Lebanon in crisis


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  1. #1
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    Lebanon in crisis

    It appears that Lebanon is going to be the next victim of the Saudi-Iran proxy war. Lebanon's pluralist character has long been it's strength and has made for an enduring stability over the years. Is this now under threat?

    Mods - hope you don't mind the twitter links, they are all from verified accounts and link to the full news articles they refer to.














  2. #2
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    Saudia and Arab countries with low oil prices are mostly trying to divert the peoples attention from the economic problems that they are facing in the next few years


    Sent from my SM-G925I


    "Too often we... enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought"-JFK

  3. #3
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    Are things about to turn nasty in Lebanon?











  4. #4
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    Isnt Lebanon synonymous with civil war between different sects since the 70s
    Have they found out who assassinated the old leader yet


    "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles"

  5. #5
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    They had a 15 year civil war, pluralist my behind.

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    Calls for revolution at Lebanon protests
    Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Lebanon for a third day of nationwide protests.

    They are calling on the government to step down over its handling of an economic crisis. Dozens of people are reported to have been injured since the unrest began.

    The prime minister is expected to speak on Monday, after he gave ministers a deadline to find a solution.


    Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-mi...banon-protests.


    Bangladeshi Man

  8. #7
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    I love Beirut. Hope they sort it out soon, so can go party again

  9. #8
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    Lebanon's coalition government has reportedly agreed to a package of economic reforms as it attempts to quell the biggest protests in years.

    Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets on Sunday for a fourth day of anti-government protests.

    The protests were triggered in part by a plan to tax calls on WhatsApp and other messaging services.

    The government quickly dropped the tax, but the protests have morphed into wider demands for reform.

    The Lebanese economy is struggling with low growth and high debt. Austerity measures have sparked anger and deteriorating infrastructure has made power cuts and piles of uncollected rubbish part of daily life.

    On Friday, Lebanon's Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, gave his coalition partners 72 hours to back economic reforms.

    Government sources cited on news agencies said an agreement was reached on Sunday.

    The agreement is said to include plans to privatise key utilities, reduce politicians' salaries and measures to address Lebanon's budget deficit.

    The reform package is expected to be approved at a cabinet meeting on Monday.

    Lebanon has long had a political system designed to balance power between the countries main religious groups.

    Observers say one of the striking features of the protests is how demonstrators have shaken off the country's sectarian divide to unite against their leaders.

    'I am disgusted'
    Mass protests erupted on Thursday, when the proposed tax on WhatsApp calls was announced.

    When the tax was scrapped, the demonstrations turned their focus to wider grievances with the government, which has been accused of widespread corruption and economic mismanagement.

    The spontaneous protests, which have hit major cities including the capital Beirut, have seen marchers chant for "revolution".

    With debt levels soaring, the Lebanese government has been trying to implement economic reforms to secure an $11bn (8.5bn) aid package from international donors.

    Without economic reforms, Lebanon's debt is forecast to balloon to more than 150% of GDP by the end of the year.

    The economic crisis, and the Lebanese government's handling of it, has ignited widespread anger, with many calling for political change.

    "I am here because I am disgusted by our politicians. Nothing works. This is not a state," Cherine Shawa told Reuters while protesting in Beirut on Sunday.

    Hanan Takkouche, also in the capital, said: "We're here to say to our leaders 'leave'."

    The protests have been largely peaceful, but dozens of people are reported to have been injured in clashes with police at demonstrations in recent days.
    Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-50118300.


    Bangladeshi Man

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    BEIRUT: Demonstrators across Lebanon blocked roads and took to the streets on Saturday for a 10th consecutive day, defying what they said were attempts by Hezbollah to defuse their movement and despite tensions with the army.

    The demonstrators — who have thronged Lebanese towns and cities since October 17 — are demanding the removal of the entire political class, accusing many across different parties of systematic corruption.

    Numbers have declined since October 20, when hundreds of thousands took over Beirut and other cities in the largest demonstrations in years, but could grow again over the weekend.

    The chief of the powerful movement Hezbollah on Friday called on his supporters to leave the streets, warning that any cabinet resignation would lead to “chaos and collapse” of the economy. His statement sowed divisions among Hezbollah supporters, some of whom were still protesting on Saturday.

    Hassan Koteiche, 27, from a Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut, said he agreed with most of Nasrallah’s “excellent” speech, but had some reservations.

    “This does not mean we are against his discourse but there is a divergence in opinion,” he said.

    “The main thing I disagree with is his belief that if the government or parliament falls then we would have no alternative,” he added.

    “That is not true. We have alternatives. We have noble and uncorrupt people,” who can govern.

    Main roads remained closed across the country on Saturday morning, as the army tried to reopen key routes.

    The General Security agency — one of Lebanon’s top three security bodies — said it has started to implement a plan to open key roads.

    An army spokesman said that security forces would negotiate with protesters, without resorting to violence.

    But troops clashed with residents of the Beddawi area near the northern port city of Tripoli as they were trying to close a main road, according to the state-run National News Agency.

    A medical source in the area said that at least four people were wounded by live fire and seven others in confrontations with the army.

    Soldiers fired rubber bullets in the air after being hit with fireworks and stones, according to the spokesman.

    Northeast of Beirut, dozens of demonstrators formed a human chain to prevent the army from removing a dirt berm blocking a seaside road.

    In central Beirut, they sat cross-legged on a key artery that connects the capital to its suburbs and surrounding regions.

    Demonstrators who had slept in tents near Martyrs Square, said they were still defiant. “We will stay on the streets,” said Rabih al-Zein, a 34-year-old from the Shia stronghold of Tyre in southern Lebanon.

    “The power of the people is stronger than the power of the parties,” he said.

    Lebanon’s largely sectarian political parties have been wrong-footed by the cross-communal nature of the mostly peaceful protests.

    Waving Lebanese flags rather than the partisan colours normally paraded at demonstrations, protesters have been demanding the resignation of all of Lebanon’s political leaders. “All of them means all,” has been a popular slogan.

    In attempts to calm the anger, Prime Minister Saad Hariri has pushed through a package of economic reforms, while President Michel Aoun suggested banking secrecy should be lifted from the accounts of high-ranking officials.

    Ministers and lawmakers affiliated with the president’s Free Patriotic Movement are set to lift banking secrecy from their own accounts next week, according to an FPM statement.
    Source: https://www.dawn.com/news/1513216/le...ying-hezbollah.


    Bangladeshi Man

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    Lebanon protests: People form a human chain
    Tens of thousands of Lebanese protesters joined hands in an attempt to form a human chain across the country from Tripoli in the north to Tyre in the south.

    Organisers have said the attempt to create a chain 170km (105 miles) long was successful.

    It marked the eleventh day of anti-government protests which began on 17 October.

    People have been demonstrating against the handling of a severe economic crisis, and there have been clashes with security forces.


    Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-mi...-a-human-chain.


    Bangladeshi Man

  12. #11
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    Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri has said he is resigning, amid protests that have gripped the country for two weeks.

    Mr Hariri said Lebanon had reached a deadlock and needed a shock to break the crisis.

    The protests began against now-scrapped plans to tax WhatsApp calls, but quickly widened to target political corruption and the economic turmoil.

    Lebanon has one of the highest debt levels in the world.

    Do today's global protests have anything in common?
    The protests have led to a 10-day closure of banks, with many other offices, schools and universities also shut.

    What did Mr Hariri say?
    In a televised address, the prime minister said he had reached a "dead end" and that he would tender his resignation and that of the government to President Michel Aoun.

    Mr Hariri said: "For 13 days, the Lebanese people have waited for a decision for a political solution that stops the deterioration. And I have tried, during this period, to find a way out, through which to listen to the voice of the people."

    But he added: "It has become necessary for us to make a great shock to fix the crisis.

    "Posts come and go, what matters is the safety and dignity of the people."

    President Aoun is still to comment. If the resignation is accepted, the constitution would require Mr Hariri to stay on until a new administration is established.

    What is the state of the protests?
    The prime minister's announcement came as the situation on the ground turned increasingly violent, reflecting the deep-seated schism in Lebanese society.

    The militant Shia group, Hezbollah, which has dominated the coalition government led by Mr Hariri, a Sunni, has recently hardened its stance against the protests.

    On Tuesday, black-clad men loyal to Hezbollah and another Shia group, Amal, destroyed a protest camp in central Beirut, chanting slogans, setting tents on fire and beating anti-government demonstrators. A roadblock set up by protesters was also attacked.

    Riot police and troops fired tear gas to separate the rival groups.

    The protesters remained defiant in central Beirut. Less than an hour after being attacked they erupted into applause at the announcement of Mr Hariri's resignation.

    "Saad Hariri is only the beginning," one told a local TV channel.

    How did we get to this point?
    The crisis began on 17 October when the government announced a new daily tax for calls made via voice-over-internet-protocol (Voip), which is used by apps including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Apple's FaceTime.


    Media captionProtesters formed a human chain 170km (105 miles) long on Sunday
    The government backtracked within hours but the protests were soon under way and quickly burgeoned.

    As one demonstrator said: "We are not here over the WhatsApp, we are here over everything: over fuel, food, bread, over everything."

    Last week, Mr Hariri and his coalition, including Hezbollah, agreed to a plan of reforms to try to placate protesters, but their campaign continued.

    On Friday, Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said "someone is trying to pull [Lebanon]... towards a civil war", suggesting the protests were funded by foreign powers and indicating a harsher policy towards the protesters.

    Hezbollah had argued against Mr Hariri's resignation, saying it could result in a void in Lebanese government.

    The BBC's Martin Patience says many in the population are tired of economic stagnation, endemic corruption and a lack of basic public services.

    He adds that the developments will alarm the West, which regards Lebanon as an island of relative stability in a turbulent Middle East.

    The power-sharing agreement that ended the country's civil war 30 years ago has kept the peace, but it has failed to halt the slide towards economic crisis.

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-50225100


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  13. #12
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    This loser paid over $10mn to a South African Model for a sexual relationship. And then we ask about the state of Muslim countries.

  14. #13
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    Protests against growing economic hardship erupted in Tripoli and spread to other Lebanese cities, as the shutdown to fight the new coronavirus made matters worse for the economy

    Banks were set ablaze as violence boiled over into a second night. One demonstrator was killed in riots, as a collapse in the currency, soaring inflation and spiralling unemployment convulse Lebanon, a country in deep financial crisis since October.


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  15. #14
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    Beirut, Lebanon - At least a dozen Lebanese banks across the country were torched and vandalised during the second consecutive night of angry protests fuelled by frustration over the national currency's unfettered depreciation.

    Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets from Beirut to southern Sidon along with Nabatieh, the Bekaa Valley, and Tripoli and Akkar in the north.

    The largest and most violent protests took place in the northern city of Tripoli - Lebanon's second-largest, and poorest, city, after protester Fouaz al-Semaan died on Tuesday from wounds sustained while protesting the night before.

    The 26-year-old man's sister, Fatima, said the Lebanese army shot him. The military expressed its "regret" over the killing without directly claiming responsibility and said it launched an investigation.

    Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday the army's heavy-handed response to the protests had inflamed tensions. It called for a transparent investigation into al-Semaan's death, the results of which it said should be made public.

    Protesters in Tripoli began setting banks on fire on Tuesday afternoon after the al-Semaan was laid to rest, and clashes continued into the early hours of Wednesday as they were chased through the streets by soldiers.

    In southern Sidon, a branch of the central bank was pelted with at least half a dozen petrol bombs, with cheers going up from the crowd of demonstrators each time a Molotov hit its mark.

    Protesters are furious over the rapid slide of the Lebanese pound, which has plummeted in value by more than 50 percent in about six months.

    They have lashed out at banks throughout the demonstrations because of harsh capital controls that have entirely phased-out withdrawals in foreign currencies, which were previously standard, and even limited withdrawals in the pound.

    Poverty, already at about 50 percent earlier this year, worsened during a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown that has been in place since mid-March.

    Social Affairs Minsiter Ramzi Mousharafieh estimated 75 percent of the population require aid in a country of about six million - but that aid has been meager and slow to come.

    Massive anti-government protests that began in October and paused during the lockdown are now returning angrier and more desperate.

    While Lebanese flags and signs with elaborate slogans used to be ubiquitous in mixed crowds of families with children, increasingly it is young men and women who are taking to the streets, rocks and Molotov cocktails in hand.

    The Lebanese Red Cross said it had treated 30 injured people in Tripoli on Tuesday and took six to the hospital. Dozens were injured the day before, some by live fire and others by rubber-coated bullets.

    The Lebanese army has not yet released figures from Tuesday night, but said 54 soldiers in total had been injured across the country during attempts to unblock roads and quell protests the day before.

    Tensions with the army

    While the Lebanese military is one of the country's few respected institutions, perceived to be above the sectarian bickering that permeates the rest of the state, attitudes on the streets have been shifting.

    Protesters previously handed out roses to soldiers, but there have been no such acts of kindness over the last few days.

    "The army are not our brothers," a woman told a local news reporter as she marched through the streets of the capital Beirut. "They are shooting at us to protect the politicians."

    In Tripoli on Monday night, people pelted soldiers with rocks and other projectiles as protesters were chased through the streets. The sound of pots and pans being banged rang through narrow alleyways, in a sign of support for the demonstrators that has become popular during Lebanon's uprising.

    Earlier Tuesday, protesters smashed the windshield of a military vehicle, leading the soldiers aboard it to bail out as it rolled backwards, hitting a pole before coming to a halt.

    A military vehicle was set on fire in Tripoli on Monday night in the middle of Tripoli's al-Nour square, the main scene of clashes that just a few months ago had been filled with jubilant, thousands-strong demonstrations that became famous for loud music spun live by DJs.

    On the southern highway near the town of Naameh, protesters threw stones at soldiers, leading them to quickly retreat and shoot live rounds into the air.

    Still, protesters say their issue is not with the army itself, but with the politicians they say it is protecting.

    "To Army Commander Joseph Aoun, we say that you should stand with the people, not in our face," a protester told another reporter in southern Sidon.

    In Tripoli, soldiers and protesters suddenly became a single front when an unknown gunman, apparently part of the security detail of a local MP, shot at demonstrators from a rooftop, wounding one.

    Protesters and soldiers rushed towards the source of the shooting side by side.

    "The army and the people have become one hand, glory to the army," a man shouted. "In a single moment, the people have turned back to the army."

    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/...060510405.html


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  16. #15
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    Prominent Beirut university faces fight of its life as crises hit

    BEIRUT (Reuters) - One of the Arab world’s oldest universities faces its worst crisis since its foundation, with huge losses, staff cuts and an uphill battle to stay afloat as Lebanon’s economic meltdown and the coronavirus pandemic hit revenues.


    The American University of Beirut has graduated leading figures in medicine, law, science and art as well as political leaders and scholars over the decades including prime ministers.

    It has weathered many crises, including Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, when a number of staff including two presidents were killed or abducted and a bomb destroyed one of its main halls.

