufacturing methamphetamine.

The man was arrested later during a follow-up operation, where he also said he had an accomplice who worked with him to produce and sell the narcotics.

In a similar effort in Jordan’s campaign to crack down on the illegal drug trade, police raided a chalet west of Al-Balqa and arrested a man found in possession of marijuana and as well as a firearm on suspicion after he tried to flee.

Similar police operations were also undertaken in Zarqa, northeast of Amman, where suspects have been arrested while in possession of illegal drugs and narcotics.


Iran submits a ‘written response’ in nuclear deal talks

Iran submits a ‘written response’ in nuclear deal talks
Updated 16 August 2022

Iran submits a ‘written response’ in nuclear deal talks

Iran submits a ‘written response’ in nuclear deal talks
  • No details offered on the substance of Iran’s response
  • But Tehran suggested it still would not take the EU-mediated proposal

DUBAI: Iran said Tuesday it submitted a “written response” to what has been described as a final roadmap to restore its tattered nuclear deal with world powers.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency offered no details on the substance of it response, but suggested that Tehran still wouldn’t take the European Union-mediated proposal, despite warnings there would be no more negotiations.
“The differences are on three issues, in which the United States has expressed its verbal flexibility in two cases, but it should be included in the text,” the IRNA report said. “The third issue is related to guaranteeing the continuation of (the deal), which depends on the realism of the United States.”
Tehran under hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi has repeatedly tried to blame Washington for the delay in reaching an accord. Monday was reported to have been a deadline for their response.
There was no immediate acknowledgment from the EU that Iran submitted its response. The EU has been the go-between in the indirect talks.
From Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the US would share its own response to the EU.
“We do agree, however, with (the EU’s) fundamental point, and that is that what could be negotiated has been negotiated,” Price said.
He added that Iran had been making “unacceptable demands” going beyond the text of the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw Iran drastically limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
“If Iran wants these sanctions lifted, they will need to alter their underlying conduct,” Price said. “They will need to change the dangerous activities that gave rise to these sanctions in the first place.”