Lebanon: Hariri: France Satisfied with Investment Plan Progress

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Hariri: France Satisfied with Investment Plan Progress

Friday, 6 September, 2019 – 11:30
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri visits Beirut Port on Friday September 6, 2019. Dalati and Nohra photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
French President Emmanuel Macron is satisfied with Beirut’s progress on starting an infrastructure investment program, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s press office said on Friday, a day after a French envoy criticized the speed at which Lebanon is reforming its economy.

Foreign governments and donor institutions last year pledged $11 billion in financing to Lebanon for a 12-year infrastructure investment program at the CEDRE conference in Paris, on condition that it carries out reforms.

Hariri’s office said in a statement Friday that the PM received a telephone call from Macron, who “expressed his satisfaction with the progress made towards launching the CEDRE investment projects.”

Macron called Hariri after French diplomat Pierre Duquesne concluded a four-day visit to Lebanon to assess Beirut’s progress on starting work on the infrastructure projects and other reforms.

Duquesne himself said that the donors’ funding offers still stand, but stressed that Lebanese authorities need to speed up reforms, pass a state budget for 2020 this year and decide which of the 250 infrastructure projects will take priority.

“Donors are still ready to help, provided that things happen in the required and right way,” he said.

Funding has not yet begun to flow, he said, because Lebanon was without a government for nine months following elections last year.

“And even after (government) formation, donors continue to question the Lebanese government. This view is shared by all donors,” Duquesne said.

He was also critical of how some Lebanese politicians were approaching the urgency of the economic problems in the country.

“Some people still believe that there is a miracle solution, a magical solution to solve all the problems. This does not exist.”

“Time is running out and we cannot continue with the endless debates,” he added.

On Monday Lebanese politicians declared a “state of economic emergency” and Hariri said the government would take emergency measures to speed up reforms, including holding more meetings.

With one of the world’s highest debt burdens, low growth and crumbling infrastructure, Lebanon’s economy is struggling and authorities are seeking to implement reforms to ward off a crisis.

During Thursday’s phone call, “Macron also stressed France’s commitment to Lebanon’s stability and security, the strengthening of its state and institutions and the importance of preserving calm on the southern border,” Hariri’s office said.

The frontier between the two countries has remained calm since Israel and Hezbollah traded fire on Sunday.

Report: Beirut strike will delay Hezbollah missile program by at least a year

Report: Beirut strike will delay Hezbollah missile program by at least a year

Powerful planetary mixer used in creation of solid state fuel is said to have been destroyed in drone explosion; was reportedly flown in from Iran

Two crates reportedly belonging to Hezbollah containing critical technical machinery that were destroyed in a drone strike attributed to Israel in Beirut on August 25, 2019. (Twitter)

Two crates reportedly belonging to Hezbollah containing critical technical machinery that were destroyed in a drone strike attributed to Israel in Beirut on August 25, 2019. (Twitter)

The target of a drone attack on a Hezbollah facility in Beirut early Sunday that has been attributed to Israel was an expensive and rare industrial mixing machine used in the creation of solid fuel, and the raid set back the terror group’s plans to develop long-range precision missiles by at least a year, according to Hebrew media reports late Tuesday.

In the predawn hours of Sunday morning, two copter-style drones flew into the Dahiyeh neighborhood of Beirut. One crashed and was recovered by Hezbollah, while the other exploded while still in the air, causing damage and sparking a fire.

Hezbollah and the Lebanese government have blamed Israel for the drone strike. Israeli officials have refused to comment on the matter, and many analysts have suggested the drones were Iranian, not Israeli.

While Israel has been facing off against Hezbollah and its patron Iran, following the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the Israeli military has largely refrained from carrying out large strikes against the terror group inside Lebanon, instead, according to foreign reports, focusing the fighting in Syria and more recently Iraq.

Though Israel has been accused of conducting limited airstrikes against Hezbollah deep in Lebanon in the 13 years since the war, this week’s drone attack in the heart of Beirut would mark a shift to a more aggressive defense policy for the Jewish state.

A Lebanese soldier walks past military intelligence investigators inspecting the site where two drones crashed earlier in the day, in the south of the capital Beirut on August 25, 2019. (ANWAR AMRO / AFP)

According to Lebanese media Tuesday, the country’s military believes that the unmanned aerial vehicles were launched from within eight kilometers of the site of the explosion, indicating that they were either launched within Lebanon or came in from the sea.

Hezbollah has claimed that only its media offices were damaged by the blast.

However, on Tuesday afternoon, the British Times newspaper reported that the targets of the strike were two crates that held materials for a Hezbollah program to turn its stock of simple rockets into precision-guided missiles — a project that is of deep concern to Israel as it would significantly increase the threat posed by these projectiles.

Last September, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the United Nations General Assembly in a speech that Israel knew of this Hezbollah plot and even provided the geographic coordinates for the facilities where the missiles were allegedly being produced.