    But Lebanon’s problems now may be the biggest threat yet to the institution founded in 1866 by Protestant missionaries. It ranks among the world’s top 200 universities and its collapse would deprive future generations in Lebanon and the wider region of internationally recognized higher education.

    “This is one of the biggest challenges in AUB’s history. The country is crashing catastrophically,” AUB President Fadlo Khuri told Reuters in an interview.

    With inflation, unemployment and poverty high, many families have little means to cover food and rent, let alone tens of thousands of dollars in tuition fees.

    The heavily indebted state, which defaulted on its foreign currency debt in March, owes AUB’s medical centre - which attracts patients from across the Middle East and Central Asia - more than $150 million in arrears, Khuri said.

    Government officials have ruled out a haircut on the bank deposits of non-profit universities such as AUB, but Khuri still fears his institution may take a hit if a state rescue plan puts part of the burden on large depositors and includes colleges.

    Along with other universities, his school has lobbied the state and, he said, received assurances from the president and finance minister that any such measures would not impact them.

    But he remains worried, with government plans for plugging vast holes in the national finances not yet finalised.

    Government officials could not be reached for comment.

    “We have all this money they (the state) still owe us for the hospital so it’s very hard to rely on well-intentioned people who may or may not have the ability (to deliver),” he said.

    The university and hospital expect real losses of $30 million this year after bleeding revenues. For 2020-2021 alone, it projects a 60% revenue reduction from this year, down to $249 million.


    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-l...-idUSKBN22K1RM


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  17. #16
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    Beirut, Lebanon - Lebanon's financial prosecutor has ordered the arrest of the head of monetary operations at the central bank amid a widening probe into manipulation of the country's volatile currency.

    The arrest of Mazen Hamdan late on Thursday marked the first such move against an official at the increasingly embattled institution since Lebanon's currency crisis began last summer.

    The Lebanese pound, long set at 1,500 to $1, is now trading for roughly 4,200 to the greenback on the black market amid an acute dollar shortage linked to dried-up remittances, corruption and unsustainable fiscal policies.

    Its demise is just one part of a full-blown financial crisis that has pushed the small, economically-crippled nation to seek $20bn in foreign aid, of which $10bn is supposed to come from an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme.

    The crisis has seen tens of thousands of people lose jobs and poverty soar to almost 50 percent, according to finance ministry data. Last month, Social Affairs Minister Ramzi Moucharafieh said some 70-75 percent of the population required aid after the economic crisis was exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, while the IMF forecast that the economy would shrink by 12 percent this year - one of the worst recessions in the world.

    'Economic nonsense'

    The country's currency had been on a steady downwards trajectory against the US dollar since August. That slide turned into a freefall in late April, with a roughly 12 percent drop in a single day, leading to nationwide street protests and riots.

    Prime Minister Hassan Diab's government blamed the central bank for failing to inject dollars into the market to stabilise the currency. Diab also alleged that the central bank governor, Riad Salameh, may be aiming to intentionally hurt the currency, noting "suspicious ambiguity" in decisions.

    Salameh denied these charges as part of a "campaign" against him and said he has worked to keep the currency stable for decades through successive political crises and conflict.

    The central bank subsequently ordered all currency exchange dealers to trade dollars at a rate of 3,200 - its third attempt to implement an exchange rate cap since the crisis began. At the same time, security forces launched a crackdown against any traders who went above this rate, leading all exchange dealers to go on a strike now heading into its fourth week.

    Unrelenting, financial prosecutor Ali Ibrahim has ordered the arrest of several dozen exchange dealers in recent weeks, including the head of the currency exchange dealers' syndicate, Mahmoud Mrad.

    On Thursday, he also ordered the arrest of Hamdan, who remains in custody.

    In a statement, the central bank said it was cooperating with investigations and had lifted secrecy on its transactions with currency exchange dealers. In the period between April 8 and May 5, the central bank said it had sold $12.7m to currency exchange dealers and had bought $11.3m.

    These amounts, the statement said, could not account for the "magnitude" of currency depreciation during that period, in which the rate dropped from 2,900 Lebanese pounds to $1 to more than 4,000.

    "It is self-evident, after looking at the amounts mentioned, that, contrary to what was rumoured, there was no manipulation in the money exchange market as a result of the Central Bank's operations," the statement said.

    Some analysts view the attempts to control the currency via a crackdown on exchange dealers or the central bank as futile.

    "Accusing money changers for the vertiginous depreciation of Lebanese Pound is politically expedient but is economic nonsense," Nasser Saidi, a former economy minister and central bank vice-governor, said in a Twitter post.

    "Depreciation results [from the central bank] financing budget deficit by printing money, unsustainable fiscal and debt policies, deep recession and nothing to anchor Lebanese Pound expectations."

    https://www.aljazeera.com/ajimpact/l...104538538.html


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  18. #17
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    Beirut, Lebanon - Rafi, a migrant worker in Lebanon's waste sector, has a wife and two young daughters back home in Bangladesh who depend on his monthly remittances to pay for school, food and other needs.

    But for the past five months, Rafi says he has been unable to send any money back home, because the private waste-management company for which he works, RAMCO, violated his work contract by effectively slashing his wages from $300 a month to just over $100.

    "It's a very big problem, I cant send my baby to school," said Rafi, who asked Al Jazeera to refer to him by a pseudonym because he fears retribution.

    Rafi is not alone in his hardships, or his anger. Faced with a similarly untenable position, some 400 RAMCO employees - mostly from Bangladesh and India - took the unprecedented decision last month to walk of the job until the company pays them what they are owed.

    Though initially overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic, the labour strike seeped into the headlines on May 12 when employees blocked roads outside RAMCO's main housing and storage site on the outskirts of Beirut and prevented garbage trucks from leaving.

    Riot police were called in. Videos and images that strikers shot at the scene and shared with Al Jazeera showed security forces deploying tear gas and beating strikers - a small contingent of whom vandalised company property. Some of the images showed cuts to workers' arms and hands. One showed a man with severe bruises to his face.

    An employee was arrested during the incident and remains in custody.

    While some of the strikers have crossed the picket line and returned to work since the strike was called on April 3, at least 250 are standing their ground and refusing to go back on the job until their demands are met.

    "In the history of Lebanon, I don't think that migrant workers made a weeks-long strike and protested in such a way," said Lea Bou Khater, a labour movement specialist and researcher at the Consultation and Research Institute.

    Bou Khater sees the RAMCO strike as a potential watershed for one of Lebanon's most marginalised communities.

    Denied basic labour protections, migrant workers are frequently exploited by employers who pay below minimum wage and can deport those who step out of line.

    "Their accommodation and food depends on their employer," Bou Khater told Al Jazeera. "They can be deported, they are protesting and striking in very difficult conditions."

    The roots of the RAMCO pay dispute can be traced to Lebanon's rapidly depreciating currency.

    Rafi says that in November, RAMCO stopped paying him and other workers in US dollars and started compensating them in Lebanese pounds.

    But rather than use the parallel market exchange rate - which currently values the Lebanese pound at 4,000 to $1 - RAMCO is pegging the conversion to the 23-year-old but now wildly unrealistic official exchange rate of 1,500 Lebanese pounds to the dollar.

    "Pay us in dollars, or pay us in Lebanese pounds at the market rate," said Rafi. "I want a solution. No solution? No work."

    Walid Bou Saad, director of RAMCO, told Al Jazeera that while it is clear that the company is "violating" its contracts with its workers, it cannot pay them in dollars or at the prevailing market rate because the Lebanese state - its biggest customer - started paying for the company's services in Lebanese pounds at the official exchange rate.

    "The workers have the right to ask for their rights, but how can I give them their rights if I can't get mine?" he asked.

    He also said the Lebanese government owes RAMCO $8.7m for work done over the past nine months.

    The worst-hit rise up
    There is plenty of financial misery to go around in Lebanon. Last summer, the economy started to buckle under the weight of decades of unfettered corruption, unsustainable fiscal policies, the war next door in Syria and a slump in vital remittances from abroad.

    Tens of thousands of Lebanese have since lost their jobs while hundreds of businesses have closed - and that was before a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown delivered yet another crippling blow to an economy already on life support.

    Nearly everyone in Lebanon has been hit with a de facto wage cut as the currency has depreciated, but few have been worse affected by the currency crunch than migrants, most of whom labour abroad to send money home to their relatives.

    Migrant workers are employed under the notorious kafala system that ties their residency status directly to their employer, limiting their ability to amend or end contracts.

    Moreover, Lebanon's labour laws do not extend to them, meaning they are often denied basic protections such as minimum wage guarantees and paid time off.

    "There is no economic or social justice at all," says Bou Khater, who sees the RAMCO strike as a long overdue reckoning. "This strike shows we are at a point where this is no longer acceptable. It shows how bad the system is."

    As the country's economy has spiralled further into crisis, thousands of migrant workers have applied to leave Lebanon, mainly citizens of the Philippines, Ethiopia and Bangladesh.

    Abdullah Al Mamun, Charge d'affaires at the Bangladesh Embassy in Beirut, told Al Jazeera that some 7,600 Bangladeshi nationals living and working in Lebanon have already registered for repatriation with the embassy.

    He estimates that of the roughly 150,000 Bangladeshi expatriates in the country, at least 10 percent would seek to return home due to the economic crisis.

    But getting home has been complicated by coronavirus containment measures. Lebanon's only international airport in Beirut has been closed to civilian traffic for two months to stem the spread of COVID-19.

    Abuse allegations investigated
    Mamun said the Bangladeshi embassy has negotiated better terms - including a slight raise - for its nationals who are contracted work for RAMCO but who can't get home yet.

    But beyond the pay dispute, workers have alleged more serious abuse.

    Some RAMCO workers circulated a joint statement on their personal social media accounts claiming that a mentally ill coworker had been denied treatment and "locked up in a dark room in the underground for three days and physically and mentally tortured by RAMCO company security" in mid-April.

    A video of the alleged victim with ropes tied around his legs was shared on social media by employees as well as labour activists.

    RAMCO's director, Saad, vehemently denies any allegations of torture. He told Al Jazeera that the worker in question had been offered treatment at a number of hospitals, and that doctors had advised he be returned to Bangladesh. Pending his repatriation, Saad said the company had placed the worker in a specialised "medical isolation room" for one night before releasing him to the care of his fellow workers.

    Mamun said that the Bangladeshi embassy had investigated the allegations and interviewed the man and found no signs of abuse.

    An advisor to Lebanon's labour minister told Al Jazeera the ministry is also investigating the RAMCO case.

    https://www.aljazeera.com/ajimpact/l...203511280.html


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  19. #18
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    Beirut, Lebanon - Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Thursday marked 100 days in office by touting his government's achievements during a speech at the Grand Serail - the seat of government power in Beirut. But a few blocks away, the mood was decidedly uncelebratory, as protestors once again took to the streets to vent their frustrations with a broken apparatus of a state that is not reforming fast enough to quell their anger.

    Comparing Lebanon to a rapidly-sinking ship that his three-month-old government is saving against all odds, Diab emphasised his government's push for anti-corruption legislation, as well as its attempts to secure more than $20bn in aid from the international community to rescue Lebanon's crisis-ridden economy.

    "One hundred days ago, the ship was being rocked by incoming waves, and water was entering it from many big holes. The fuel tanks were empty, the motors powerless," Diab said. "The ship was sinking rapidly, and the lifeboats were either missing or of no use. One hundred days ago we had no other choice but to take over command of the ship."

    "A few adventurers stood on the deck of the boat in front of scared and worried eyes. They told the passengers, 'Let us attempt rescue,'" Diab went on. "Each of those adventures went about closing the holes and fixing the malfunctions. They used their bodies as sails and held the helm, and the voyage began."

    As Diab festooned his government in heroic metaphors, outside protestors were storming the country's energy ministry to express anger with chronic power cuts that have become more frequent over the past week.

    The country's dilapidated and inefficient power sector, which sucks some $2bn in state funds each year, is a constant reminder to the Lebanese of the corruption and political sclerosis that spawned nationwide anti-establishment protests last year that toppled the government of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, paving the way for Diab to ascend to power.

    But the challenges facing Diab and his cabinet are profound.

    The small eastern Mediterranean nation of just six million people is in the throes of an economic meltdown that has crushed businesses, thrown tens of thousands of people out of work and led the currency to dramatically depreciate. Those hardships have only intensified in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Since last summer, the Lebanese pound has lost some 60 percent of its value against the United States dollar.

    Diab's government was officially formed on February 11 under a cloud of controversy as thousands of protestors attempted to block a confidence vote in parliament that ultimately approved Diab's cabinet.

    The anti-establishment uprising sought to rid the country of its old political class that eventually chose Diab as prime minister, and protestors do not regard him or his government as the change agents the country needs.

    Still, Diab is linking his credibility to the uprising and trying to spin his government as a natural outgrowth of it. On Tuesday, a video was posted to his social media account that splices scenes of squares packed with flag-waving demonstrators with shots of him walking the halls of power.

    '97 percent success'
    Soon after he took office, Diab said he had found the state treasury empty, and wasted no time declaring that Lebanon would default on foreign debt repayments, which it did in March for the first time ever.

    The heavily indebted nation has since begun bailout negotiations with the International Monetary Fund as part of a drive to secure more than $20bn from international donors and lenders.

    Diab seized upon his 100-day mark to tick off his achievements, including a financial rescue plan approved by parliament that includes a long-overdue assessment of losses in the banking sector; corruption-fighting legislation and a national anti-corruption strategy; and severing government contracts with the current operators of Lebanon's telecoms duopoly to cut costs.

    Things are worse than they were 100 days ago ... We can't even afford groceries anymore.

    Though many of the laws Diab mentioned during his 100-day victory lap are in the process of being drafted or have been completed, most have yet to be ratified by parliament.

    Diab also noted that the government has launched an audit of the accounts of the central bank, the Banque du Liban, for the first time ever and has asked nations that previously donated money to Lebanon to inform the government of any funds that had been unlawfully "plundered". He has also called for an investigation into billions of dollars transferred abroad despite informal capital controls being in place since November.

    Though Diab said that his government has made good on 97 percent of the pledges made since he took office, patience is an increasingly rare commodity on the streets.

    And while few dispute his government's handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, a delayed rollout of its coronavirus aid programme saw the value of earmarked cash handouts plummet along with the national currency's value.

    Diab's government has also failed to implement formal capital controls and has yet to fill key posts at the central bank, including key oversight positions, due to political infighting among the country's famously fractured parties.

    The vast majority of Lebanese have seen their living standards slip to the point where many can no longer afford basic goods. Chants for accountability and justice that rose from a chorus of crowds months ago have mostly been replaced by angered cries of pain and hunger.

    "Things are worse than they were 100 days ago," Anis Tabet, a Lebanese film critic, said on Twitter. "[I'm] not blaming the new government but bragging about nonexistent achievements is ridiculous. We can't even afford groceries anymore."

