Lebanon’s biggest Christian party says won’t back Hariri for PM

Lebanon’s largest Christian political party said on Saturday it would not back the nomination of former Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri to lead a government to tackle a deep economic crisis. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 17 October 2020

Lebanon’s biggest Christian party says won’t back Hariri for PM

  • Hariri could still secure a parliamentary majority if Hezbollah and Amal endorse him for premier
  • But the absence of support from either of the main Christian blocs would hand him at best a fragile mandate to tackle Lebanon’s crisis

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s largest Christian political party said on Saturday it would not back the nomination of former Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri to lead a government to tackle a deep economic crisis, further complicating efforts to agree a new premier.
Hariri, who quit as prime minister last October in the face of nationwide protests, has said he is ready to lead a government to implement reforms proposed by France as a way to unlock badly needed international aid.
But Hariri, Lebanon’s most prominent Sunni Muslim politician, has failed to win backing from the two main Christian parties — the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Lebanese Forces.
Parliamentary consultations to name a new prime minister were due to be held last Thursday, but President Michel Aoun postponed the discussions after receiving requests for a delay from some parliamentary blocs.
The FPM, which is led by Aoun’s son-in-law Gebran Bassil, said it could not back a political figure such as Hariri because French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal had called for a reformist government made up of and led by “specialists.”
As a result, the party’s political council “decided unanimously not to nominate... Hariri to lead the government,” a statement said, adding that Aoun’s week-long postponement would not lead the party to reconsider its position.
Hariri could still secure a parliamentary majority if the powerful Shiite group Hezbollah and its ally Amal endorse him for premier.
But the absence of support from either of the main Christian blocs would hand him at best a fragile mandate to tackle Lebanon’s gravest crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
The country has plunged into financial turmoil and the value of the Lebanese pound has collapsed. COVID-19 and a huge explosion at Beirut’s port two months ago have compounded the crisis and pushed many Lebanese into poverty.
Hariri, who has served twice as prime minister, resigned two weeks after huge protests erupted exactly a year ago.
The demonstrations, triggered by plans to tax voice calls made through the Facebook-owned WhatsApp messaging application, grew into wider protests against Lebanon’s political elite.


UN says Sudan needs $150 million to help Ethiopian refugees

Updated 28 November 2020

UN says Sudan needs $150 million to help Ethiopian refugees

  • The conflict broke out on November 4 between Ethiopia’s federal forces and leaders of the region’s ruling party
  • Sudan has since hosted more than 43,000 Ethiopian refugees fleeing from the intense fighting into one of its most impoverished regions

UM RAQUBA, Sudan: Sudan needs $150 million in aid to cope with the flood of Ethiopian refugees crossing its border from conflict-stricken Tigray, the UN refugee agency chief said Saturday during a visit to a camp.
The Tigray conflict broke out on November 4 between Ethiopia’s federal forces and leaders of the region’s ruling party.
Sudan has since hosted more than 43,000 Ethiopian refugees fleeing from the intense fighting into one of its most impoverished regions.
“Sudan needs $150 million for six months to provide these refugees water, shelter and health services,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi at Um Raquba camp, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the border.
Grandi called on “donors to provide Sudan with these resources as soon as they can.”
Between 500 and 600 refugees are still crossing the border each day.
Sudan has sought to provide help to accommodate the mass refugee influx as it struggles with its own deep economic crisis.
The country is also going through a fragile transition since the April 2019 ouster of veteran strongman Omar Al-Bashir, after unprecedented mass protests against his rule, triggered by economic hardship.
Some 65 percent of Sudan’s nearly 42 million people live below the poverty line, according to government figures.
As the Tigray fighting rages, Grandi also voiced concern over the fate of tens of thousands of Eritrean refugees living in Ethiopia for decades.
“We don’t have access to them,” he said, urging the Ethiopian government to authorize visits by the United Nations.