Following Netanyahu’s remarks and the increased scrutiny in Lebanon, the terror group reportedly moved these factories to different locations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York September 27, 2018, and holds up a placard detailing alleged Hezbollah missile sites in Beirut. (AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

This Hezbollah program is focused on two main goals: locally manufacturing long-range precise missiles and upgrading its current stock of simple rockets into precision-guided ones.

According to Israeli defense officials, the terror group has not yet succeeded in these goals and possesses only a small number of precision-guided missiles.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has denied the existence of the factories but said his organization does possess such weaponry.

On Tuesday night, several Hebrew media outlets reported additional information about the two targets of the Beirut drone strike — the specialized industrial mixer and a computerized control unit.

According to these reports, the mixer was the far more significant target, as it is necessary for the creation of the solid fuel used in long-range missiles and was the only machine of its kind inside Lebanon.

This type of device — known as a vertical planetary mixer — is used around the world in militaries and space programs to produce solid fuels. Due to the delicate nature of this work, these machines must be incredibly precise and are therefore difficult to manufacture.

A drone that crashed in the Lebanese capital of Beirut on August 25, 2019. (Lebanese state media)

According to Channel 13 news, the planetary mixer targeted in the Beirut strike had recently been flown into Lebanon from Iran. It was being held temporarily in Dahiyeh before being transferred to the factory where the actual work on the precision missile project was being performed.

This mixer and the fuel that it would help produce would have been used by Hezbollah to create a locally-produced, precise long-range rocket.

The damage to the mixer rendered it unusable and is believed to have set back this aspect of Hezbollah’s precision missile program by at least a year.

The computerized control unit was reportedly tied to the second aspect of the terror group’s missile project — upgrading existing stocks of rockets.

It was not immediately clear how valuable a target this was.

On Tuesday, Hezbollah said the drone that crashed in Beirut contained an explosive device weighing more than five kilograms (11 pounds).

The scene of where an alleged Israeli drone fell in southern Beirut on August 25, 2019. (screen capture: Twitter)

“Experts dismantled the first drone that crashed in Beirut’s southern suburbs; it was found that it contained a sealed explosive device” of around 5.5 kilograms, Hezbollah said in a statement.

“We confirm that the purpose of this first drone was not reconnaissance but the carrying out of a bombing attack,” it added.

The latest discovery, Hezbollah said, confirms that Sunday’s drone attack involved not one but two explosive-rigged drones — one which exploded and the other that did not because of a technical failure.

On Monday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun denounced the alleged Israeli drone attack as a “declaration of war.”

Hezbollah, considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States, is a major political actor in Lebanon and also a key government backer in war-torn Syria.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

READ MORE:

Ongoing Lebanon Street Protests Affect Many Sectors

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Ongoing Lebanon Street Protests Affect Many Sectors

Tuesday, 21 May, 2019 – 10:45
Police confront retired Lebanese security personnel during a demonstration over feared pension cuts near the government’s headquarters in the capital Beirut on May 20, 2019 (AFP Photo/Marwan TAHTAH)
Beirut – Asharq Al-Awsat
Sit-ins and popular movements reached an unprecedented level on Monday, against austerity measures to be adopted by the government in its 2019 budget to limit state expenditures.

Public sector employees and veterans took to the streets protesting an expected cut in wages and pensions.

News circulated on Monday about a veteran committing suicide over accumulating his debts. Another retired soldier attempted to set himself on fire during a demonstration.

A strike by customs employees had ramifications more than one sector. Motorists rushed to gas stations across the country over fears of a possible shortage of fuel. Public administration officials maintained a general strike in various areas since Friday and most schools were closed on Monday.

Despite a confirmation by the Chairman of Brax Petroleum, George Brax, that the fuel quantities in stations would last for days if customs employees continued their strike, he told the Central News Agency that it was crucial to address the banks’ supply of the oil sector in dollars, because oil importing companies refused to receive the price of goods purchased by station owners in Lebanese pounds.

Following weeks of sit-ins – held to protest against government measures – veterans on Monday stepped up their movements, and tried to storm the Grand Serail, before being faced by military personnel who were on duty during a cabinet session.

However, they succeeded in reaching the Serail’s entrance, and after negotiations, a number of protesters were allowed to to go in to meet with several cabinet ministers.

In a reassuring step, Defense Minister Elias Bou Saad met with the retired officers and promised an increase of LBP35 billion in social and medical assistance to the military.

The cabinet is currently discussing the 2019 draft budget, with Prime Minister Saad Hariri maintaining Monday that “the discussions regarding possible cuts to wages have yet to take place.”