    'Billions spent, no electricity'

    No single sector in Lebanon spells out the failure of successive governments more than the electricity sector - and power cuts are only getting worse. Lebanon only produces a maximum of around 2,000 megawatts of electricity, but peak summer demand is in excess of 3,500 megawatts.

    This week, fuel barges experienced delays in offloading their cargo, causing electricity output to plummet. State-run power giant Electricite du Liban (EDL) blamed foreign banks for the fuel supply disruptions.

    For the past three days, protesters have taken out their anger against EDL, with some breaking into the state power company's branches from Tripoli in the north to Nabatieh in the south and in central Beirut.

    On Wednesday, as Diab was speaking, activists burst into the energy ministry and held a sit-in until they were removed by riot police.

    "We came to the energy ministry to say all energy ministers are criminals," prominent activist Wasef al Harakeh said in a video posted online. "Tens of billions of dollars spent and there is no electricity, our people are sleeping without electricity. Our people are sleeping without food."

    Though Energy Minister Raymond Ghajar has only been in office for 110 days, he was appointed by the same party that has held the ministry for over a decade - and is facing the same street-level anger as his predecessors.

    "Thief, thief, Raymond Ghajar is a thief," the protesters chanted.

    https://www.aljazeera.com/ajimpact/l...195050194.html


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  20. #19
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    Jun 2019
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    They always in crisis lol

  21. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Giannis View Post
    They always in crisis lol
    A nation doomed. To me this is a best example of a failed state.


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  22. #21
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    Jan 2020
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    Quote Originally Posted by Giannis View Post
    They always in crisis lol
    Every year there's some drama they are like the punk kid of middle east

  23. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by MenInG View Post
    A nation doomed. To me this is a best example of a failed state.
    This too shall pass.

  24. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Giannis View Post
    This too shall pass.
    Inshallah for their sake.


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  25. #24
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    Hundreds of people have taken to the streets in cities across Lebanon amid escalating protests as the country faces a collapse in its currency.

    Anger has surged as the Lebanese pound tumbled to record lows, having lost 70% of its value since October when protests began.

    The prime minister has called an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the economic crisis.

    The protests paused during coronavirus lockdown but recently resumed.

    The depreciation of the Lebanese pound has plunged the country into its worst economic crisis in decades.

    Many Lebanese citizens who rely on hard currency savings have fallen into poverty, their plight worsened by the pandemic.

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-53020014


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  26. #25
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    Hundreds of people have protested in cities across Lebanon for a second night over the handling of the country's economic crisis.
    The Lebanese pound has fallen to record lows, having lost 70% of its value since October when protests began.

    The financial crisis has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic.

    Protesters in the capital, Beirut, and in the northern city of Tripoli, threw stones and fireworks at police who used tear gas and rubber bullets.

    The pound's decline appeared to halt on Friday after the government announced that the central bank would begin injecting more US dollars into the market in a bid to stop the pound's freefall.

    The move is set to begin on Monday.

    It comes as the government prepares to hold talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with the hope of securing billions of dollars in financing to help put the country's economy back on track.

    However any bailout is expected to involve painful economic reforms in a country built on a sectarian political system that is likely to face stiff resistance from the entrenched parties.

    Many Lebanese citizens who rely on hard currency savings have fallen into poverty due to capital controls, as banks restrict dollar withdrawals. More than a third of the population is unemployed.

    In Tripoli, protesters damaged the outside of several banks and shops, throwing petrol bombs at soldiers who responded with tear gas. Banks have been blamed for the country's financial troubles.

    One protester told AFP news agency: "I just want a job so I can live. We don't believe all the measures taken by the government to improve the dollar exchange rate."

    Images from Beirut show protesters next to burning tires, blocking the road near the government palace.

    The area had also been targeted during protests on Thursday night.

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-53031683


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  27. #26
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    Lebanese protesters took to the streets in Beirut and other cities on Saturday in mostly peaceful protests against the government, calling for its resignation as the small country sinks deeper into economic distress.

    The protests come after two days of rallies spurred by a dramatic collapse of the local currency against the dollar. Those rallies degenerated into violence, including attacks on private banks and shops, the Associated Press reports.

    The local currency, pegged to the dollar for nearly 30 years, has been on a downward trajectory for weeks, losing over 60 per cent of its value. But the dramatic collapse this week deepened public despair over the already troubled economy, a crisis that was further compounded by the coronavirus pandemic.

    The government was faced with handling the coronavirus pandemic soon after prime minister Hassan Diab took office earlier this year, and implemented a lockdown lasting months.

    Diabs government is supported by the powerful militant group Hezbollah and its allies, but has already been weakened by the economic crisis.

    In a speech Saturday, Diab urged the public to be patient, saying there were a great many political hurdles, including from rivals he said sought to undermine his government. Diab offered no solutions to the crisis, nor did he name his opponents, but said his government was working to fight corruption and uphold the power of the state.


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  28. #27
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    Beirut, Lebanon - Lebanese authorities are engaged in an "alarming" crackdown on critical free speech aimed at suppressing widespread demands for accountability over corruption and mismanagement, 14 rights organisations said on Monday.

    The newly formed Coalition to Defend Freedom of Expression in Lebanon said 3,599 people were interrogated on charges of defamation between 2015 - when large anti-government protests took place - and May 2019.

    That is an average of about two people questioned per day by just one of the country's main four security agencies - the Cybercrimes Bureau. The Lebanese Army, General Security and State Security also regularly interrogate and detain activists.

    New arrests have spiked since October 2019 when the country witnessed its biggest-ever mass protests. At least 60 people were investigated for social media posts alone since demonstrations ushered in a new wave of outspoken criticism of the country's ruling class.

    "Lebanon's politicians have failed to provide for citizens' most basic needs, and their corrupt practices have squandered away billions of dollars of public funds," said the coalition in a statement.

    "Yet, instead of heeding protesters' calls for accountability, the authorities are waging a campaign of repression against people who expose corruption and rightfully criticise the government's significant failings."

    Lebanon is still seen as a rare beacon of critical free speech in a region where dictators and autocrats ruthlessly enforce the official state narrative.

    But signatories to the statement - including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, local watchdogs ALEF and Legal Agenda, independent media platforms Megaphone and DARAJ Media as well as an alternative media syndicate - warn this status is in jeopardy.

    "We're very concerned that Lebanon is becoming a police state," Doja Daoud, a Lebanese journalist and founding member of the Alternative Media Syndicate, told Al Jazeera. "Those in power are trying to lower the ceiling of freedoms so much that it may crash onto our heads as they try to hide the truth of their corruption."

    Lebanon regularly ranks among the world's most corrupt countries. Its ruling class of former military leaders and business tycoons have long been accused of plundering state coffers and mismanaging the economy, pushing the country into a disastrous financial crisis.

    In addition to the crackdown via courts and security services, several activists have been beaten by supporters of establishment parties in recent weeks.

    These include Bashir Abo Zeid, the editor of an independent newspaper named after the October 17 protests, and Wassef Harake, an outspoken anti-establishment activist and former independent candidate for parliament.

    "They definitely don't want strong independent media and free expression to hold them accountable," Daoud said. "We're raising our voices now because soon, we fear we may not be able to speak."

    Coalition members described as "jarring" a large army presence outside the venue where their launch event was held on Monday, including armoured vehicles and gun-wielding soldiers.

    Among the violations documented by the coalition are "a range of physical and psychological interrogation tactics" by authorities that people affected "believed were intended to humiliate, punish, and deter them from publishing content deemed to be insulting to or critical of powerful people".

    "The prosecution and security agencies acted improperly - and sometimes illegally - to intimidate and silence people charged in these cases," the coalition said.

    Lebanon's constitution guarantees freedom of expression but sets limits within the law, including defamation of public officials, punishable by up to one year in prison, in addition to insulting the president or religious rituals which carry a maximum of two year and three-year sentences, respectively.

    Insulting the Lebanese flag or army is also punishable by up to three years in prison.

    These laws, many of them older than the country's independence from France in 1943, are enforced by prosecutors today.

    On June 15 the country's top prosecutor ordered a security agency to investigate social media posts deemed offensive to the president.

    Soon after, Michel Chamoun, a government critic, was arrested for criticising the crackdown.

    Parliament and government are together working to amend the country's aged media laws, saying they want to bring them into the digital age.


    The coalition warned it was not privy to discussions and said the most recent draft they obtained included increased penalties on some charges. They urged authorities to abolish criminal defamation and recognise the public interest of criticising officials involved in wrongdoing.

    "At this critical juncture for the country, Lebanon needs laws that protect people exposing corruption and misconduct rather than punishing them," the coalition said.

    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/...113328596.html


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  29. #28
    Debut
    Apr 2013
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    Karachi
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    Israel 'thwarts Hezbollah infiltration from Lebanon'


    Israel says it has fired on Hezbollah militants who crept into its territory, in what Israel's prime minister called a "serious security incident".

    The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said up to four militants crossed the border in the Mount Dov area, part of the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

    The IDF said "the terrorists fled back to Lebanon" after being shot at.

    The area has been tense for days after a Hezbollah fighter was killed in an alleged Israeli air strike in Syria.

    Israel, which has neither confirmed nor denied it carried out the strike in the early hours of last Monday, had warned Hezbollah not to retaliate.

    Israeli media, citing unnamed military sources, said the Hezbollah cell was planning to attack an IDF post. The reports said Israel had been tracking them and its forces opened fire once the militants crossed the so-called Blue Line - the UN-recognised boundary between Israel and Lebanon.

    Reports say the Israeli army fired artillery shells in their wake. There are no reports of casualties on the Lebanese side.

    Shortly before the incident, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel would hold both Hezbollah and Lebanon responsible for any attacks from Lebanese territory.

    "The IDF is prepared for any scenario," he said. "We are active in all arenas for the security of Israel - both close to our borders and far from them."

    Hezbollah, which is heavily armed and funded by Israel's arch-foe Iran, is the most powerful armed force in Lebanon alongside the Lebanese army. It operates predominantly in the south of the country and along with its political allies is an influential force in the government.

    Israel and Hezbollah are bitter enemies who fought a month-long war in 2006 after Hezbollah killed eight Israeli soldiers and abducted two in a cross-border raid.

    The ensuing conflict killed some 1,191 people - mostly civilians - in Lebanon, and 121 soldiers and 44 civilians in Israel.

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-53511336

  30. #29
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    Beirut, Lebanon - Hezbollah denied its fighters staged an "infiltration attempt" that led to clashes with Israeli forces on Monday calling the Israeli account a move to create "false victories".

    The Lebanese armed group also vowed revenge for a Hezbollah member killed in a suspected Israeli air strike in Syria last week saying a response against Israel was "coming for sure".

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disputed the armed group's denial of any border incident, adding "Hezbollah should know that it is playing with fire."

    The Israeli military said earlier three to five Hezbollah fighters crossed into the disputed Shebaa Farms area that is occupied by Israeli forces, and they were repulsed after Israeli troops opened fire. Shebaa Farms was captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war and is claimed by Lebanon.

    But Hezbollah denied it carried out a raid over the southern border saying the incident was "from one side only, from the anxious enemy" who opened fire first.

    "All the enemy media claims about thwarting an infiltration operation from Lebanese territory into occupied Palestine … is absolutely not true," a Hezbollah statement said.

    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/...130940141.html


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  31. #30
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    Lebanon has appointed Charbel Wehbe as foreign minister after Nassif Hitti resigned from the position, saying the country risked becoming a "failed state" and the government showed a lack of reformist will.

    "I participated in this government on the basis that I have one employer named Lebanon, and I found in my country many employers and conflicting interests," Hitti said in his resignation letter to Prime Minister Hassan Diab, made public on Monday.

    "If they don't come together around the interests of the Lebanese people and save them, then the ship, God forbid, will sink with everyone on board."

    In his resignation letter, Hitti chided the "absence of a vision for Lebanon as I believe in it as a free, independent and capable nation" and the absence of a "real will to achieve structural reforms ... which our national society asks for and the international community are calling on us to do".

    "Lebanon today is sliding towards becoming a failed state," he wrote.

    The letter also implicitly criticised Hezbollah, a major backer of Diab’s government, by calling for a need for Lebanon to strengthen its ties with the "Arab community" and be "radiant in its Arab environment".

    Lebanon’s formerly strong ties with Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, have been harmed by the growing role of the Iran-backed group in Lebanese politics and in regional conflicts, including the war In Yemen.

    Hours after Hitti resigned, President Michel Aoun and Diab signed a decree appointing Charbel Wehbe as the new foreign minister.

    Wehbe is a diplomatic affairs advisor to Aoun and was formerly the director of political affairs at the foreign ministry.

    Blow to the government
    Hitti's resignation is the biggest blow yet to Diab's six-month-old government, which has struggled to make good on promises that it would implement wide-ranging reforms following massive anti-establishment protests last year.

    Though the veteran diplomat is the first member of Diab's cabinet to quit, the government has already seen two high-profile resignations from a team negotiating with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout. Both had cited the same lack of will to reform due to the interests of the country’s political-financial elite.

    Last week, Hitti had expressed his frustration with the Diab government on a popular talk show, saying it was "draining my professional and diplomatic credit".


    Diab's government has also faced repeated calls to resign. But he has defended staying in power by claiming a replacement would take a long time, which he said would amount to "a crime against the Lebanese [people]".

    Diplomatic spat with France
    Hitti's resignation follows a diplomatic mishap involving Diab and Lebanon's strongest Western ally, France, after French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visited Beirut last month.

    A few days after the visit, a tweet from Diab's official Twitter account said Le Drian brought "nothing new" and had a "lack of knowledge of the path of government reforms".

    "The international decision till now is not to help Lebanon," he posted.

    The tweet was later deleted. Diab also met a French embassy delegation and reportedly expressed his appreciation of France's historical ties with Lebanon.

    Hitti was picked by Gebran Bassil, the former foreign minister and head of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), which has the single-biggest bloc in parliament and was founded by President Michel Aoun.


    Reports in local media have indicated that Hitti’s resignation was partially due to frustration over Bassil’s continued hold on key decisions at the ministry. Bassil was reportedly unhappy with Hitti’s decision to quit.

    An FPM source told Al Jazeera that Hitti’s decision to step down was his own, regardless of the party’s position.

    "He has his own reasons," the source said. "His statement today was clear and shows that it had nothing to do with the talk that has come out."

    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/...081938960.html


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  32. #31
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    Beirut, Lebanon - Years after former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated, a large billboard was put up at a main Beirut intersection. It bore Hariri's smiling image, contrasted against a black background, and the words "time for justice" in large, white letters.

    A ticker above the billboard's top right corner counted up the days to justice. By last year, it stopped working. Then, at some point during the winter that no one in the area seems to remember, the billboard itself disappeared.

    On Tuesday, the verdict in the trial of four individuals accused of Hariri's assassination will finally be handed down by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) - an international court based near the Hague, in the Netherlands - more than 15 years after he was killed in a massive car bombing on February 14, 2005, along with 21 others.

