Hezbollah calls for talks on Lebanon state debt

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, reads the government policy statement in the Lebanese parliament. (AP)
Updated 13 February 2019
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Hezbollah calls for talks on Lebanon state debt

  • Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government last month categorically ruled out restructuring and pledged to repay debt at existing interest rates

BEIRUT: Hezbollah urged Lebanon’s new government on Tuesday to negotiate with banks to restructure the country’s massive national debt.

The unprecedented call by a Hezbollah member of Parliament suggests that the group, which for the first time controls three ministries, is ready to flex its muscles in the new administration.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government last month categorically ruled out restructuring and pledged to repay debt at existing interest rates. Lebanon has one of the largest debt-to-GDP ratios in the world, at about 150 percent.

“I call on the government to hold dialogue with the banks, serious and constructive dialogue to reduce the cost of the debt,” Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah said.

“Yes we are all in one boat, and the banks are with us in this boat. God forbid if the financial and monetary situation is shaken, what will happen to these banks?”

Fadlallah said his group would wage a “battle” against corruption, and government reforms should “start at the top and not the bottom.”

Hezbollah “is going to engage in the difficult fight against corruption because the people’s money is like the people’s blood,” he said. “Our opponent is the corrupt and we are ready to cooperate with anyone who wants to fight corruption.”

Hariri asked Parliament to support his government’s reform program “because we want a government of deeds, not a government of words.”

He said: “The government wants to address these problems, the most important of which are … financial corruption and tax evasion.

“Bold and specific decisions, legislation and reforms are needed. That may be difficult and painful, but it is necessary to avoid the deterioration of economic, financial and social conditions toward more difficult and painful situations.”

The debate on the government’s policy statement continues on Wednesday, after which it is expected to be approved in a parliamentary vote of confidence.


Iraq offers to mediate in crisis between US and Iran

Updated 27 May 2019
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Iraq offers to mediate in crisis between US and Iran

  • ‘We are trying to help and to be mediators’
  • The crisis takes root in President Donald Trump’s withdrawal last year of the US from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers

BAGHDAD: Iraq offered to mediate in the crisis between its two key allies, the United States and Iran, amid escalating Middle East tensions and as Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers steadily unravels.
Iraqi foreign minister, Mohammed Al-Hakim, made the offer Sunday during a joint news conference in Baghdad with visiting Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.
“We are trying to help and to be mediators,” said Al-Hakim, adding that Baghdad “will work to reach a satisfactory solution” while stressing that Iraq stands against unilateral steps taken by Washington.
In recent weeks, tensions between Washington and Tehran soared over America deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Arabian Gulf over a still-unexplained threat it perceives from Tehran.
The crisis takes root in President Donald Trump’s withdrawal last year of the US from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers that capped Iran’s uranium enrichment activities in return to lifting sanctions. Washington subsequently re-imposed sanctions on Iran, sending its economy into freefall.
Trump has argued that the deal failed to sufficiently curb Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons or halt its support for militias throughout the Middle East that the US says destabilize the region, as well as address the issue of Tehran’s missiles, which can reach both US regional bases and Israel.
Zarif, who was been on a whirlwind diplomatic offensive to preserve the rest of the accord, insisted that Iran “did not violate the nuclear deal” and urged European nations to exert efforts to preserve the deal following the US pullout.
Speaking about the rising tensions with the US, Zarif said Iran will be able to “face the war, whether it is economic or military through steadfastness and its forces.” He also urged for a non-aggression agreement between Iran and Arab countries in the Gulf.
The mediation offer by Al-Hakim, Iraq’s foreign minister, echoed one made Saturday by Mohamad Al-Halbousi, the Iraqi parliament speaker. Al-Hakim also expressed concern for Iran’s spiraling economy.
“The sanctions against sisterly Iran are ineffective and we stand by its side,” Al-Hakim said.