Lebanon Questions Int’l Stances for Ignoring Syrian Refugee Right to Return Home

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Lebanon Questions Int’l Stances for Ignoring Syrian Refugee Right to Return Home

Tuesday, 27 November, 2018 – 10:15
Lebanese President Aoun meets with President of the Belgian House of Representatives, Siegfried Bracke, and his accompanying delegation at Baabda. (Dalati & Nohra)
Beirut – Asharq Al-Awsat
Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Monday emphasized the need for Syrian refugees to return to safe areas in their country.

Aoun was speaking during a meeting at the Baabda palace with President of the Belgian House of Representatives, Siegfried Bracke, in the presence of his accompanying parliamentary delegation.

The president said linking the Syrian refugees’ return to their homeland to reaching a political solution in Syria “raises doubts regarding their stay in their host countries,” citing the example of the Palestinian refugees.

“Seventy years have passed and the solution of the Palestinian issue has not yet been reached,” he noted.

Aoun informed Bracke that Lebanon has asked the international community and the international organizations affiliated to the United Nations to provide assistance to the displaced Syrians after their return, because they are contributing to the reconstruction of their country.

In response to a question, Aoun expressed his surprise at “international positions that ignore the need for the return of Syria refugees.”

He stressed that Lebanon was witnessing an economic crisis due to accumulating challenges, the impact of the international economic situation and the influx of displaced Syrians.

Bracke, for his part, said his country would become a member of the Security Council as of next January, and would contribute to supporting Lebanon’s causes at international platforms.

Also on Monday, Speaker Nabih Berri and Bracke signed a three-year extension to 2021 of a partnership protocol between the two countries’ councils, which provides for parliamentary cooperation in sharing expertise in legislation and supervision.

Lebanese President: Government Crisis Grown Bigger

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Lebanese President: Government Crisis Grown Bigger

Sunday, 25 November, 2018 – 09:30
President Aoun speaks to a delegation of participants in the annual “Independence Day Race”
Beirut- Caroline Akoum
Lebanese President Michel Aoun said Saturday that the government formation crisis has grown bigger, while contradictions emerged in the positions of Hezbollah concerning Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri.

Sources close to the Shiite party said Saturday there was no substitute to Hariri, but at the same time, they asserted their attachment to the representation of the March 8 Sunni deputies in the next government.

Hariri’s sources described Hezbollah’s position as contradictory, offering an opinion and its opposite.

The sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Hezbollah was trying to change Hariri’s positions and at the same time, impose on him the party’s own conditions.

“Hariri would not bow to pressures,” they said.

Separately, speaking to a delegation of participants in the annual “Independence Day Race”, who ran from Rashaya Castle to the Presidential Palace in Baabda, Aoun recalled the story of Solomon when two women came to him with a child, each claiming to be the mother…and when King Solomon ordered the child to be cut in half, the real mother cried out to him to spare his life and give the child to the other woman, at which instant Solomon knew who the real mother was.

“Today, we wish to know who Lebanon’s mother really is in order to give it to her,” said Aoun, adding, “I shall suffice with that brief statement.”

For his part, head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, MP Mohammed Raad renewed on Saturday the party’s support to the demand of the six Sunni March 8 deputies to be represented in the next cabinet.

In return, head of the Phalange Party Sami Gemayel reiterated his proposal to form a government of specialists at this stage, while the conflicting parties resolve their problems calmly and agree on their points of dispute through dialogue at the Parliament House.

“Lebanon needs a government that will play its role, address its problems, and save the people from the economic and social disaster we are facing today,” Gemayel said.

Lebanon: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This War Torn Middle-Eastern Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Lebanon

Introduction Following the capture of Syria from the Ottoman Empire by Anglo-French forces in 1918, France received a mandate over this territory and separated out a region of Lebanon in 1920. France granted this area independence in 1943. A lengthy civil war (1975-1990) devastated the country, but Lebanon has since made progress toward rebuilding its political institutions. Under the Ta’if Accord – the blueprint for national reconciliation – the Lebanese established a more equitable political system, particularly by giving Muslims a greater voice in the political process while institutionalizing sectarian divisions in the government. Since the end of the war, Lebanon has conducted several successful elections, most militias have been disbanded, and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) have extended authority over about two-thirds of the country. Hizballah, a radical Shi’a organization listed by the US State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, retains its weapons. During Lebanon’s civil war, the Arab League legitimized in the Ta’if Accord Syria’s troop deployment, numbering about 16,000 based mainly east of Beirut and in the Bekaa Valley. Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000 and the passage in October 2004 of UNSCR 1559 – a resolution calling for Syria to withdraw from Lebanon and end its interference in Lebanese affairs – encouraged some Lebanese groups to demand that Syria withdraw its forces as well. The assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq HARIRI and 20 others in February 2005 led to massive demonstrations in Beirut against the Syrian presence (“the Cedar Revolution”), and Syria withdrew the remainder of its military forces in April 2005. In May-June 2005, Lebanon held its first legislative elections since the end of the civil war free of foreign interference, handing a majority to the bloc led by Saad HARIRI, the slain prime minister’s son. Lebanon continues to be plagued by violence – Hizballah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in July 2006 leading to a 34-day conflict with Israel. The LAF in May-September 2007 battled Sunni extremist group Fatah al-Islam in the Nahr al-Barid Palestinian refugee camp; and the country has witnessed a string of politically motivated assassinations since the death of Rafiq HARIRI. Lebanese politicians in November 2007 were unable to agree on a successor to Emile LAHUD when he stepped down as president, creating a political vacuum.
History Ancient history