    Four members of Iran-backed militia and political party Hezbollah stand accused of organising and carrying out the attack, though Hezbollah itself is not formally accused.

    At the time, large swaths of Lebanon's population laid final blame for the assassination on Syria, and enormous protests set off a chain of events that led Syrian forces to withdraw from Lebanon after some 40 years in the country.

    Since its inception in 2007, the STL has been demonised by the pro-Syria camp in Lebanon, chiefly Hezbollah, who have said it is a conspiracy against them. Others see it as the only way to achieve justice in a country with a weak, politically exposed judiciary.

    But Lebanon has a different set of problems today than it did 15 years ago. The verdict will be announced to a people free-falling into an endless downward spiral of economic collapse, political crisis, coronavirus outbreak, and an explosion that killed more than 170 people and injured 6,000, dwarfing the attack that killed the former prime minister.

    There are some parallels: Many, including local and international organizations and the families of some victims, have called for an international investigation into the blast, citing their lack of trust in Lebanese authorities.

    The pro-Syria camp, represented by President Michel Aoun and Hezbollah, have rejected these calls, saying they have no confidence in international justice.

    In the run-up to the verdict, Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his brother Baha, two of Rafik's sons, have urged supporters to exercise restraint. Still, it will undoubtedly add to simmering tensions and rage against the strongest political forces in the country - Hezbollah and its allies.

    "The verdict will add fuel to rising anti-Hezbollah sentiment in Lebanon," Hilal Khashan, a veteran professor of political science at the American University of Beirut, told Al Jazeera. "No one believes for a second that four unruly members of this highly disciplined group carried out this attack on their own accord."

    The trial
    Hariri's assassination was internationalised from the beginning, owing to the scale of the attack and Hariri's larger-than-Lebanon ties to world leaders including Jacques Chirac, the French president at the time.

    A UN investigation began just weeks after the explosion, before the STL formally took over in 2009.

    On trial are Salim Ayyash, accused of overseeing preparations for the attack, as well as Hussein Oneissi, Assad Sabra, and Hassan Merhi. None of the defendants was ever located, and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah proclaimed they never would be, not even in "300 years".

    The prosecution's case focuses heavily on a network of mobile phones that followed Hariri around in the months before his assassination, before almost all went dark after it was carried out. The defence has argued there are gaps in the evidence and it is circumstantial at best.

    The UN investigation first focused on Syrian involvement, and four top generals were detained for four years until the STL ordered their release in 2009 saying they had been arbitrarily detained.

    Investigations then turned to focus on the Hezbollah members.

    Question of legitimacy
    MP Jamil Sayyed, a former head of general security who was one of the generals arbitrarily detained for four years, told Al Jazeera the investigation into Hariri's assassination was a "dirty political game" from the beginning.

    "The goal even before the investigation started was to show that Syria and its allies killed Hariri, and then they looked for the evidence to support those claims, rather than the legal procedure for investigation which gets to conclusions through facts and evidence and true witnesses," he said.

    But Peter Haynes, the lead legal representative for the victims in the case, told Al Jazeera the trial "identified plainly criminal behaviour in the same way many international investigations do, and I don't think it is in any way illegitimate".

    Haynes cites the time elapsed since the crime as the main issue in the trial but said it is not a "futile exercise" for the roughly 70 people he represents.

    "From the perspective of the victims, it does achieve justice because it creates an historical record - even if they would have liked the verdict to be out years back and to have the accused sitting on the dock," he said.

    The lead defence council did not respond to a request for comment.

    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/...120824004.html


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  33. #32
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    U.N. tribunal convicts main defendant in Hariri assassination case

    LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands (Reuters) - A U.N.-backed tribunal on Tuesday convicted a Hezbollah member of conspiracy to kill former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in a 2005 bombing that set the stage for years of confrontation between Lebanon’s rival political forces.

    There was insufficient evidence against three other men charged as accomplices in the bombing and they were acquitted, the tribunal found.

    Judges said they were “satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt” that the evidence showed that the main defendant, Salim Jamil Ayyash, possessed “one of six mobiles used by the assassination team” and ruled he was guilty of committing a terrorist attack and of homicide.

    “The evidence also established that Mr. Ayyash had affiliation with Hezbollah,” said Judge Micheline Braidy, reading a summary of the 2,600-page verdict.

    The three other defendants are also alleged members of the Iran-backed Shi’ite Muslim group.

    Judges said they had however found no evidence that the leadership of Hezbollah or the Syrian government had played a part in the attack that left 21 others dead. Hezbollah has denied any involvement in the Feb. 14, 2005 bombing.

    The verdict comes as the Lebanese people are still reeling from the aftermath of a huge explosion in Beirut that killed 178 people this month and from a devastating economic meltdown.

    Hariri, a Sunni Muslim billionaire, had close ties with the United States, Western and Sunni Gulf Arab allies, and was seen as a threat to Iranian and Syrian influence in Lebanon. He led efforts to rebuild Beirut following the 1975-1990 civil war.

    “The trial chamber is of the view that Syria and Hezbollah may have had motives to eliminate Mr. Hariri and his political allies, however, there is no evidence that the Hezbollah leadership had any involvement in Mr. Hariri’s murder and there is no direct evidence of Syrian involvement,” Judge David Re said earlier.


    POLARISED COUNTRY

    Hariri’s assassination plunged Lebanon into what was then its worst crisis since the war, setting the stage for years of confrontation between rival political forces.

    Even before judges began reading their 2,600 page verdict into Hariri’s killing, Lebanon’s an-Nahar daily ran a headline: ‘International Justice Defeats Intimidation’.

    The paper published a caricature of Hariri’s face looking at a mushroom cloud over the devastated city, with a caption: “May you also (get justice)”, referring to an investigation that could unveil the cause of the blast.

    Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday he was not concerned with the trial and that if any members of the group were convicted, it would stand by their innocence.

    Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV and the pro-Damascus Al Mayadeen channel did not cover the trial, which other broadcasters in Lebanon were airing live.

    Beirut tour guide Nada Nammour, 54, speaking before the reading of the verdict began, said the 2005 bombing was a crime that should be punished. “Lebanon needs to see law and justice.”

    The verdict in The Hague may further polarise a divided country and complicate a tumultuous situation after the Aug. 4 blast at Beirut port, where authorities say ammonium nitrate stored unsafely detonated, fuelling public outrage and leading to the government’s resignation.

    Hariri’s killing removed a powerful Sunni leader and allowed the further political expansion of Shi’ite power led by Hezbollah and its allies in Lebanon.

    JUSTICE 15 YEARS ON

    The investigation and trial in absentia of the four alleged Hezbollah members has taken 15 years and cost roughly $1 billion. Sentencing will be carried out later though Ayyash could face up to life imprisonment, or acquittal.

    DNA evidence showed that the blast that killed Hariri was carried out by a male suicide bomber who was never identified.

    Prosecutors used cell phone records to argue the men on trial — Ayyash, Hassan Habib Merhi, Assad Hassan Sabra and Hussein Hassan Oneissi — carefully monitored Hariri’s movements in the months leading up to the attack to time it and to put forward a fake claim of responsibility as a diversion.

    Court-appointed lawyers said there was no physical evidence linking the four to the crime and they should be acquitted.

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-l...-idUSKCN25E007


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  34. #33
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    Beirut, Lebanon - An influential group of former Lebanese prime ministers has picked little-known diplomat Mustapha Adib to head the country's next government, all but ensuring his appointment at a nomination process on Monday.

    Fouad Siniora, speaking on behalf of the group which met on Sunday, said Adib should rapidly form a government capable of implementing long-overdue reforms and overseeing Beirut's reconstruction following a massive explosion that killed at least 190 people and damaged large parts of the capital earlier this month.

    The group of four former prime ministers represents the largest number of Sunni Muslim MPs in Lebanon's parliament, including the Future Movement bloc of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Their support is seen as essential for the success of the prime minister, who under Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing pact must always be Sunni.

    Former Prime Minister Hassan Diab had the support of just a handful of parliament's 27 Sunni MPs in addition to little popular support. His six-month government, which resigned in the wake of the August 4 explosion, is widely seen as having failed to make headway on vital economic and political reforms demanded by massive protests that led to Hariri's resignation last year as prime minister.

    On Monday morning, President Michel Aoun is due to hold binding consultations with MPs to go through the formal motions of picking the next prime minister, who must then form a government - a process which in the past has taken many months.

    The consultations will begin with three of the four former prime ministers and Hariri's Future Movement bloc, all of whom are set to nominate Adib, Lebanon's ambassador to Germany. Most other major blocs, including Hezbollah, the Amal Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement, have indicated they will follow suit, easily giving Adib the largest share of votes.

    Adib's designation will come on the eve of French President Emmanuel Macron's second trip to Lebanon in under a month - a visit set to focus on the need for reform in order to unlock foreign support.

    In Beirut just a few days after the devastating explosion, Macron had proposed Lebanese leaders come to a new political understanding and warned failure to change could lead to deep unrest.

    Lebanon is drowning in the worst economic and financial crisis in decades, which has pushed more than half of the population under the poverty line and has left the currency worth only about 20 percent of what it was last summer.

    The crisis is fuelled by decades of rampant corruption and mismanagement by the same political leaders who are due to nominate the next prime minister.

    If picked, Adib's government will have to resume stalled negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for a roughly $10bn programme - a key demand of international donors - and push through reforms to the electricity and the financial sectors that have previously been bogged down by disagreements between Lebanon's sectarian leaders.

    Diab had failed to make headway on this process because of high-level disagreements. And though the next government will be under heavy international pressure to push through reforms, few in Lebanon are inclined to believe Adib's government will be much different - and some were quick in making parallels between him and Diab.

    Like Diab, Adib is an academic and is not well known among the public.

    Adib has a PhD in law and political science and has taught at the state-funded Lebanese University since 2010.

    Both have ties to former Prime Minister Najib Mikati, with Adib serving as an adviser to him since 2000, while Diab served as education minister in his cabinet.

    Even Adib's four-letter name is an acronym of Diab.

    "This is another attempt to beautify the system with a new face that very few people know and project the image that something is going to change," Sami Atallah, the director of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, told Al Jazeera.

    "I doubt anything will, because we'll see how this government will be formed with representatives of different political parties, just like Diab," he added, noting one marked difference was that Adib will be nominated by a large number of Sunni MPs, giving him a wider backing.

    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/...164828327.html


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  35. #34
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    Lebanese turn their back on 'hopeless' country after blast

    BEIRUT (Reuters) - Days after the port explosion that ravaged Beirut, a news anchor at a little-watched state TV channel declared he was leaving Lebanon for good.

    “I can no longer stay in a land that is a graveyard for dreams. I’m leaving because I’m disgusted by you,” Wassim Oraby said in an angry tirade against the ruling elite.

    The broadcast resonated with Lebanese who blame sectarian, political leaders for pushing their country to ruin with decades of corruption and infighting.

    It is a well-worn path for the Lebanese: to emigrate in search of “any kind of normal”, in the words of 30-year-old web developer Darine Tamer, who is filling out immigration forms.

    The warehouse explosion on Aug. 4, which killed at least 190 people, served as a final wake-up call for her and many others who were already suffering from an economic collapse without precedent, soaring prices and bouts of unrest.

    She will join a diaspora thought to be three times the size of the country’s population due to past emigration waves in Lebanon’s tumultuous history.

    Google Trends shows searches for the word “immigration” from Lebanon hit a 10-year peak after the huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate detonated at Beirut port. Officials have blamed it on negligence.

    The blast injured thousands, destroying the homes of people who had just lost jobs and whose savings were trapped in the banks.

    The latest exodus of Lebanese packing their bags will strip the country of academics, doctors, artists and others it needs if it is to start over.

    They include some who returned in the 1990s to a reconstruction boom after 15 years of civil war, which Lebanon never fully recovered from. Now, they were sending their kids off.

    As the last of her siblings still in Lebanon, Tamer never thought she would go too. Her brother lives in Australia and her sister left to Canada. But she is forced to maintain two jobs to catch up with a spiraling currency crash. A startup where she loved working closed this year when investor money dried up.

    “Your life is worthless here. You can’t build anything. Every few years, you have to reset, and it’s hopeless. It’s just insane to keep hoping.”

    Read more:


    ANYWHERE BUT HERE

    Jess Talhame, a 23-year-old psychology graduate, is among Lebanese who can draw on dual nationalities their families acquired in past migrations.

    Her parents fled the civil war to spend three decades in Canada, popular among Lebanese emigrants. They returned to raise their kids in the country they called home. Now Talhame, who has been without work for a year, has booked a one-way ticket out.

    “When the blast hit, I was done,” Talhame said. She shuttled between hospital beds after the blast shattered her friend’s cheekbones, and days later, her boyfriend was hit by a rubber bullet at a protest against the political elite.

    “It’s like you want to fight for your country but you also want to stay alive so you can fight for it.”

    Many with lesser means and fortunes will not be able to leave.

    At a recent job interview, Tamer recalled, she laughed when someone asked where she sees herself in five years. “I can’t even tell you where I see myself tomorrow, but it’s not here.”

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-l...-idUSKBN25R1Y2


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  36. #35
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    Lebanon's PM-designate Adib fails to form new government after blast

    Lebanon's prime minister designate Mustapha Adib has abandoned efforts to form a new government amid popular demands for reform.

    Mr Adib did not give details about his decision. However, reports say difficulties centred on Shia parties seeking to control the finance ministry and pick ministers in the cabinet.

    Lebanon is in an acute economic crisis.

    It is reeling from the huge explosion in Beirut on 4 August which killed at least 190 people and injured 6,000.

    The previous Lebanese government resigned amid widespread anger over the blast, which devastated swathes of the capital.

    The cause of the disaster was the detonation of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been stored unsafely in a warehouse at the city's port for six years.

    The World Bank has estimated that the explosion caused as much as $4.6bn (3.4bn) in damage to buildings and infrastructure.

    French President Emmanuel Macron has been urging Lebanon's political factions to quickly form a new government.

    Mr Macron has offered to host an aid conference in mid-October to help.

    Read more: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-54307896


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  37. #36
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    Lebanon’s prime minister-designate Mustapha Adib has announced his resignation after his efforts to line up a non-partisan cabinet ran into trouble, particularly over who would run the finance ministry.

    In a televised address on Saturday, Adib said he was stepping down from “the task of forming the government” following a meeting with President Michel Aoun.

    Adib, a former ambassador to Berlin, was picked on August 31 to form a cabinet after the last government led by Hassan Diab resigned following the Beirut port blast on August 4 that killed some 200 people and left thousands homeless.

    But the formation of a new government was hit by a logjam over the demand of two dominant Shia parties – Iran-backed Hezbollah and its ally, the Amal Movement – to name Shia ministers in the cabinet.

