France to help Lebanon form ‘credible’ government

Samir Khatib, who withdrew his candidacy to lead a government, with Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Beirut. (Reuters)
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Updated 10 December 2019

France to help Lebanon form ‘credible’ government

  • Postponement of parliamentary consultations to name a new prime minister causes uncertainty

BEIRUT: France will on Wednesday host an International Support Group (ISG) meeting dedicated to helping crisis-hit Lebanon form an “effective and credible” new government.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has told UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis that an official delegation from his country would be attending the gathering in Paris.

Head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, Mohammed Raad, said it could take “a month or two” to find a solution to the situation but added: “We are ready to make concessions but not at the expense of the national sovereignty and integrity.”

The Paris meeting comes as Lebanon faced more political uncertainty after parliamentary consultations to name a new prime minister were postponed.

Businessman Samir Khatib on Sunday withdrew as a candidate to be the country’s next premier, instead announcing his backing for caretaker PM Saad Hariri to form a new government.

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that Wednesday’s talks would “call on the international community of Lebanon to form an effective and credible government.” 

According to his media office, Aoun hoped the meeting would “lead to results that truly translate the support of the ISG member states, especially amid the delicate economic conditions in Lebanon.”

Kubis told Aoun that the meeting would “reflect ISG member states’ commitment to helping Lebanon.”

Meanwhile, Khatib’s decision to quit came after he visited Lebanon’s highest Sunni authority, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdellatif Deryan, who told him a consensus had been reached to name Hariri as prime minister. Hariri resigned a month ago from the post following widespread street protests over government corruption and economic hardships.

Hariri had said he would only lead a new administration of experts, while Aoun with the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Hezbollah and Amal Movement had insisted on a technopolitical government which demonstrators were against.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri invited “the caretaker government led by Hariri to assume its responsibilities fully until a new PM is designated and receive the international positive climate.”

However, Raad said: “The situation has changed. We will find a solution for the government issue. It might take us a month or two, but we will reach a solution. The issue is not whether we form a government or not but lies mainly in the economic situation.

“We will not discuss conditions that make Lebanon’s policy dependent of another state.”

Although wanting a government of experts, protesters were divided over the nomination of Hariri.

Public affairs expert and activist, Walid Fakhreddine, told Arab News: “The civil movement is demanding an independent government of experts and Hariri is not independent of the ruling political class.”

He said the current political situation was “a manipulation inside a political conflict in Lebanon that we are not part of. The civil movement refuses to have representatives of the revolution inside this government.”

Activist, Dr. Ziad Abdel Samad, said: “The civil movement wants a PM who is independent of the ruling political class. The head of the Christian Phalange Party suggested yesterday the name of former ambassador to the UN, Nawaf Salam, who is currently a judge at the International Court of Justice, to lead the government, which is acceptable given Salam’s competencies.

“But what is not acceptable is forming a government of political parties’ members who have failed to lead the country since they came to power 15 years ago and since the election of President Aoun.”


Kuwait Airways announces flights to Mashhad to evacuate more than 700 people

Updated 22 February 2020

Kuwait Airways announces flights to Mashhad to evacuate more than 700 people

  • Number of deaths from virus in Iran has reached six
  • Most of the cases, including eight new infections, have been in Qom

LONDON: Kuwait Airways announced on Saturday that several special flights to the Iranian city of Mashhad will operate in order to evacuate more than 700 people today.

The airline suspended all flights to Iran on Thursday but said it would operate evacuation flights as and when the need arises. 

Meanwhile, Oman’s Ministry of Health advised its citizens to avoid traveling to countries where cases of coronavirus have been reported. 

It added that travelers coming from China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Iran should contact the ministry so that it could guide them with regards to quarantine and other precautionary measures.

Authorities in Iran on Saturday announced the detection of at least 10 new cases of coronavirus and two more deaths, deepening a sense of public unease over the handling of the spread of the disease.

The latest cases appeared to bring the number of cases in Iran to 29 and the number of deaths to six.

News of the latest cases and deaths came from Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur and the governor of Markazi province in central Iran, cited by state TV.

The Health Ministry earlier on Saturday noted a total number of 28 cases and five deaths and the governor announced a death in Markazi province later in the day.

Most of the cases, including eight of the new infections, have been in Qom, a Shiite Muslim holy city 120 km (75 miles) south of the capital Tehran.

(With Reuters)