The earliest known settlements in Lebanon date back to earlier than 5000 BC. Archaeologists have discovered in Byblos, which is considered to be the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the world,[15] remnants of prehistoric huts with crushed limestone floors, primitive weapons, and burial jars which are evidence of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic fishing communities who lived on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea over 7,000 years ago. [5]

Lebanon was the homeland of the Phoenicians, a seafaring people that spread across the Mediterranean before the rise of Cyrus the Great. After two centuries of Persian rule, Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great attacked and burned Tyre, the most prominent Phoenician city. Throughout the subsequent centuries leading up to recent times, the country became part of numerous succeeding empires, among them Persian, Assyrian, Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader, and Ottoman.

French mandate and independence

Lebanon was part of the Ottoman Empire for over 400 years, in a region known as Greater Syria,[17] until 1918 when the area became a part of the French Mandate of Syria following World War I. On September 1, 1920, France formed the State of Greater Lebanon as one of several ethnic enclaves within Syria.[18] Lebanon was a largely Christian (mainly Maronite) enclave but also included areas containing many Muslims and Druzes. On September 1, 1926, France formed the Lebanese Republic. The Republic was afterward a separate entity from Syria but still administered under the French Mandate of Syria. Lebanon gained independence in 1943, while France was occupied by Germany.[19] General Henri Dentz, the Vichy High Commissioner for Syria and Lebanon, played a major role in the independence of the nation. The Vichy authorities in 1941 allowed Germany to move aircraft and supplies through Syria to Iraq where they were used against British forces. The United Kingdom, fearing that Nazi Germany would gain full control of Lebanon and Syria by pressure on the weak Vichy government, sent its army into Syria and Lebanon.

After the fighting ended in Lebanon, General Charles de Gaulle visited the area. Under various political pressures from both inside and outside Lebanon, de Gaulle decided to recognize the independence of Lebanon. On November 26, 1941 General Georges Catroux announced that Lebanon would become independent under the authority of the Free French government. Elections were held in 1943 and on November 8, 1943 the new Lebanese government unilaterally abolished the mandate. The French reacted by throwing the new government into prison. In the face of international pressure, the French released the government officials on November 22, 1943 and accepted the independence of Lebanon.

The allies kept the region under control until the end of World War II. The last French troops withdrew in 1946. Lebanon’s unwritten National Pact of 1943 required that its president be Christian and its prime minister be Muslim.

Lebanon’s history since independence has been marked by alternating periods of political stability and turmoil (including a civil conflict in 1958) interspersed with prosperity built on Beirut’s position as a regional center for finance and trade.

1948 Arab-Israeli war

Five years after gaining independence, Lebanon reluctantly joined the Arab League but never invaded Israel[20] during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. It took over logistical support of the Arab Liberation Army after it found itself cut off from its bases in Syria while going on an attack on the newly-proclaimed Jewish State.[20] After the defeat of the Arab Liberation Army in Operation Hiram,[21] Lebanon accepted an armistice with Israel on March 23, 1949. Approximately 100,000 Palestinian refugees were living in Lebanon in 1949 as a result of the creation of Israel and the subsequent war. The Lebanese-Israeli border remained closed, but quiet, until after the Six Day War in 1967.

Civil war and beyond

In 1975, civil war broke out in Lebanon. The Lebanese Civil War lasted fifteen years, devastating the country’s economy, and resulting in the massive loss of human life and property. It is estimated that 150,000 people were killed and another 200,000 maimed.[23] The war ended in 1990 with the signing of the Taif Agreement and parts of Lebanon were left in ruins.

During the civil war, the Palestine Liberation Organization used Lebanon to launch attacks against Israel. Lebanon was twice invaded and occupied by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in 1978 and 1982,[25] the PLO expelled in the second invasion. Israel remained in control of Southern Lebanon until 2000, when there was a general decision, led by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, to withdraw due to continuous guerrilla attacks executed by Hezbollah militants and a belief that Hezbollah activity would diminish and dissolve without the Israeli presence.[26] The UN determined that the withdrawal of Israeli troops beyond the blue line was in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425, although a border region called the Shebaa Farms is still disputed. Hezbollah declared that it would not stop its operations against Israel until this area was liberated.