    Shia leaders feared being sidelined as Adib, a Sunni Muslim, sought to shake up appointments to ministries, some of which have been controlled by the same faction for years, politicians said.

    Adib’s resignation came days after President Aoun told reporters Lebanon would be going to “hell” if a new government was not formed soon.

    It also deals a blow to French President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to break the political stalemate as Lebanon faces its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

    Reporting from Beirut, Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr said Lebanon’s “different political parties [had] promised Macron the government would be in place by mid-September”.

    Advertisement
    “The Shia parties, Hezbollah and Amal, were intransigent, and insisted that they wanted the finance minister portfolio. They said that it belonged to their sect,” she said.

    Khodr said Adib was “trying to create a government of experts … to handle the dire economic and financial crisis in the country”.

    “But he faced a major stumbling block in Lebanon’s sectarian-based system of government,” she said.

    Meanwhile, responding to Adib’s resignation, leading Sunni Muslim politician Saad al-Hariri on Saturday said anyone celebrating the failure of the French initiative to get Lebanon’s fractious leaders to form a new government will regret wasting the opportunity.

    “We say to those who applaud the collapse of French President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative today, that you will bite your fingers in regret,” he said in a statement.

    Parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who is the leader of the Shia Amal Movement, said his group would stick to the French initiative despite the prime minister-designate’s decision to step down.

    “Our position is to stick to the French initiative and its content,” Berri said in a statement.

    Public anger in Lebanon has escalated since the Beirut blast, which was blamed on the government’s apathy and inaction, leading to protests on the streets demanding urgent political and economic reforms.

    Crushed by a mounting debt crisis, the country’s banks are paralysed and its currency is in freefall, leading to hyperinflation, soaring poverty and unemployment.

    Talks with the International Monetary Fund on a vital bailout package stalled this year after the country defaulted on paying back its debt.

    “The situation here is dire. Fifty-five percent of the population in a country of 5 million people lives below the poverty line. More than 30 percent of the people are unemployed,” Khodr said.

    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/...govt-formation


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  38. #37
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    Lebanon crisis: Saad Hariri returns as PM a year after protests

    Lebanon's political parties have chosen Saad Hariri to be prime minister, a year after he stepped down in the face of mass anti-government protests.

    Mr Hariri said he would form a cabinet of experts, who will have to deal with the country's deep economic crisis.

    Protesters began demanding a complete overhaul of the political system last October, as the economy began to stall.

    Since then, Lebanon's problems have been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic and the explosion in Beirut.

    The devastating blast in August, which many blamed on government negligence, prompted the resignation of Mr Hariri's successor, Hassan Diab.

    The man nominated to replace him, Mustapha Adib, quit last month after failing to win enough support for his non-partisan cabinet line-up.

    That dealt a blow to a French initiative that requires Lebanon's politicians to implement urgent reforms and tackle corruption in return for billions of dollars of international aid.

    Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Mr Hariri pledged to quickly form a government "with a mission to enact the economic and financial reforms" set out in the French plan.

    "I tell the Lebanese who are suffering from hardships to the point of despair that I am determined to work to stop the collapse that is threatening our economy, our society and security," he added.

    President Michel Aoun named him prime minister-designate on Thursday after he secured the support of 65 of the 128 members of parliament.

    The 50-year-old was backed by his own Sunni Muslim-led Future Movement, the Shia Muslim Amal party of Speaker Nabih Berri, and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist Party.

    The Shia Hezbollah movement, the most powerful political and military group in Lebanon, declined to nominate a candidate but said it would "maintain the positive climate".

    Lawmakers from the two main Christian blocs - the Free Patriotic Movement, led by Mr Aoun's son-in-law Gebran Bassil, and the Lebanese Forces party of Samir Geagea - also abstained.

    The BBC's Martin Patience in Beirut says that for Lebanon's politicians it appears to be business as usual. If Mr Hariri manages to form a government - and that is far from being a given - he will be serving as Lebanon's prime minister for his third time.

    But, our correspondent adds, the challenges he faces are enormous, and the international community has repeatedly said it will not provide assistance unless the country's leaders fundamentally reform the system - which they show no sign of doing.

    Read more: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-54630150


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  39. #38
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    Lebanon's Gebran Bassil hit by US sanctions 'for corruption'

    The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on a top Lebanese politician whom it has accused of playing a major role in corruption in the country.

    The measure targets Gebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian party allied to the powerful Shia movement Hezbollah.

    It comes at a time when Lebanon is in deep political and economic crisis.

    The country has been in turmoil for months, facing mass protests, the Covid pandemic and a devastating blast.

    Demonstrators have taken to the streets across the country demanding a complete overhaul of its political system, which is widely seen as perpetuating corruption and ineffective governance.

    Lebanon is also suffering financial collapse, worsened by the effects of the pandemic, as well as deep anger against the ruling elites over the explosion at Beirut port in August, which killed almost 200 people and injured 6,000 others.

    Announcing the sanctions, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said: "The systemic corruption in Lebanon's political system exemplified by Bassil has helped to erode the foundation of an effective government that serves the Lebanese people.

    "This designation further demonstrates that the United States supports the Lebanese people in their continued calls for reform and accountability."

    Moments later, Mr Bassil reacted defiantly on Twitter.

    "Sanctions have not frightened me and promises have not tempted me," he posted in Arabic.

    "I will not turn against any Lebanese... I will not save myself for Lebanon to perish."

    Pro-Western Sunni politician Saad Hariri is trying to form a new government after his predecessor's efforts to do so failed.

    Sanctions against Mr Bassil could make it more difficult for him in negotiations over the formation of the next government, analysts say.

    Hezbollah has been a close ally of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) - founded by President Michel Aoun, Mr Bassil's father-in-law - since 2006, and has wielded significant power and influence as part of successive Lebanese ruling coalitions.

    The US and many other countries including several Arab states have designated the Iranian-backed group a terrorist organisation due to its record of attacks abroad.

    Two months ago the US also put sanctions on two former Lebanese government ministers for allegedly providing material support to Hezbollah and engaging in corruption.

    One is a member of the Christian Marada party, the other a senior official in the Shia Muslim Amal movement. Both are political allies of Hezbollah.

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-54823667


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  40. #39
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    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-l...KBN2BN2NV?il=0

    Lebanon’s Hezbollah said on Wednesday it was time for politicians to put aside their demands and allow the formation of a new government that can rescue the country from an unprecedented financial crisis.

    “Everyone must know the country has run out of time,” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Iran-backed movement, said in a televised speech. He said there were “serious, collective efforts” in recent days to ease a political standoff that has obstructed cabinet talks for months.

    Lebanon is hurtling towards collapse in a financial meltdown that is posing the most serious threat to its stability since the 1975-1990 civil war, but bickering politicians have been unable to form a government for months.

    Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri and President Michel Aoun have been at loggerheads since October, dashing hopes of a reversal of Lebanon’s deepening financial meltdown.

    Hariri has said Aoun is trying to dictate cabinet seats in order to gain veto power while Aoun’s party accused Hariri of trying to orchestrate a majority for himself and his allies.

    Hezbollah, an ally of Aoun, has urged cabinet formation before.

    A new cabinet could implement reforms and unlock much needed foreign aid.

  41. #40
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    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-l...KBN2BV2EN?il=0

    France and the European Union are putting together proposals that could see asset freezes and travel bans imposed on Lebanese politicians to push them finally to agree on a government to rescue their country from economic collapse. An explosion last August destroyed entire neighbourhoods of Beirut, and the government that resigned as a result has not been replaced, just as decades of patronage, corruption and mismanagement have left Lebanon almost bankrupt.

    France has spearheaded efforts to help the territory it once administered, but has so far failed to force its many sectarian groups to agree on a cabinet, let alone start the reforms that might unlock foreign aid.

    As many senior Lebanese politicians have homes, bank accounts and investments in the EU, and send their children to universities there, a withdrawal of that access could be a lever to focus minds.

    “Concrete proposals are being developed against the very people who have abandoned the general interest in favour of their personal interests,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told lawmakers on Tuesday.

    “If certain political actors don’t assume their responsibilities, we won’t hesitate to assume ours.”

    Two diplomats said Le Drian’s staff were investigating how the European Union could set up a sanctions regime involving travel bans and asset freezes.

    At an EU foreign ministers’ meeting on March 22, he also asked EU High Representative Josep Borrell to work on an options paper, a senior EU member state diplomat in Brussels said. “The French are trying to Europeanise the Lebanon issue. It’s not something they can handle alone - or, at least, their solo efforts haven’t paid off so far,” the diplomat said.

    “Sanctions haven’t been discussed directly, but if they are a way to change behaviour, they can’t be ruled out. Lebanon needs a functioning government.”

    There is some support for the idea in Lebanon itself, where citizens are ever angrier as their living standards collapse while their leaders squabble.

    “For Lebanese politicians, EU sanctions would have a pragmatic and serious weight because they are often in Europe,” former culture minister Ghassan Salame said after co-signing a column with 100 Lebanese civil society members in the French paper Le Monde, urging France to freeze assets.

    But the diplomats said Paris was still wary and had yet to define targets. They also said putting such a regime in place could take time.

    “It has to be coherent in terms of who they target, if they want this to have any impact and take into account Lebanese realities. It has to be evenly spread,” said a third diplomat.

    The United States has already imposed sanctions on three leading politicians allied to Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed armed movement that wields enormous power in Lebanon.

    Two of the diplomats said the EU would also have decide whether and how to target Hezbollah, whose leaders are less likely to have interests in the EU that could be blocked.

    “The French got the message across to officials here about the possibility of sanctions ... but so far it lacks teeth,” a senior Lebanese political source said.

  42. #41
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    Humble fattoush salad shows cost of Lebanon's crisis at Ramadan

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-r...KBN2C125M?il=0

    After a year of economic meltdown in Lebanon, Hala Sheikh is sticking to a modest menu as she prepares the evening meal for her family to break their daily Ramadan fast. Even the humble fattoush, a popular salad that she prepares for dinner, has tripled in cost since last year, leaving millions of Lebanese struggling to put food on the table in the Muslim holy month which is usually a time of celebration.

    “We didn’t want to prepare unnecessary stuff,” Sheikh said as she got ready for the first Ramadan meal this week. “We prepared basic things like fattoush, soup and a main course - we will not prepare big meals like last year or the year before.”

    A study by the American University of Beirut (AUB), dubbed the “Fattoush Index”, found that the cost of its ingredients - including lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, radish and bread - soared 210% in the last 12 months.

    For Sheikh, a 50-year-old former nutritionist who moved from the United States with her family, prices are a constant concern.

    “During this bad economic situation you have to bear in mind the cost of making fattoush,” she said as she prepared the salad in her flat in Beirut’s Hamra district where she lives with her husband and four sons.

    “This lettuce I’m cutting costs 3,000 pounds.” After the currency slumped 85%, that is worth barely 20 U.S. cents. But in a country where the minimum wage has plunged to around $50 a month, costs quickly spiral. AUB professor Nasser Yassine said that over the full month of Ramadan the cost of providing the fast-breaking Iftar meal for a family of five had risen to 1.5 million Lebanese pounds, more than double the monthly minimum wage.

    It will be hard “for poor families who are below the poverty line and it will also be hard for them to secure and maintain their daily food,” he said.

    Yassine’s Fattoush Index may even under-estimate the scale of the problem, with official consumer price data showing the cost of food and non-alcoholic drinks jumped 417% in the year to February.

    The runaway inflation is part of a broader economic collapse over the last two years which is fuelling hunger and unrest, in the country’s gravest crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war.

    After decades of mismanagement and corruption, Lebanon’s leaders have failed to break their political deadlock and form a new government to tackle the crisis, which has only worsened with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and a devastating explosion at Beirut’s port in August.

    “We witnessed many wars, civil war and the Israeli invasion,” Sheikh said. “But this is the worst Ramadan we have ever been through.”

  43. #42
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    https://www.reuters.com/world/middle...ut-2021-05-06/

    Lebanon's lights may go off this month because cash for electricity generation is running out, a lawmaker said on Thursday, as the country grapples with a deep economic crisis.

    Lebanon's parliament had approved a $200 million emergency loan to finance fuel imports for power generation in March, but a committee reviewing the loan has yet to approve it.

    "We should not forget that starting May 15, gradual darkness will start," said Nazih Negm, a member of parliament, according to a government statement released after he met the caretaker finance and energy ministers.

    The Lebanese have long learned to live with regular power cuts that run for at least three hours a day in the capital and much longer in other areas, because the state's power plants cannot meet demand. Many people rely on private generators.

    But the financial crisis has exacerbated the heavily indebted nation's problems, as the government struggles to find enough foreign exchange to pay for fuel and other basic imports.

    The loan, approved by lawmakers in March, is being reviewed by a constitutional committee, which is studying whether it is lawful. The government resigned after a massive blast in Beirut in August and is now acting in a caretaker capacity.

    "We hope that the constitutional committee does not take a month to reach its decision because the situation can't wait," Negm said, according to the government statement.

    Lebanon usually keeps enough fuel for about two months or so, as it is too costly to hold strategic reserves for longer.

    The economic meltdown, the biggest crisis since the end of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, has fuelled unrest, locked depositors out of their accounts and hammered the currency, which has lost around 90% of its value against the dollar.

  44. #43
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    https://www.reuters.com/world/middle...de-2021-05-07/

    France's foreign minister threatened to step up pressure against Lebanese politicians he accused of committing "collective suicide" by failing to pull the country out of its economic meltdown.

    On a visit to Beirut, Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters on Friday that France, which has led foreign aid efforts to Lebanon, had to act in the face of the political impasse, months into a deadlock in cabinet talks.

    If it persists, he said, there would be strict punitive measures, at the French and potentially the European Union level, against Lebanese officials blocking progress. He did not answer questions on who would be affected or when.

    "What I can tell you is that for us, the test period of responsibility is over. So we have decided to reinforce pressure," Le Drian said. "We have started to initiate restrictive measures. Those who are targeted will know it."

    France, the former colonial ruler in Lebanon, has grown frustrated after failed attempts to rally the country's feuding leaders to agree a new cabinet or launch reforms to unlock badly-needed foreign aid.

    The currency has crashed since 2019, the banking sector is paralysed and much of the population is now poor.

    Last month, Paris said it was taking measures to restrict entry for some Lebanese officials for blocking efforts to tackle the unprecedented crisis, which is rooted in decades of corruption and indebtedness.

    There has been no official announcement of what steps France has taken, or against whom, and the potential impact remains unclear as several Lebanese politicians hold dual nationality.

    Le Drian's trip included meeting activists as well as visiting schools and Beirut port, where a massive explosion last August killed 200 people. The caretaker government resigned over the devastating blast.

    A standoff over the cabinet line-up between President Michel Aoun and three-time premier Saad al-Hariri, who was designated to form a government in October, has since deepened.

