Lebanon parliament speaker says no presidential vote without IMF laws

Lebanon parliament speaker says no presidential vote without IMF laws
Lebanon’s parliamentary speaker, Nabih Berri. (Reuters)
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Updated 30 July 2022

Lebanon parliament speaker says no presidential vote without IMF laws

Lebanon parliament speaker says no presidential vote without IMF laws
  • An IMF deal is seen as the only way for Lebanon to recover from a financial meltdown
  • "I will not call for a presidential election session until after the reform laws required by the IMF have been adopted," Berri said

BEIRUT: Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri said on Saturday he would not call for a session to elect a new president until the legislature passes reforms that are preconditions for an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout.
An IMF deal is seen as the only way for Lebanon to recover from a financial meltdown that has plunged the country into its most destabilising crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.
President Michel Aoun’s six-year term ends on Oct. 31, and top politicians have voiced concern about no successor being found — warning of even greater institutional deadlock given that Lebanon has also been without a fully functioning government since May.
“I will not call for a presidential election session until after the reform laws required by the IMF have been adopted,” Berri said during a meeting with journalists at his Beirut residence, in comments confirmed to Reuters by his office.
He said parliament should work to pass the reform laws in August, pointing to the urgent need for the measures.
Berri, who has held his post for nearly three decades, said on Friday that a “miracle” would be needed for a government to be formed anytime soon. He did not elaborate.
Under the constitution, the president issues the decree appointing a new prime minister based on binding consultations with MPs, and must co-sign on the formation of any new cabinet.
In April, Lebanon reached a staff-level agreement with the IMF for a $3 billion bailout but a full deal is conditional on the passage of bills including capital controls, banking restructuring legislation and the 2022 budget.
Lebanon’s constitution says the speaker must convene parliament “one month at least and two months at most before the expiration of the term of office of the President of the Republic.”
Failing that, the chamber meets automatically on the 10th day preceding the term’s expiration, the constitution says.
Aoun came to power after a 29-month presidential vacuum in which parliament was unable to agree on electing a president. The stalemate ended with a series of deals that secured victory for Aoun and his powerful Iran-backed ally Hezbollah.
Aoun is limited to one term, and major political parties have not announced any agreement on his successor.


Lebanon inspecting new suspected cases of cholera

Lebanon inspecting new suspected cases of cholera
Updated 18 sec ago

Lebanon inspecting new suspected cases of cholera

Lebanon inspecting new suspected cases of cholera
  • News comes almost a month after an outbreak of the illness in neighboring war-torn Syria
  • A cholera infection is caused by consuming food or water infected with the Vibrio cholerae bacteria
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s health minister said on Friday that authorities are inspecting suspected cases of cholera, less than a day after the cash-strapped country confirmed its first case of the illness since 1993.
The news came almost a month after an outbreak of the illness in neighboring war-torn Syria.
Firas Abiad, Lebanon’s caretaker health minister, said in a press conference that the first case was a middle-aged Syrian refugee man living in the impoverished northern province of Akkar, and confirmed a second case in the area.
“There are several other suspected cases,” Abiad said. “Cholera is an illness that is easily transmissible.”
The developments take place as Lebanon's economy continues to spiral, plunging three-quarters of its population into poverty. Rampant power cuts, water shortages, and skyrocketing inflation have deteriorated living conditions for millions.
The Lebanese health minister added that the authorities have been working with the United Nations Children’s Fund and World Health Organization for weeks to ensure the cash-strapped country can respond to a possible outbreak, and expand testing capacities at hospitals and labs.
“We're making sure that there is safe water and a good sewage system,” Abiad said.
According to the WHO, a cholera infection is caused by consuming food or water infected with the Vibrio cholerae bacteria, and while most cases are mild to moderate, not treating the illness could lead to death.
About 1 million Syrian refugees who fled their country’s civil war reside in neighboring Lebanon. Most live in extreme poverty in tented settlements or in overcrowded apartments.
Poverty has also deepened for many Lebanese, with many families often rationing water, unable to afford private water tanks for drinking and domestic use.
The health minister said Lebanon has secured the necessary equipment and medicines to treat patients.
Richard Brennan, Regional Emergency Director of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region told The Associated Press Thursday that the organization has also been coordinating with other countries neighboring Syria to help respond to a possible outbreak.
However, he said vaccines are in short supply due to global demand.
The UN and Syria’s Health Ministry have said the source of the outbreak is likely linked to people drinking unsafe water from the Euphrates River and using contaminated water to irrigate crops, resulting in food contamination.
Syria’s health services have suffered heavily from its years-long war, while much of the country is short on supplies to sanitize water.
Syrian health officials as of Wednesday documented at least 594 cases of cholera and 39 deaths. Meanwhile, in the rebel-held northwest of the country, health authorities documented 605 suspected cases, dozens of confirmed cases, and at least one death.