Recent history

On February 14, 2005, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated in a car bomb explosion near the Saint George Bay in Beirut. Leaders of the March 14 Alliance accused Syria of the attack[29] due to its extensive military and intelligence presence in Lebanon, and the public rift between Hariri and Damascus over the Syrian-backed constitutional amendment extending pro-Syrian President Lahoud’s term in office. Others, namely the March 8 Alliance and Syrian officials, claimed that the assassination may have been executed by the Israeli Mossad in an attempt to destabilize the country.

This incident triggered a series of demonstrations, known as Cedar Revolution, that demanded the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and the establishment of an international commission to investigate the assassination. The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1595 on April 7, 2005, which called for an investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri.[31] The findings of the investigation were officially published on October 20, 2005 in the Mehlis report.[32] Eventually, and under pressure from the international community, Syria began withdrawing its 15,000-strong army troops from Lebanon.[33] By April 26, 2005, all uniformed Syrian soldiers had already crossed the border back to Syria.[34] The Hariri assassination marked the beginning of a series of assassination attempts that led to the loss of many prominent Lebanese figures.

On July 12, 2006, Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and that led to a conflict, known in Lebanon as July War, that lasted until a United Nations-brokered ceasefire went into effect on 14 August 2006.

Geography Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Israel and Syria
Geographic coordinates: 33 50 N, 35 50 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 10,400 sq km
land: 10,230 sq km
water: 170 sq km
Area – comparative: about 0.7 times the size of Connecticut
Land boundaries: total: 454 km
border countries: Israel 79 km, Syria 375 km
Coastline: 225 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: Mediterranean; mild to cool, wet winters with hot, dry summers; Lebanon mountains experience heavy winter snows
Terrain: narrow coastal plain; El Beqaa (Bekaa Valley) separates Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon Mountains
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m
highest point: Qurnat as Sawda’ 3,088 m
Natural resources: limestone, iron ore, salt, water-surplus state in a water-deficit region, arable land
Land use: arable land: 16.35%
permanent crops: 13.75%
other: 69.9% (2005)
Irrigated land: 1,040 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 4.8 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 1.38 cu km/yr (33%/1%/67%)
per capita: 385 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: dust storms, sandstorms
Environment – current issues: deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; air pollution in Beirut from vehicular traffic and the burning of industrial wastes; pollution of coastal waters from raw sewage and oil spills
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation
Geography – note: Nahr el Litani is the only major river in Near East not crossing an international boundary; rugged terrain historically helped isolate, protect, and develop numerous factional groups based on religion, clan, and ethnicity
Politics Lebanon is a parliamentary, democratic republic, which implements a special system known as confessionalism.[69] This system, allegedly meant to insure that sectarian conflict is kept at bay, attempts to fairly represent the demographic distribution of religious sects in the governing body. As such, high-ranking offices in are reserved for members of specific religious groups. The President, for example, has to be a Maronite Catholic Christian, the Speaker of the Parliament a Shi’a Muslim, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim and the Deputy Prime Minister an Orthodox Christian.

This trend continues in the distribution of the 128 parliamentary seats, which are divided equally between Muslims and Christians. Prior to 1990, the ratio stood at 6:5 in favor of Christians; however, the Taif Accord, which put an end to the 1975-1990 civil war, adjusted the ratio to grant equal representation to followers of the two religions.[72] According to the constitution, direct elections must be held for the parliament every four years, although for much of Lebanon’s recent history, civil war precluded the exercise of this right.

The parliament elects the president for a non-renewable six-year term. At the urging of the Syrian government, this constitutional rule has been bypassed by ad hoc amendment twice in recent history. Elias Hrawi’s term, which was due to end in 1995, was extended for three years. This procedure, denounced by pro-democracy campaigners, was repeated in 2004 to allow Émile Lahoud to remain in office until 2007.

The President appoints the Prime Minister on the nomination of the parliament (which is, in most cases, binding).Following consultations with the parliament and the President, the Prime Minister forms the Cabinet, which must also adhere to the sectarian distribution set out by confessionalism.

Lebanon’s judicial system is based on the Napoleonic Code. Juries are not used in trials. The Lebanese court system consists of three levels: courts of first instance, courts of appeal, and the court of cassation. There also is a system of religious courts having jurisdiction over personal status matters within their own communities, with rules on matters such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Lebanese law does not provide for Civil marriage (although it recognizes such marriages contracted abroad); efforts by former President Elias Hrawi to legalize civil marriage in the late 1990s floundered on objections mostly from Muslim clerics. Additionally, Lebanon has a system of military courts that also has jurisdiction over civilians for crimes of espionage, treason, and other crimes that are considered to be security-related. These military courts have been criticized by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International for “seriously fall[ing] short of international standards for fair trial” and having “very wide jurisdiction over civilians”.