    Le Drian said he told Aoun, Hariri and longtime Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in meetings on Wednesday he was there to support the Lebanese people and the logjam must end. "I am here to avoid this collective suicide orchestrated by some," he said.

  45. #44
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    https://www.reuters.com/world/middle...es-2021-05-19/

    Lebanon's foreign minister said he had quit his post on Wednesday, after his comments in a television interview strained ties with traditional Gulf Arab allies and donors.

    Charbel Wehbe, a member of Lebanon's caretaker government whose portfolio was taken over by Defence Minister Zeina Akar, suggested on Monday that Gulf states had supported the rise of Islamic State, among other disparaging comments.

    Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain summoned Lebanon's ambassadors and issued formal complaints.

    The comments have threatened Lebanese efforts amid its deep economic crisis to improve ties with Sunni Muslim Gulf states, which have been reluctant to offer the kind of financial help they once did because of their frustration at the rising influence of Hezbollah, a Lebanese group backed by Shi'ite Iran.

    After meeting President Michel Aoun, Wehbe said he had submitted a request to step down "in light of the recent developments and the circumstances that accompanied the interview I gave to a television station".

    Wehbe also met caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, saying afterwards that he hoped his decision to step down would mean relations with Arab nations remained friendly.

    The prime minister and president both accepted his request. The defence minister was appointed in Wehbe's place, and she will now act in a caretaker capacity in both roles.

  46. #45
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    https://www.reuters.com/world/middle...es-2021-05-26/

    Lebanon's army chief Joseph Aoun warned France on Wednesday that an economic crisis had put the military on the verge of collapse and Paris offered emergency food and medical aid for troops in hopes of preserving law and order, sources said.

    France, which has led aid efforts to its former colony, has sought to pressure Lebanon's squabbling politicians who have failed to agree on a new government and launch reforms to unlock foreign cash.

    Discontent is brewing among Lebanon's security forces over a currency crash wiping out most of the value of their salaries.

    In unusually outspoken comments in March, Aoun said his warnings to Lebanese officials that this could lead to an "implosion" had fallen on deaf ears.

    According to three people with knowledge of his visit to Paris, Aoun told senior French officials that the situation was untenable.

    "We're worried because the Lebanese army is the backbone of the country," said one person familiar with meetings on Wednesday that included President Emmanuel Macron.

    Two sources said France would provide food and medical supplies for military personnel, whose salaries had fallen five or six fold in value recently, forcing many to take extra jobs.

    One of the sources said France was working to arrange a conference in June that would seek to mobilise the international community to support the army.

    Lebanon's pound has crashed 90% since late 2019 in a financial meltdown that poses the biggest threat to stability since the 1975-1990 civil war.

    The army has long been viewed as a rare institution of national pride and unity. Its collapse at the start of the civil war, when it split along sectarian lines, catalyzed Lebanon's descent into militia rule.

    In a statement after meeting with counterpart Francois Lecointre, Aoun said the Lebanese army was going through “a great crisis which is set to get worse.”

    Macron's office said in a statement that France would continue to support the Lebanese army.

  47. #46
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    UN tribunal for Lebanon runs out of funds as Beirut’s crisis spills over

    THE HAGUE: A UN tribunal set up to prosecute those behind Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s 2005 assassination has run out of funding amid Lebanon’s economic and political crisis.
    The country’s crisis is threatening plans for future trials, people involved in the process said.
    Closing the tribunal would dash the hopes of families of victims in the Hariri murder and other attacks, but also those demanding that a UN tribunal bring to justice those responsible for the Beirut port blast last August that killed 200 and injured 6,500.
    Last year the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon, located outside of The Hague, convicted former Hezbollah member Salim Jamil Ayyash for the bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others.
    Ayyash was sentenced in absentia to five life terms in prison, while three alleged accomplices were acquitted due to insufficient evidence... Both sides have appealed.
    The court had been scheduled to start a second trial on June 16 against Ayyash, who is accused of another assassination and attacks against Lebanese politicians in 2004 and 2005 in the run-up to the Hariri bombing.
    A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday said he was aware of the court’s financial problems.
    “The Secretary-General continues to urge member states and the international community for voluntary contributions in order to secure the funds required to support the independent judicial proceedings that remain before the tribunal,” UN Deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.
    The funding shortfall comes as Lebanon faces its worst turmoil since Hariri’s assassination. The country is deeply polarized between supporters of Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah and its allies and supporters of Hariri’s son, prime minister designate Saad Al-Hariri, who declined to comment.
    “If you abort the tribunal, if you abort this case, you are giving a free gift to the perpetrators and to those who do not want justice to take place,” Nidal Jurdi, a lawyer for the victims in the second case, told Reuters.
    Scrapping a new trial would not only harm victims who waited 17 years for the case to come to court, but would undermine accountability for crimes in Lebanon in general, Jurdi said, adding that a letter had been sent to the UN expressing concern.
    It would be “a disappointment for the victims of the connected cases and the victims of Lebanon,” he said, appealing for international funding.
    “Lebanon needs full accountability,” he said.
    Created by a 2007 UN Security Council resolution and opened in 2009, the tribunal’s budget last year was 55 million euros ($67 million) with Lebanon footing 49 percent of the bill and foreign donors and the UN members making up the rest.
    “The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is in a very concerning financial position,” court spokeswoman Wajed Ramadan told Reuters. “No decision has yet been taken on judicial proceedings and there are intense fundraising efforts going on to find a solution,” she added.
    The UN extended the mandate of the tribunal from March 1, 2021, for two years or sooner if the remaining cases were completed or funding ran out.
    Guterres warned in February that due to the financial crisis in Lebanon, the government’s contribution was uncertain and warned the court may not be able to continue its work after the first quarter of 2021.
    The 2021 budget had been trimmed by nearly 40 percent, forcing job cuts at the court, but the Lebanese government has still been unable to pay its share, according to UN documents.
    Guterres requested an appropriation of about $25 million from the UN General Assembly for 2021. The General Assembly approved $15.5 million in March.

    https://www.arabnews.com/node/1864631/middle-east

  48. #47
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    https://www.reuters.com/world/middle...ns-2021-06-01/

    The economic collapse in Lebanon is already one of the deepest depressions recorded in modern times, and is likely to get even worse, the World Bank said, predicting GDP would shrink this year by a further 9.5%.

    In a report remarkable for its strong wording, the bank blamed what it called "deliberately inadequate policy responses" from the governing elite for worsening a financial meltdown "likely to rank in the top 10, possibly top three, most severe crisis episodes globally since the mid-nineteenth century".

    Gross domestic product has already shrunk from $55 billion in 2018 to an estimated $33 billion last year. Lebanon has defaulted on its debt and its currency has collapsed.

    "This illustrates the magnitude of the economic depression that the country is enduring, with sadly no clear turning point on the horizon, given the disastrous deliberate policy inaction," the May 31 report said.

    Fuelled by decades of state waste and graft, the crisis started before the COVID-19 pandemic and accelerated after a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate exploded in the capital’s port in August last year, killing 200 people.

    The report said the crisis had been worsened by a "debilitating institutional void" caused by political deadlock. The cabinet has been acting in a caretaker capacity since resigning after the Beirut explosion, while politicians have failed to agree on a new government to replace it.

    That in turn has stalled reforms of the financial sector and huge loss-making state utilities, and left bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund on hold.

    More than half the population is now probably below the poverty line, said the report. The 12-month inflation rate has risen to 157.9% in March this year from 10% in January last year. Unemployment has risen to nearly 40% late last year from 28% in February 2020. Access to healthcare has become limited.

    While declining imports due to the economic contraction had narrowed the current account deficit, a halt in capital inflows had depleted foreign exchange reserves at the central bank, further hurting the ability to pay for imports.

    Central bank reserves stood at just over $15 billion in March, compared with more than $30 billion before the crisis hit in 2019.

    Public debt, which was already unsustainable, has been further aggravated by the economic crisis, with debt estimated at 174% of GDP by the end of last year.

    "Whereas the surge in inflation is rapidly eroding the real value of domestic debt, the sharp depreciation of the currency continues to make Lebanon’s sovereign debt burden unsustainable," said the report. The fiscal position would keep deteriorating due to "a continued collapse in revenues".

    At stake, said the World Bank, is an already fragile social peace, with more unrest potentially triggered by an inability to pay for import subsidies, or interruptions to public services such as electricity, water and education.

  49. #48
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    https://www.reuters.com/world/middle...se-2021-06-02/

    Lebanon is "in the heart of great danger", and needs friendly countries to save it, the caretaker prime minister, Hassan Diab, said on Wednesday.

    "Either you save it now before it's too late or else no regrets will help," Diab said in a televised address. Lebanon is in the throes of a deep financial crisis that is posing the biggest threat to its stability since the 1975-1990 civil war.

    Diab has been steering the government in a caretaker role since his cabinet resigned in the aftermath of the Aug. 4 Beirut port blast, which devastated large swathes of the capital, killed hundreds of people and injured thousands.

    Prime Minister-desginate Saad al-Hariri has been at loggerheads with President Michel Aoun over naming cabinet ministers for ten months as the country hurtles towards economic collapse. A new government capable of introducing reforms is necessary to unlock much needed foreign aid.

    "I call on political powers to present concessions, and those will be small no matter how big they may seem, because that will alleviate the suffering of the Lebanese and stop this frightening path," Diab said.

    Under a sectarian power-sharing system, Lebanon's president must be a Maronite Christian and the prime minister a Sunni Muslim. Aoun, a Christian, is an ally of the Iran-backed Shi'ite movement Hezbollah, listed as a terrorist group by the United States.

    Hariri, a veteran Sunni politician, has said the only way out of Lebanon's crisis is through mending relations with its Arab neighbours. Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, have been reluctant to offer aid to ease Beirut's economic woes, keeping their distance while alarmed by the rising influence of Hezbollah.

  50. #49
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    https://www.reuters.com/world/middle...my-2021-06-08/

    France will convene a virtual meeting of countries on June 17 to drum up support for the Lebanese army as it seeks to weather an economic crisis that has put the military on the verge of collapse, France's armed forces ministry said on Tuesday.

    Paris, which has led aid efforts to its former colony, has sought to ramp up pressure on Lebanon's squabbling politicians, after failed attempts to rally them to agree a new government and launch reforms to unlock foreign cash.

    Discontent is brewing among Lebanon's security forces over a currency crash wiping out most of the value of their salaries.

    Army chief Joseph Aoun was in France last month to warn of an increasingly untenable situation and in response Paris provided food and medical supplies for military personnel, whose salaries had fallen five or six fold in value, forcing many to take extra jobs.

    Two diplomatic sources said the meeting would seek aid from countries offering food, medical supplies and spare parts for military equipment. However, it was not designed to provide weapons or other military hardware.

    "The objective is to bring attention to the situation of the LAF (Lebanese Armed Forces), whose members are faced with deteriorating living conditions and who may no longer be able to fully implement their missions, which are essential to the stability of the country," the ministry said, adding that it would host the meeting with the United Nations and Italy.

    It aims to encourage donations to benefit the LAF, it said.

    Countries from the Lebanon International Support Group, which includes Gulf Arab states, the United States, Russia, China and European powers, have been invited.

    Lebanon's pound has crashed 90% since late 2019 in a financial meltdown that poses the biggest threat to stability since the 1975-1990 civil war.

    The army has long been viewed as a rare institution of national pride and unity. Its collapse at the start of the civil war, when it split along sectarian lines, resulted in Lebanon's descent into militia rule.

  51. #50
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    https://www.reuters.com/world/middle...on-2021-06-10/

    French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday he was working with international partners to create a financial mechanism to ensure important public services can continue to work in Lebanon despite its deep political and economic crisis.

    Lebanon is struggling to find enough foreign currency to pay for fuel and other basic imports, its finances crushed by a mountain of debt that has piled up since the country's 1975-1990 civil war.

    Macron, who has led international aid efforts to France's former colony, has been trying to increase pressure on Lebanon's squabbling politicians to break months of deadlock on forming a new government and launch reforms to unlock foreign cash.

    "We are technically working with several partners in the international community so that at some point, (...) if the absence of government persisted, we could succeed in preserving a system under international constraint, which would then allow the funding of essential activities and support for the Lebanese people," Macron told a news conference.

    He said he would continue to defend a roadmap he proposed last September by putting "maximum pressure" on the various parties. The roadmap envisages a government that would take steps to tackle endemic corruption and implement reforms needed to trigger billions of dollars of international aid.

    "We remain invested (in Lebanon) but I cannot replace those who hold the system with all its defects and its imbalances. I hope that the spirit of responsibility which has been lacking for several months will start. The people deserve it," he said.

    Led by France, technical discussions are under way at European Union level to set up sanctions that could target Lebanese figures who are blocking efforts to break the deadlock.

  52. #51
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    https://www.reuters.com/world/middle...my-2021-06-17/

    World powers agreed to provide support for the Lebanese army at a meeting on Thursday, aiming to prevent the military from collapsing, but stopped short of announcing tangible aid as the country's economic and political crisis worsens.

    France, which has led international efforts, has sought to ramp up pressure on Lebanon's squabbling politicians, after failed attempts to rally them to agree a new government and launch reforms to unlock foreign cash.

    Discontent is brewing among Lebanon's security forces over a currency crash that has wiped out most of the value of their salaries. To tackle that, Paris organised a virtual meeting with partners including the United States, Russia, China and European powers and some Gulf Arab states.

    Lebanon's pound has lost 90% of its value against the dollar since late 2019 in a financial meltdown that poses the biggest threat to stability since the 1975-1990 civil war.

    "The participants highlighted the dire and steadily degrading economic and social conditions in Lebanon. In this context, they stressed that the LAF, yet overstretched, remains a crucial pillar of the Lebanese State," the French Armed Forces Ministry said in a statement.

    "Their cohesiveness and professionalism remain key to preserving the country’s stability from more risks."

    The ministry did not respond to request for further information.

    According to participants, Army Chief Joseph Aoun warned of the increasingly untenable situation, but said that the institution remained strong. Salaries have fallen five- or six-fold in value, forcing many to take extra jobs and some to leave the army altogether.

    The kind of support countries were asked to provide was food, medical supplies, spare parts for military equipment and even fuel, but salaries would not be paid.

    Two diplomats said the majority of countries had shown a willingness to provide aid bilaterally going forward and that a follow-up mechanism to monitor and coordinate would be used.

    The army has long been seen as one of the few institutions in Lebanon that can rally national pride and create unity. Its collapse at the start of the civil war, when it split along sectarian lines, led to Lebanon's descent into militia rule.

  53. #52
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    https://www.reuters.com/world/middle...oy-2021-06-20/

    The European Union's foreign policy chief said on Sunday a fight among Lebanese leaders to secure power is at the heart of its government crisis and he urged them to set their feud aside and form a cabinet or risk a total financial crash and sanctions.

    Speaking after talks with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri and House Speaker Nabih Berri, Josep Borrell said he delivered a frank message that some leaders could face sanctions if they continued to block steps to form a new government and implement badly needed reforms.

