Lebanon Prime Minister asks government, banks for plan to restore confidence

A statement circulated at Wednesday’s meeting said Diab called for a plan “with the aim of restoring the minimum degree of confidence, which is the cornerstone for tackling the crisis.” (File/AFP)
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Updated 29 January 2020

Lebanon Prime Minister asks government, banks for plan to restore confidence

  • Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab's cabinet took office last week
  • The new government, which must still win a vote of confidence from parliament, faces a liquidity crunch that has fueled inflation

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab asked the government and the country’s banks on Wednesday for a plan to restore confidence as the country faces its worst economic and financial crisis in decades.

At a meeting of ministers and banking officials, Diab said the impression he got from the central bank and banking association was Lebanon still had “ways out” of the crisis.

Diab’s cabinet took office last week with the backing of Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies, after Saad Al-Hariri quit as premier in October amid protests against the ruling elite.

The new government, which must still win a vote of confidence from parliament, faces a liquidity crunch that has fueled inflation, a weakening Lebanese pound and battered confidence in banks that have imposed tight controls.

Parliament speaker Nabih Berri said the new government would have a three- to four-month window after winning the confidence vote to implement a rescue plan, calling it “not impossible” as long as it avoided conflicts and tensions, according to broadcaster LBC.

Lebanon on Monday passed a 2020 budget that foresees a 7 percent deficit, but major questions surround revenue projections that the budget committee chief himself said may be unrealistic in light of the deteriorating economy.

The new cabinet must also decide its approach to looming sovereign bond repayments, including a $1.2 billion Eurobond maturing in March that the finance minister has described as “a fireball.”

A statement circulated at Wednesday’s meeting said Diab called for a plan “with the aim of restoring the minimum degree of confidence, which is the cornerstone for tackling the crisis.”


Pope appears to give thumbs down to Trump’s Middle East peace plan

Updated 23 February 2020

Pope appears to give thumbs down to Trump’s Middle East peace plan

  • Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari
  • The Palestinians and Arab League foreign ministers have rejected the plan

BARI, Italy: Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
“The Mediterranean region is currently threatened by outbreaks of instability and conflict, both in the Middle East and different countries of North Africa, as well as between various ethnic, religious or confessional groups,” Francis said.
“Nor can we overlook the still unresolved conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, with the danger of inequitable solutions and, hence, a prelude to new crises,” he said.
The participants included Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the head of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, whose jurisdiction includes Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan.

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It was believed to be the first time the pope, who has often defended both Palestinian rights and Israel’s need for security, has spoken in public about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since Trump announced the plan on Jan. 28.
The plan would recognize Israel’s authority over West Bank Jewish settlements and require Palestinians meet a series of conditions for a state, with its capital in a West Bank village east of Jerusalem.
Although Trump’s stated aim was to end decades of conflict, his plan favored Israel, underlined by the Palestinians’ absence from his White House announcement with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side.
The Palestinians and Arab League foreign ministers have rejected the plan and the Palestinian Authority has cut all ties with the United States and Israel.
Palestinians, with broad international backing, want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state, while Israel views the whole city its “united and eternal” capital.
The pope expressed concern in 2018 when the United States announced the moving of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, saying the city’s “status quo” should be respected. Francis has called for all to honor UN resolutions on the city.
“There is no reasonable alternative to peace, because every attempt at exploitation or supremacy demeans both its author and its target. It shows a myopic grasp of reality, since it can offer no future to either of the two,” Francis said, speaking in general about the Middle East.
Francis again warned against populist politicians who he said used “demagogic terms” such as “invasion” when talking of migration.
“To be sure, acceptance and a dignified integration are stages in a process that is not easy. Yet it is unthinkable that we can address the problem by putting up walls,” he said.