After Rafic Hariri’s assassination on 14 February 2005, the country has seen turbulent political times, and it shaped the Cedar Revolution and the rise of the March 14 alliance which is made of: Lebanese Forces, Future Movement and the PSP.

People Population: 3,971,941 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 26% (male 526,994/female 505,894)
15-64 years: 66.8% (male 1,275,021/female 1,380,131)
65 years and over: 7.1% (male 128,002/female 155,899) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 28.8 years
male: 27.6 years
female: 30 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.154% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 17.61 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.06 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.82 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 22.59 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 25.08 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 19.97 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 73.41 years
male: 70.91 years
female: 76.04 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.87 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 2,800 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: less than 200 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Lebanese (singular and plural)
adjective: Lebanese
Ethnic groups: Arab 95%, Armenian 4%, other 1%
note: many Christian Lebanese do not identify themselves as Arab but rather as descendents of the ancient Canaanites and prefer to be called Phoenicians
Religions: Muslim 59.7% (Shi’a, Sunni, Druze, Isma’ilite, Alawite or Nusayri), Christian 39% (Maronite Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Copt, Protestant), other 1.3%
note: 17 religious sects recognized
Languages: Arabic (official), French, English, Armenian
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 87.4%
male: 93.1%
female: 82.2%

Lebanese Economy Hammered by Political Crisis, Debt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Lebanese Economy Hammered by Political Crisis, Debt

Friday, 24 August, 2018 – 09:45
A man counts Lebanese pounds at an exchange shop, in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Ahmad Harb opened his perfume shop on the main street of Beirut’s commercial Hamra district 35 years ago, and his business has weathered security and political crises in this volatile country, including a civil war.

He says this year has been the worst he’s seen: sales dropped by 90 percent and after the landlord raised the rent, he was finally forced to close the shop and move to a smaller, less expensive location nearby, said an Associated Press report on Friday.

“There is no business. Nothing works in this country, everything is very expensive,” Harb said, standing woefully outside his now shuttered shop.

Nearly four months after Lebanon held its first general elections in nine years, politicians are still squabbling over the formation of a new government amid uncertainty over a long stagnating economy, struggling businesses and concerns over the currency.

Years of regional turmoil — worsened by an influx of 1.5 million Syrian refugees since 2011 — are catching up with the tiny, corruption-plagued Arab country. Lebanon has the third highest debt rate in the world, currently standing at about $81 billion, or 152 percent of the gross domestic product. In the absence of a new government, Lebanon has been unable to access billions of dollars pledged by foreign donors for foreign investment in infrastructure and other projects, said the AP.

Meanwhile, many businesses are closing, some companies are laying off employees and even Lebanese living in the oil-rich Persian Gulf region have seen a drop in their business and income due to a drop in oil prices, translating into a decrease in remittances.

Amid this tight situation, many Lebanese who have cash are now spending less, fearing for the future. Residents complain they have to pay double for everything including private generators to deal with chronic electricity cuts and water trucks to cope with the dry summer months. Adding to the downward spin, the government earlier this year stopped awarding long-term housing loans with low interest rates because high demand has depleted money available.

Hardly a day passes without politicians warning that the worst is yet to come, raising fears among residents that the Lebanese pound, pegged at 1,500 to a dollar for the past two decades, might lose some of its value.

Harb wonders where he will get the money next month when his children return to school.

“The country is heading toward bankruptcy,” he said, referring to shops that have already closed down in Hamra Street, one of the top shopping districts in Beirut.

On a walk through downtown Beirut in August, when restaurants would normally be packed with expatriates and tourists, the depression is easy to spot. Some restaurants have closed while others offer 30 percent discounts. Some shops are offering up to 70 percent off, reported the AP.

Maamoun Sharaf, owner of a money exchange shop, said the delays in forming the Cabinet have had bad effects, but the situation had been bad even before that.

“This year the economy did not do well. Even our business dropped by 50 percent,” he said.

Political disagreements have led to a delay in the implementation of loans and grants pledged at the CEDRE economic conference in Paris held in April. International donors pledged $11 billion for Lebanon but the donors sought to ensure the money is well spent in the corruption-plagued country.

Despite the crisis, the state last year approved a salary scale for civil servants that will cost an extra $800 million annually. The government imposed new taxes to fund the new salary structure, increasing the burden on a population that has already been suffering under high taxes with no return in the form of stable services such as water and electricity. Indeed, daily electric outages are a common occurrence.

Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh has repeatedly released statements assuring people that the currency is stable.

Some Lebanese banks have been raising interest rates on the local currency for clients who agree to change US dollars to Lebanese pounds and put them in blocked accounts for a specific period of time. The move is backed by the Central Bank, which has been boosting its foreign currency reserves, reported the AP.

“There is a government paralysis in Lebanon but right now the Lebanese pound is safe. The Central Bank is trying to have dollars to boost its reserves in case of any economic crisis,” said economist Kamel Wazne.