    "The country is in big financial trouble and in order to solve the economic crisis they need a government," he said. "A ship in the middle of a storm, needs a captain, needs a crew for the system to work ... If not the ship will sink."

    "It is clear it's a fight for the distribution of power. I have to say there is also strong mistrust," he told a group of reporters before leaving Beirut.

    Borrell said Lebanon needed a government with technical capacity and real authority to avoid the failure of the outgoing government of Hassan Diab, which he said presented a sound financial reform plan that was blocked by politicians.

    Lebanon's currency has lost 90% of its value. More than half the population are living in poverty while grappling with raging inflation, power blackouts and shortages of fuel and food.

    The crisis has been aggravated by political deadlock, with Hariri at loggerheads with Aoun for months over forming a new government.

    Borrell said foreign aid would not flow without a government that engaged with the International Monetary Fund and delivered reforms to tackle corruption and mismanagement of funds. But he said the leaders he met were pessimistic about making progress.

    He said a failure to act would drive down foreign reserves and leave the nation without foreign exchange to pay for basic goods or to prevent its hospitals running short of supplies.

    He said his talks highlighted deep divisions among Lebanon's sectarian communities, whether Christian, Sunni or Shi'ite Muslim, or Druze, and the way power was shared. "This country has a clear problem with its governance system," he said.

    Sanctions have been threatened in an effort by some EU states, led by France, to push politicians to end the deadlock.

    An EU diplomatic note seen by Reuters showed criteria for imposing possible sanctions were likely to be corruption, obstructing efforts to form a government, financial mishandling and human rights abuses. read more

    The bloc has yet to decide on its approach. Paris says it has restricted entry to some Lebanese officials it sees as blocking efforts to tackle the crisis, without naming them.

    "The sanctions are a possibility that is going to be considered, and we would like very much not to use. But we cannot stay like this," said Borrell, who reports back to EU foreign ministers on Monday.

  54. #53
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    https://www.reuters.com/world/middle...th-2021-06-28/

    Taha Riz has worked just three days in more than a month at his Tripoli bakery, in Lebanon's neglected north where economic meltdown has hit hardest and plunged thousands like him into precarious poverty.

    The bakery, like Tripoli itself, survived earlier hardship when sectarian tensions fuelled by the war in neighbouring Syria exploded into clashes on the street outside, but its ovens are now cold and its shelves hold only two bags of flour.

    A victim of Lebanon’s economic collapse, Riz says the bakery has slashed its workforce from 25 to two, and he has worked only three days since a religious holiday in mid-May – most recently baking two trays of sweets worth 50,000 Lebanese pounds, or just $3.30 on the informal market.

    "We used to work, now we borrow and spend," says the 33-year-old father of two daughters, whose wife is expecting a third child soon.

    The bakery which used to order flour by the tonne now buys supplies like sugar and ghee in small bags of a few kilos, after demand for its sweet pastries evaporated and people cut their spending to the bare essentials.

    "Unfortunately north Lebanon has been hit much more than the other parts of Lebanon. The situation there is very dramatic," said Bujar Hoxha, Lebanon director for the relief organisation Care International. He said large numbers of businesses had shut and jobs had been wiped out.

    Even for those still in work, salaries in dollar terms are worth only a tenth of their 2019 level, while food prices rise relentlessly. The World Bank says Lebanon's economic collapse is one of the world's sharpest implosions in modern history.

    The caretaker government says it can no longer use foreign reserves to subsidise food and fuel. It hopes to offer financial support to poorer families as it reduces subsidies, but may not have the resources or political authority to deliver it.

    Across the country, the proportion of people living in poverty and needing food assistance may hit 70% this year, Hoxha said, forcing aid groups to urgently refocus their operations.

    "When Care International entered Lebanon we actually entered to support Syrian refugees," he said.

    After nearly a decade helping Syrians, the organisation saw the Lebanese crisis emerging two years ago. "We readjusted our strategies and reoriented our resources," he said.

    The spike in poverty has hit young and old alike.

    Shadi Lababidi, 16, left school more than a year ago to work full-time repairing car components, saying he wanted to help his parents through difficult times.

    "I'm happy at work but it would be better if I was at school. I’m working to help my family," he said at the workshop where he fixes fibreglass car body parts. "Everything’s expensive and a dollar is 15,000 pounds. Even a packet of crisps costs 2,000 pounds."

    He says he earns between 75,000 and 100,000 pounds a week – or less than $7. His life revolves around work and sleep, but he dreams of getting out of Tripoli to see his country, from the ancient city of Baalbek in the Bekaa valley to the famed cedar trees in Lebanon's mountains.

    "I want to have a permanent job which is decent, to get some money to help my parents, to live like other people instead of living this miserable life".

    In a one-room ground floor apartment, 73-year-old Nuzha Hamza lives with her unemployed son and her daughter who has Down’s Syndrome.

    A survivor of Lebanon's 15-year civil war, she now tries to make money sorting and packing bunches of vine leaves for grocers, earning 2,000 pounds (13 cents) per kilo. "If I have (money) I eat. If I don't, I don't eat," she says.

    Like others hit by the scale and speed of Lebanon's breakdown, she increasingly relies on aid to get by, receiving monthly cash support from Care while Lebanon's politicians fail to agree even the first step to help - forming a new government to tackle the crisis.

    "It's like a kingdom of absence - absence of institutional support towards citizens," Hoxha said of the political paralysis which has prompted the relief sector to step into the vacuum and provide emergency aid.

    "This feels like a post-conflict situation, as if there had been a war two, four or six weeks ago. There are no mechanisms, no institutions."

  55. #54
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    https://www.reuters.com/world/middle...es-2021-06-29/

    Thin and frail, the two big cats scarcely moved as they lay on the concrete floor of their cage while, nearby, an emaciated Syrian brown bear anxiously paced his enclosure.

    The three starving animals are among the last, neglected residents of a zoo in Hazmieh outside Beirut, their upkeep rendered too expensive by Lebanon's economic crisis.

    "At this point they are not really lions," said Jason Mier, director of Animals Lebanon, a rescue charity seeking homes for them and other zoo animals in sanctuaries abroad.

    "DNA-wise those are lions but those are just two animals which have given up on life and are lying here."

    Animals are hanging on in similar conditions in all of Lebanon's five zoos, victims of a financial meltdown that has consigned more than half of the population to poverty and erased more than 90% of the local currency's value.

    A lion eats around 50 kilograms (110lb) of food a week, costing 100,000 Lebanese pounds - or around $6 at the informal market rate - per kilo. The minimum monthly wage is just 675,000 pounds.

    "There's no way any entrance fee can cover the expenses for keeping these animals properly," Mier said.

    Animals Lebanon has successfully relocated about 15 lions and tigers abroad as well as, over the past two years, around 250 other wild animals, cats and dogs.

    Two bears are headed to Colorado in coming weeks and the rescue organisation hopes to send three more lions either there or to South Africa.

    Above all, it is trying to prevent what happened in zoos in war zones like Syria, Yemen and Iraq from happening in Lebanon before it's too late.

    "The zoos collapse and animals suffer and they either die in their cages or you send them to sanctuaries," Mier said.

  56. #55
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    https://www.reuters.com/world/middle...ds-2021-07-08/

    Sorbonne-educated Chryssoula Fayad spent nearly two decades teaching history and geography at Lebanon's elite French schools, ultimately heading departments. Now she is a substitute teacher in Paris, part of an exodus from an education system on its knees.

    Fayad left behind her home and life savings in August 2020, at 50 years old. Days earlier, the hospital where her husband worked and his clinic were damaged along with swathes of Beirut when chemicals exploded at the port - the final straw.

    Corruption and political wrangling have cost the local currency more than 90% of its value in less than two years, propelling half the population into poverty and locking depositors like Fayad out of their bank accounts.

    Despite her straitened circumstances, she has no regrets.

    "I always say thank God that we had this chance to come here," she said. "Unfortunately I know I made the right decision when I see how things are in Lebanon now."

    Lebanon's educational sector, prized throughout the Middle East as a regional leader, was once ranked tenth globally by the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report.

    Now it is unclear how schools will manage when the new academic year starts in October.

    "When the crisis erupted in 2019 it took the educational sector by surprise," Rene Karam, the head of the Association of Teachers of English (ATEL) in Lebanon, said.

    At the start, some private schools laid off higher-paid teachers, around 30% of staff, to save money, but as time went on many others left of their own accord, with half of the 100 teachers in his association now in Iraq, Dubai and Oman.

    Salaries starting at 1.5 million Lebanese pounds a month are now worth less than $90 at the street rate in a country where they used to be $1,000.

    "We are in a real crisis," he said.

    Private schools make up 70% of the educational sector, with upwards of 1,500 institutions. Rodolphe Abboud, head of the syndicate for private school teachers, said every school has lost between ten to 40 teachers so far, with some staying at home because they can no longer afford childcare.

    "We are at the stage of just staying alive, the necessities," he said. "There is not one school now that is not advertising for jobs."

    Children from several grades have already been put together for some subjects and daily power cuts and shortages of basic materials also make it difficult for schools to operate.

    This week the education ministry cancelled final middle school examinations in response to pressure from parents and staff who had argued economic conditions made them impossible.

    "The minister wanted to conduct exams but didn't he know that in Lebanon there is a shortage of paper and ink and teachers can't work for free and schools can't operate without fuel for electricity generators?" Karam said.

    The education ministry said it had secured extra pay from donors for teachers supervising exams but most had pulled out.

    "The majority of teachers gradually withdrew from supervision and this is what made it impossible to conduct the middle school exams," Hilda Khoury, a director at the ministry, said by email, adding that senior school exams would take place.

    Father Boutros Azar, secretary general for Catholic Schools in the Middle East and North Africa, said parents at many of its 321 schools in Lebanon were struggling to pay annual fees that range from 3 million to 8 million pounds.

    "But we have made a decision to continue and do whatever it takes to keep schools open," he said.

    A government employee said no one had paid the fees for next year yet at the school attended by her two sons, aged 10 and seven. The school had demanded $600 for each child in dollars in addition to 12 million Lebanese pounds.

    "Where does anybody get fresh dollars to pay these days? We all get paid in local currency so how are we supposed to get this amount?," she said, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of her job.

    Abboud, sitting in one of 130 schools that were damaged by the port blast, said some parents were voting with their feet, putting pressure on the small state sector, or moving abroad.

    "We are seeing families going from private schools to public schools and others moving outside of Lebanon to Arab countries or Europe and the U.S. and Canada and this creates a problem."

    More teachers are also preparing to leave.

    "There is a vast difference between now and two years ago," said 25-year old Joy Fares who has been teaching for five years. "Then I would say no I want to stay with my family ... but now, no, it makes sense to just go."

  57. #56
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    https://www.reuters.com/world/middle...is-2021-07-09/

    Hit by the collapse of Lebanon's economy, the army has started selling rides on its helicopters to finance their maintenance, a measure of the depth of the financial troubles facing the country.

    "The war we are in is economic and therefore requires unconventional means ... and the idea we had was to do helicopter tours," Colonel Hassan Barakat, an army spokesman, said.

    "The cost of these trips secures the essential maintenance of the planes." A 15-minute rides on an army Robinson R44 training helicopter costs $150.

    Lebanon is suffering from what the World Bank has described as one of deepest depressions in modern history. The currency has lost more than 90% of its value in less than two years and more than half the population has sunk into poverty.

    Army commander General Joseph Aoun warned last month that the crisis, caused by decades of corruption and waste in government, would lead to the collapse of all state institutions including the army, noting that the value of a soldier's monthly salary was now $90.

    A big recipient of U.S. military support, the army has underpinned Lebanon's stability since the end of the 1975-90 civil war. Qatar announced this week it would provide the army with 70 tonnes of food per month.

    "It's a nice experience for my children to see Lebanon, and the beautiful Lebanese coast from the air," said Adib Dakkash, 43, visiting from Switzerland.

    "I prefer to spend $150 so that army helicopters continue to operate, so that the pilots and officers continue to fly, instead of spending it in a restaurant, on food or meaningless things."

  58. #57
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    https://www.theguardian.com/world/20...m-najib-miqati

    After a year-long standoff, Lebanon has named a new prime minister who its feuding factions hope can ward off a total economic collapse and save an estimated 2 million people from the brink of poverty.

    Protesters had demanded the selection of a figure removed from the political elite, but the Lebanese parliament instead named a billionaire tycoon, Najib Miqati, who had led the country twice before, with little success, and was accused by a state prosecutor in 2019 of embezzlement – a charge he denies and has described as politically motivated.

    The naming of Lebanon’s richest man, who hails from its poorest city, Tripoli, was seized on by many Lebanese people as evidence that the small Mediterranean state is all but ungovernable – unable to reform even to save itself from ruin, and immune to the demands of its citizens.

    Lebanon’s economic and financial crisis began in late 2019 and has steadily worsened. Poverty has soared in the past several months as the situation spirals out of control, with dire shortages of medicines, fuel and electricity. The Lebanese pound has lost around 90% of its value to the dollar, driving hyperinflation.

    Miqati’s nomination would be the third so far since the government of Hassan Diab resigned in the wake of the massive explosion at Beirut’s port last August. Since then, Diab’s cabinet has acted only in a caretaker capacity, compounding Lebanon’s paralysis further.

    The international community, led by France and the EU, had made billions of dollars in aid conditional on the implementation of widespread reforms across all aspects of government and a leader who could push through fundamental changes to governance, curbing endemic graft and allowing the state to deliver services.

    Miqati was nominated on Monday, after the prime minister designate, Saad Hariri, lost a protracted tussle for power with the country’s president, Michel Aoun, and stepped down. He now faces an uphill battle to name a cabinet that would be accepted by Aoun, and win the approval of donor states who vowed not to pour more money into Lebanon without guarantees of probity.

    As Lebanon has crumbled, its leaders have faced a growing threat of sanctions from France and the EU. European leaders do not see the return of Miqati as the breakthrough that was demanded. However, senior officials said they would reserve judgment until Miqati named a ministerial line-up.

    “After that, the decision becomes about whether these ministers could really be empowered to do things differently,” said one European official.

    Mohanad Hage Ali, the communications director of Carnegie Middle East Center, said corruption allegations from the last time Miqati was prime minister had not been addressed.

    “For the protest movement, Miqati embodies the misconduct of the past governments, as he represents two facets of what is wrong in Lebanon,” he said.

    “First, his family’s name showed up in a housing loans scandal. They were accused of using subsidised loans – designed to help low-income families buy homes – for commercial purposes. This led to a shortage in housing loans. This is exemplary of how the political class approached public affairs in the past, their narrow self-interest always coming first. And secondly, he more than most best represents the wealth gap, the inequality in Lebanon.”

  59. #58
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    https://www.reuters.com/world/middle...re-2021-07-28/

    Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati said on Wednesday that he hoped to form a government shortly after securing the approval of President Michel Aoun for most of his nominees.