Lebanese banks close again after holdups by depositors seeking their own money

Lebanese banks close again after holdups by depositors seeking their own money
Updated 2 min 9 sec ago

Lebanese banks close again after holdups by depositors seeking their own money

Lebanese banks close again after holdups by depositors seeking their own money
  • Banks will continue urgent operations for clients and back-office services for businesses

BEIRUT: Lebanese banks have unanimously decided to close their doors to clients indefinitely after a series of holdups by depositors seeking funds frozen in the banking system because of the country’s financial meltdown, two bankers told Reuters.
Banks will continue urgent operations for clients and back-office services for businesses, the bankers said, but front-office services will remain suspended after more than a dozen holdups in less than a month.
Banks closed for about a week last month in similar circumstances, but reopened at the beginning of October to allow employees to withdraw salaries.
Lebanon’s banks association has previously called on the government to enact formal capital controls to replace the informal controls banks adopted in 2019, but parliament has repeatedly failed to pass the law.
The government has made little progress toward reforms that would unlock an International Monetary Fund bailout to help ease a crisis caused by decades of wasteful spending and corruption.
Now in its third year, Lebanon’s financial meltdown has sunk the currency by more than 90 percent, spread poverty, paralyzed the financial system and frozen depositors out of their savings in Lebanon’s most destabilising crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.


Arab states condemn armed attack on kindergarten in Thailand

Arab states condemn armed attack on kindergarten in Thailand
Updated 33 min 59 sec ago

Arab states condemn armed attack on kindergarten in Thailand

Arab states condemn armed attack on kindergarten in Thailand
  • The foreign ministries of the UAE,  Jordan and Egypt released statements on Thursday strongly condemning the attack

Several Arab states condemned an attack on a preschool daycare center in Thailand that killed at least 36 people, most of them children. 

The foreign ministries of the UAE,  Jordan and Egypt released statements on Thursday strongly condemning the attack and expressing sincere condolences to the Thai government and families of the victims, wishing a speedy recovery for those injured.

Meanwhile, Kwauti’s Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf al-Sabah sent a cable of condolences to King Maha Vajiralongkorn. 

Police identified the killer as 34-year-old Panya Kamrab, a former police sergeant who was dismissed from service in January. According to a police report seen by Arab News, he was sacked after being found in possession of narcotics.

Panya is thought to have gone to the daycare center to find his son but when he failed to find the boy he began shooting. He then returned home, where he killed his wife and child.


Houthi landmine blast kills two Yemeni children, injures one

Houthi landmine blast kills two Yemeni children, injures one
Updated 07 October 2022

Houthi landmine blast kills two Yemeni children, injures one

Houthi landmine blast kills two Yemeni children, injures one
  • The Iran-backed group has refused to renew the UN-brokered cease-fire

DUBAI: Two children were killed and one was critically injured after landmine, planted by Houthi militants in Magzer district of Yemen’s Marib governorate, detonated.

The fatalities have been identified as eight-year-old Saqer Mohamed Sinan and 12-year-old Qa’ed Abdullah Khaimah Ashareef, while 13-year-old Ghazi Faraj Ahmed Sinan suffered serious injuries, Yemeni News Agency reported.

Villagers in the district have reported that the Houthis have been adamant not to extract the landmines they have randomly and intensively planted in roads, farms and residential areas.

Saudi Arabia’s Project Masam has so far located and destroyed 360,573 explosive devices including 5,672 anti-personnel mines, 132,637 anti-tank mines, 7,486 IEDs and 214,778 unexploded ordnances in Yemeni liberated areas since it was launched mid-2018.

The Iran-backed group has refused to renew the UN-brokered cease-fire, which took effect in April and has twice been renewed, and has resumed aggressive military operations in Marib, Taiz and Dhale after the last truce expired on Sunday.


Anger in Paris over Iran ‘spy’ charges

Anger in Paris over Iran ‘spy’ charges
Updated 07 October 2022

Anger in Paris over Iran ‘spy’ charges

Anger in Paris over Iran ‘spy’ charges
  • French schoolteachers’ union official Cecile Kohler and her partner Jacques Paris were arrested in May on charges of fomenting “insecurity” in Iran
  • France condemned the arrests and allegedly forced confessions, in which Kohler said on video that she was sent by France to spark a revolution

JEDDAH: France on Thursday accused the regime in Iran of taking two of its citizens hostage after Tehran broadcast video footage of the couple making forced confessions to being spies.

French schoolteachers’ union official Cecile Kohler and her partner Jacques Paris were arrested in May on charges of fomenting “insecurity” in Iran. France condemned the arrests and demanded their immediate release.

In Thursday’s TV footage Kohler “confessed” to being an agent of the French external intelligence service, in Iran to “prepare the ground for the revolution and the overthrow of the regime of Islamic Iran.” Paris said: “Our goal at the French security service is to pressure the government of Iran.”

The video sparked anger in France. “The staging of their alleged confessions is outrageous, appalling, unacceptable and contrary to international law,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre said.

“This masquerade reveals the contempt for human dignity that characterizes the Iranian authorities. These alleged confessions extracted under duress have no basis, nor did the reasons given for their arbitrary arrest.”

The French couple's appearance on TV coincides with weeks of anti-government protests in Iran over the death last month in morality police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. It also came a day after a debate in the French senate in which all political parties condemned Iran's crackdown on the protests.

Rights groups say Iranian state media broadcast more than 350 forced confessions between 2010 and 2020. Four French citizens are in jail in Iran and France is assessing whether another one may have been arrested during the current protests.

In a tweet on Oct. 5, the Human Rights Activists in Iran and 19 other human rights organizations asked US President Joe Biden in an open letter "to address the Iranian regime’s violent crackdown on the Mahsa Amini protests and Iran’s ongoing human rights crisis."

"The Iranian people need the support of the United States and the entire international community to attain their rights and freedoms," the letter said.