He acknowledges, however, that the economy “is not well” and warns that state institutions and financial policies cannot be activated in the absence of a government.

Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, who has lobbied Western governments for assistance, is bogged down with the details of forming a government and divisions among politicians over whether Lebanon should resume normal contacts with the Syrian regime.

Hariri’s pro-Syria opponents have been pressuring him, saying normal contact should be resumed to help boost exports from Lebanon through the Naseeb border crossing with Jordan, which was recaptured by the regime from opposition faction in July. Hariri is a harsh critic of the regime and is against having normal relations with its leader Bashar Assad, said the AP.

“The international community stood by Lebanon and what is needed now is for Lebanon to stand by Lebanon and to form a Cabinet quickly, because this delay negatively affects the economy,” said Wazne, who also referred to the debt that is expected to grow in 2018 by $5 billion due to a huge budget deficit.

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Lebanon: Wants To Ban New Wonder Woman Movie Because Lead Actress Is Israeli: Childish, Ignorant, Stupidity

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS AGENCY)

Lebanon Wants to Ban Wonder Woman Because Lead Actor Gal Gadot Is Israeli

5-30-2017

(BEIRUT) — Lebanon is seeking to ban the new “Wonder Woman” movie because its lead actress, Gal Gadot, is an Israeli — a reflection of how the decades-old animosity between the two neighbors is also infused in the cultural scene.

A security official said a formal request for a ban has not yet been received.

A ban would require a recommendation from a six-member committee from the Ministry of Economy, a process that has not yet began, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

A premiere of “Wonder Woman” is scheduled for Wednesday in at least one cinema in Beirut. Posters of the movie and digital billboards have sprouted up around the Lebanese capital.

Lebanon is officially at war with Israel and has a decades-old law that boycotts Israeli products and bars Lebanese citizens from traveling or having contacts with Israelis. The two countries have been through a number of wars, including a particularly devastating one in 2006 that battered Lebanon’s infrastructure and left hundreds dead.

A group called Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel-Lebanon has pressed an effort against the movie. On its Facebook page, the campaign said Gadot was a soldier in the Israeli army and has expressed support for Israel’s military policies against the Gaza Strip, a coastal Palestinian territory run by the militant group Hamas.

“The state took the right decision,” Samah Idriss, a member of the boycott campaign told The Associated Press. “We now await the implementation. … Even if it is one hour before the show, they should ban it anyway.”

Tensions have been rising between Israel and Hezbollah, with Israelis reportedly bombing several Hezbollah targets in Syria in recent months. Israel has signaled that the targets were smuggling sophisticated weapons to Lebanon. Hezbollah officials said recently that they are not seeking war but are ready for it.

On her Facebook page, Gadot had praised Israel’s military during the 2014 Gaza-Israel war, sending prayers to soldiers “who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas.”

Officials at Lebanon’s Economy Ministry did not return calls seeking comment. The security official said banning a movie would ultimately come from the country’s interior minister following a recommendation from the six-member committee.

Warner Bros., which has released the film, declined comment.

Even though Lebanon enjoys a greater margin of freedom of expression than other countries in the region, prior censorship remains in place, particularly with content relating to Israel, religion and homosexuality.

Reflecting tightening of censorship, the Egyptian movie “Mawlana,” about a celebrity Muslim cleric, and a Lebanese movie, “Beach House,” about friends discussing their identities, were banned in Lebanon earlier this year.

“Mawlana” was later shown after cuts were made, said one cinema manager, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing controversy. The two movies were approved in Egypt.

There has been a precedent for the Arab League to call for banning Israel-linked films. In 2013, Arab nations acted on calls by the Arab League to ban the terrorism drama, “The Attack,” that was shot in Israel, even though it was made by Lebanese-born filmmaker Ziad Doueiri.

In a high profile case in 2009, Gad Elmaleh, a French comedian of Moroccan-Jewish descent, canceled his participation in one of Lebanon’s biggest festivals because of concerns for his safety after Hezbollah’s TV station alleged he served in the Israeli army.

In 2015, Miss Lebanon, Saly Greige, was in hot water when she appeared in a selfie with Miss Israel, Doron Matalon, in Miami. She later apologized and said the Israeli photobombed her selfie.

Support for the “Wonder Woman” boycott was not unanimous.

Elie Fares, a well-known Lebanese blogger, said the movie already must have been approved to be allowed in theaters in the first place. He said the push for a boycott apparently reflects disputes within the Lebanese government.

“Resist what?” Fares wrote. “A movie about an iconic superhero who’s been part of pop culture for over 70 years. A movie in which the lead actress happens to be Israeli but who’s not portraying ANYTHING related to her ‘country’ in any way whatsoever.”

Lebanon also has a website called “The Virtual Museum of Censorship” that tracks censored artwork since the 1940s.

Boycott campaign supporter Idriss rebuffed critics, saying that politics is inseparable from art.