    Mikati, a businessman, is the third potential prime minister to be nominated since Hassan Diab's government resigned after an explosion in Beirut's port area on Aug. 4 last year that killed more than 200 people and flattened large areas of the city. He spoke to reporters after meeting Aoun.

    Diab's government has stayed on in a caretaker capacity, but Lebanon's currency has collapsed, jobs have vanished and banks have frozen accounts in the country's worst crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.

    "I gave my proposals, President Aoun approved most of them and he made some remarks which are acceptable; God willing ... we will be able to form a government soon," Mikati said.

    Mikati has been prime minister twice before and, unlike many Lebanese leaders, does not represent a political bloc or hail from a dynasty.

    Like the previous nominee, Saad al-Hariri, he must navigate the sectarian, power-sharing structure and secure agreement on a cabinet equipped to address the financial meltdown in Lebanon, one of the world's most heavily indebted states.

  60. #59
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    https://www.reuters.com/world/lebano...nt-2021-08-02/

    Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati said on Monday he had hoped for a quicker pace towards the formation of a new government and that his efforts would not be open-ended.

    His comments after a meeting with President Michel Aoun underlined the challenge of forming a new government for Lebanon, where fractious politicians have been unable to agree even as the country falls deeper into economic crisis.

    "I had hoped for a pace that was faster than this in the government formation. It is a bit slow," said Mikati, who was designated prime minister last month after Saad al-Hariri abandoned his effort to form the new cabinet.

    The Lebanese pound, which has lost more than 90% of its value in less than two years, weakened. Dollars were changing hands at a rate of around 20,000 pounds after Mikati spoke, compared to 19,200/19,300 before his comments, a dealer said.

    Mikati, a wealthy businessman, said he would meet Aoun again on Thursday.

    Asked if he had a deadline for his efforts, he said: "As far as I am concerned, the timeframe is not open. Let he who wishes to understand, understand."

    The prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim in Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system. Abandoning his effort last month, Hariri said he could not agree with Aoun, the Maronite Christian head of state.

    The last government led by Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned after the Beirut port explosion on Aug. 4 last year. It stays on in a caretaker capacity until a new one is formed.

  61. #60
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    https://www.reuters.com/world/middle...is-2021-08-04/

    Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said on Wednesday the insistence of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group on imposing its will in Lebanon was a major reason for the country's crisis, according to Saudi state TV and a foreign ministry statement.

    Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud also said Riyadh was concerned that no tangible results had been reached in investigations into the Beirut port explosion that devastated swathes of the capital a year ago. He said any assistance to Lebanon would be linked to serious reforms there.

    A donor conference to raise emergency aid for Lebanon's crippled economy on Wednesday raised $370 million, French President Emmanuel Macron's office said.

  62. #61
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    https://www.reuters.com/world/middle...ys-2021-08-05/

    A Lebanese prosecutor asked central bank governor Riad Salameh for documents relating to suspicions of embezzlement, money laundering and tax evasion but did not question him on Thursday in the absence of a lawyer, a senior judicial source said.

    Salameh has dismissed previous corruption allegations against him as a smear campaign. In response to a question from Reuters, Salameh said the deliberations were secret.

    "You should not confuse suspicion with accusations. My case is still on suspicion. I am also not charged," Salameh said in a text message to Reuters.

    The judicial source said the prosecutor, Judge Jean Tannous, had set a new session for Sept. 28.

    Salameh is under investigation in Switzerland on charges related to embezzlement and probes are under way or being planned in several other European countries.

    Lebanon's public prosecutor launched an investigation into Salameh in April after a Swiss legal request alleged that more than $300 million had been embezzled from the bank through a company owned by his brother. read more

    Lebanon's crippled banking system is at the heart of a financial crisis that erupted in late 2019. Banks have since blocked transfers abroad and cut access to deposits as dollars grew scarce.

  63. #62
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    https://www.reuters.com/world/middle...se-2021-08-13/

    Lebanese President Michel Aoun called an emergency meeting to discuss a worsening fuel crisis on Friday but was rebuffed by the prime minister as political paralysis obstructed efforts to find a solution, even as much of the country grinds to a halt.

    Dwindling fuel supply has plunged Lebanon into extended blackouts and long queues for petrol and bread, with many bakeries and hospitals almost forced to close. Angered by the government's inaction, protesters blocked roads across the country.

    This week the central bank announced an effective end to fuel subsidies that have drained the reserves at a time when Lebanon is in a state of financial collapse.

    The government opposes the move, which will prompt prices to rise sharply, and criticises the central bank for not reversing the move, while importers say they will not extend supplies until an agreement is reached.

    However, Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said on Friday that the government had been aware of the decision announced on Wednesday to start extending lines of credit for fuel imports at market rather than heavily subsidised exchange rates, effectively ending the subsidy system.

    The government has accused Salameh of acting alone and said prices should not change, arguing that the damage of ending the subsidies was greater than the benefits of preserving the mandatory hard currency reserve which the central bank is trying to shield.

    In comments published by Radio Free Lebanon whose accuracy he confirmed to Reuters, Salameh said he informed officials that parliament needed to pass a law authorizing a dip into those reserves.

    Earlier on Friday, President Michel Aoun's invitation for a special urgent cabinet meeting on the crisis was rejected by caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab as unconstitutional.

    Diab has refused to hold a cabinet meeting since he and his administration resigned one year ago in the wake of the Beirut port explosion. The formation of a new cabinet has been obstructed by squabbling among sectarian politicians over shares in a new administration.

    In a statement, Aoun said Salameh refused to reverse his decision, and blamed him for the worsening crisis. "The central bank is an entity of public law, and the government is the one who sets general policies in all fields," he said.

    Most recently, the central bank had been providing dollars for fuel imports at 3,900 Lebanese pounds per dollar, far less than the market rate of more than 20,000.

    Lebanon's currency has lost more than 90% of its value in less than two years, and more than half of the population is now in poverty.

    Local media reported the hijacking of a fuel tanker and a shooting at a petrol station, incidents which have recurred over the past week.

    The government is demanding Salameh reverse his decision until a programme to provide cash cards to citizens is implemented.

    Lebanon's oil directorate said on Friday that oil importers and facilities must supply the quantities of fuel they had purchased before the central bank decision as they wait for the central bank to set the new rate.

    Maroun Chammas, member of The Association of Petroleum Importing Companies, said that importers were insistent on a unified exchange rate for buying and selling fuel.

    He urged the central bank and government come to an agreement within hours, not days to avoid catastrophe, in comments to local news channel MTV.

    The directorate "called on all to assume their responsibilities in ensuring the necessary lines of credit in order to secure the fuel supply."

    Salameh did not respond to a question from Reuters on fuel imports.

  64. #63
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    https://www.reuters.com/world/middle...ys-2021-09-15/

    The Lebanese government will resume negotiations with the International Monetary Fund while beginning reforms demanded by donors, according to a draft policy programme that aims to tackle one of the worst financial meltdowns in history.

    New Prime Minister Najib Mikati's government will also resume negotiations with creditors over a restructuring of public debt on which Lebanon defaulted last year, the draft seen by Reuters on Wednesday said.

    The government was agreed on Friday after more than a year of political conflict over seats in cabinet that left the country rudderless as more than three-quarters of the population fell into poverty and shortages crippled normal life.

    The cabinet is due to meet on Thursday to approve the draft, which will then go to a vote of confidence in parliament.

    Underscoring the gravity of the situation, the policy programme was drawn up in a matter of days, much faster than the weeks the process has taken in the past.

    The draft said the government was committed to resuming talks with the IMF for a short- and medium-term support plan.

    Donors want to see Lebanon enact reforms, including measures to tackle the corruption and graft that led to the economic collapse, before they will unlock billions of dollars of assistance already earmarked for the country.

    Talks with the IMF broke down last summer when Lebanon's political elite and banking sector objected to the scale of financial losses set out in a recovery plan drawn up by the previous government.

    The draft programme said the Mikati government would renew and develop the previous financial recovery plan, which set out a shortfall in the financial system of some $90 billion - a figure endorsed by the IMF.

    The government will also draw up a plan to "correct the situation of (the) banking sector", which has been paralysed since late 2019, the draft said.

    Lebanon's financial system unravelled in late 2019.

    The root cause was decades of profligate spending by the state and the unsustainable way in which it was financed.

    As dollars dried up, depositors were frozen out of their accounts. The value of hard currency savings has plummeted by up to 80% since then, with the Lebanese pound collapsing by 90% from a peg that had existed for more than two decades.

    The programme draft said the government was committed to all the articles set out in a reform initiative drawn up by France, which has been at the forefront of efforts to help Lebanon.

    The government will work with parliament to pass a capital control law, the draft document said.

    It also said parliamentary elections due next spring would be held on time.

  65. #64
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    Lebanon has been left without electricity, plunging the country into darkness amid a severe economic crisis.

    A government official told Reuters news agency the country's two largest power stations, Deir Ammar and Zahrani, had shut down because of a fuel shortage.

    The power grid "completely stopped working at noon today" and was unlikely to restart for several days, they said.

    For the past 18 months Lebanon has endured an economic crisis and extreme fuel shortages.

    That crisis has left half its population in poverty, crippled its currency and sparked major demonstrations against politicians.

    A lack of foreign currency meanwhile has made it hard to pay overseas energy suppliers.

    Lebanon country profile

    In a statement, Lebanon's state electricity company also confirmed the shutdown of the two power plants, which together provide some 40% of the country's electricity.

    Their closure led to the "complete outage" of the power network, the statement reportedly said, "with no possibility of resuming operations in the meantime".

    Al Jazeera reports protests in the northern town of Halba, outside the offices of the state power company, as well as residents blocking roads with burning tyres in the city of Tripoli.

    Many Lebanese people already depend on private diesel-powered generators for power. These however have become increasingly expensive to run amid the lack of fuel, and cannot cover for the lack of a nationwide power grid.

    People were often receiving just two hours of electricity a day in the country before this latest shutdown.

    The country is also grappling with the aftermath of the Beirut blast in August 2020, which killed 219 people and injured 7,000 others.

    After the explosion its government resigned, leaving political paralysis. Najib Mikati became prime minister in September, more than a year after the previous administration quit.

    Last month the militant group Hezbollah brought Iranian fuel into the country to ease shortages. Its opponents say the group is using the fuel delivery to expand its influence.

    BBC


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  66. #65
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    https://www.reuters.com/business/ene...lt-2021-10-10/

    Lebanon's power supplies were back to normal on Sunday after a blackout the previous day when the country's two biggest power stations shut down because of a fuel shortage, the Energy Ministry said.

    The closure piled further hardship on Lebanese struggling with job losses, soaring prices and hunger wrought by the country's worsening financial meltdown.

    The ministry said it had received central bank approval for $100 million in credit to issue fuel import tenders for electricity generation, adding the country's grid had resumed supplying the same amount of electricity as before the complete outage. On Saturday, Lebanon's two largest power stations, Zahrani and Deir Ammar plants, shut down due to fuel shortages, bringing the Lebanese power network to a complete halt.

    The Lebanese army agreed on Saturday evening to provide 6,000 kilolitres of gas oil distributed equally between the two power stations, the state electricity company said in a statement reported by the official National News Agency.

    Lebanon has been paralysed by an economic crisis that deepened as supplies of imported fuel have dried up. The Lebanese currency has fallen by 90% since 2019.

    Many Lebanese normally rely on private generators that run on diesel, although that is in short supply.

  67. #66
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    https://www.reuters.com/world/middle...es-2021-10-19/

    Lebanon's parliament voted on Tuesday to hold legislative elections on March 27, giving Prime Minister Najib Mikati's government only a few months to try to secure an IMF recovery plan amid a deepening economic meltdown.

    Lebanon's financial crisis, which the World Bank labelled one of the deepest depressions of modern history, had been compounded by political deadlock for over a year before Mikati put together a cabinet alongside President Michel Aoun.

    The currency has lost 90% of its value and three-quarters of the population have been propelled into poverty. Shortages of basic goods such as fuel and medicines have made daily life a struggle.

    Mikati, whose cabinet is focused on reviving talks with the International Monetary Fund, had vowed to make sure elections are held with no delay and Western governments urged the same.

    After a meeting with an executive director at the IMF on Tuesday, Mikati said his government had compiled necessary financial data for the fund.

    "We hope to complete a cooperation programme before the end of this year," Mikati was quoted in a statement by his office as saying after a meeting with the IMF's Mahmoud Mohieldin in Beirut.

    But a row over the probe into last year's Beirut port blast that killed over 200 people and destroyed large swathes of the capital is threatening to veer his cabinet off course.

    Some ministers, aligned with politicians that lead investigator Judge Tarek Bitar is seeking to question over the explosion, last week demanded that the judge be removed from the probe.

    Mikati has since said the cabinet will not convene another meeting until an agreement is reached on how to deal with the crisis.

    Minister of Culture Mohamed Mortada, who has reportedly criticised Bitar's handling of the probe as being politicised, told reporters he would attend any session of the cabinet Mikati called.

    He dismissed reports he had demanded Bitar's removal and said he had just made observations about his performance.

    On Thursday, Beirut witnessed the worst street violence in over a decade with seven people killed in gunfire when protesters from the Hezbollah and Amal Shi'ite movements made their way to demonstrate against Bitar.

    The bloodshed, which stirred memories of the 1975-1990 civil war, added to fears for the stability of a country that is awash with weapons.

    The early election date - elections were originally expected to be held in May - was chosen to avoid clashing with the holy Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.

    Once a new parliament is elected, the Mikati cabinet will only act in a caretaker role until a new prime minister is given a vote of confidence and tasked with forming a new government.

  68. #67
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    https://www.reuters.com/world/middle...ys-2021-11-23/

    More than half of families in Lebanon had at least one child who skipped a meal by October 2021 amid a "dramatic deterioration of living conditions", the UN's children's fund said in a report released on Tuesday.

    Children have been hit hard by the country's deep economic crisis exacerbated by the global coronavirus pandemic which has left about eight in 10 people poor and threatens the education of some 700,000 children including 260,000 Lebanese, the report said.

    The multifaceted crisis, rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement, has led to a breakdown in the provision of basic services such as electricity and water.

    Nearly half of households had insufficient drinking water by October 2021, the report said, with a third of them citing cost as the main factor.

    "The staggering magnitude of the crisis must be a wake-up call," said Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF representative in Lebanon.

    The report noted that less than three in 10 families had received social assistance, leading them to take "desperate measures".

    The proportion of Lebanese families sending children to work increased sevenfold to seven percent between April and October, the report said.

    Prime Minister Najib Mikati's government has been slow to implement social safety programmes including a $246 million World bank-funded one adopted by parliament in March and a $556 million ration card scheme backed by the legislature in June.

    "Urgent action is needed to ensure no child goes hungry, becomes sick or has to work instead of receiving an education," Mokuo said.

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