“We don’t separate art — even romantic movies — from the role of the artist and the intellectual on the ground,” he said.

There is no clear mechanism for appealing a ban on artwork, and public campaigns often are the only means to protest such a ban. Religious institutions also have a say in artwork with religious references.

Despite the controversy in Lebanon, “Wonder Woman” is set to open as scheduled Thursday at theaters in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait on Thursday. It is scheduled for release June 22 in Oman and June 29 in Bahrain.

The movie, based on the DC Comics character, has earned acclaim for Gadot for landing a rare leading role for a woman.

A model and former Miss Israel, Gadot did her mandatory two-year military service in Israel before starting her acting career. She appeared in sequels of the “Fast and Furious” franchise, none of which were banned in Lebanon.

She appeared in other Hollywood movies before appearing as Wonder Woman in last year’s “Batman vs. Superman.”

The same campaigners sought to bar “Batman vs. Superman,” which was shown in Lebanese theaters.

Jordan Executes 15 Terrorists

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Middle East

Jordan Executes 15 Terrorists

Jordan

Amman – Jordan executed 15 people on Saturday morning, including 10 convicted on terrorism charges, according to government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani.

Momani told state media that those executed included those involved in the “Irbid terror cell”, and the terror attack against the General Intelligence Department office in Baqaa refugee camp.

Other crimes included the assassination of columnist Nahed Hattar, terror bomb attack on Jordan’s Embassy in Baghdad in 2003, and the terrorist attack against foreign tourists visiting the Roman amphitheater in Amman.

The men were hanged at Swaqa Prison.

Five of the criminals were involved in an assault by security forces on a militant hideout by suspected ISIS militants in Irbid city in the same year that led to the death of seven militants and one police officer in 2016. They were: Ashraf Beshtawi, Fadi Beshtawi, Imad Delki, Faraj al-Sharif, and Mohammed Delki.

Mahmoud Hussein Masharfa was the executor of the terrorist attack in June 2016 against the General Intelligence Department office in Baqaa refugee camp.

Riyad Ismail Abdullah was executed for assassinating Hattar in September 2016. While, Muammar al-Jaghbir was executed after his conviction in terror bomb attack on Jordan’s Embassy in Baghdad in 2003.

Nabil Ahmad al-Jaoura was convicted for the terrorist attack against foreign tourists visiting the Roman amphitheater in Amman which led to the death of a British tourist in 2006.

Momani added: “This is an attempt to bring justice to the victims of those terrorists who threatened our national security. Anyone who will dare engage in terrorist activities against Jordan will face the same destiny.”

Human rights group Amnesty International condemned the executions by hanging saying they were carried out in secrecy and without transparency.

Samah Hadid, deputy director at Amnesty International’s Beirut regional office, said, “The horrific scale and secrecy around these executions is shocking.”

Amnesty is against capital punishment regardless of the criminal, his crime or whether he was innocent or not, and the execution method.

Amnesty said in a statement earlier: “Jordan had for years been a leading example in a region where recourse to the death penalty is all too frequent.”

In December 2014, 11 men were executed after the capital punishment had been frozen in Jordan since March 2006.

In February 2015, Jordan executed Sajida Rishawi and Ziad al-Karboli. The two inmates were hanged a day after the release of a video showing the killing of Jordanian pilot Muath Kasasbeh by ISIS.

Rishawi was convicted by the State Security Court in September 2006 of plotting terror attacks against three hotels in Amman in November 2005, which had left more than 60 people dead and around 90 injured.

Karboli was convicted of killing a Jordanian truck driver in Iraq in September 2005, possessing explosives as well as belonging to an illegal al-Qaeda-affiliated organization called Tawhid and Jihad.

Over 100 people, including around 10 women, are currently on death row in Jordan.

Jordan is part of the US-led coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Beirut Lebanon: Surviving The Suicide Bombers: Government Security Trying To Stop Them

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘ONLY LEBANON.NET’)

Thus survived the southern suburbs of the inevitability of human massacre !!

The newspaper “ambassador” reported that the southern suburbs of Beirut survived the massacre of inevitability, as the suicide bomber who threw Public Security arrested Wednesday, October 5 last in cola that he was preparing to blow himself up after two days passed (ie last Friday) during Friday prayers inside a the largest mosques in the suburbs.

It was clear through the investigation and before the technical monitoring, that the bombers player (Prince of organizing “Daesh” in Raqqa city of) one, has sent them in the same period, while showing that suicide bombers do not know each other, despite having received the same orders from the same operator.

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At the same time, it is revealed that the two sets of Ojstian were together supply of suicide bombers of secure transportation and residence in Lebanon logistical support until the date of the bombing, in addition to a poll intended target and packaging belts places, these groups know no each other and they receive a command from the operator “Aldaasha” himself in Raqqa .