Lebanese top cleric urges leaders to stop delays in forming government

Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai speaks after meeting with Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon July 15, 2020. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 18 October 2020

Lebanese top cleric urges leaders to stop delays in forming government

  • Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai was speaking a day after demonstrators marched through Beirut to mark the first anniversary
  • His remarks came after two main Christian parties said this week they would not back the nomination of former Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s top Christian cleric urged Lebanese leaders to stop delaying talks on forming a government in a scathing Sunday sermon in which he blamed them for the country’s financial crisis and political deadlock.
Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, leader of the Maronite church, was speaking a day after demonstrators marched through Beirut to mark the first anniversary of a protest movement which erupted last October against corruption and mismanagement.
In the year since, Lebanon’s problems have been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic and a devastating explosion in Beirut in August.
“Take your hands off the government and liberate it. You are responsible for the crime of plunging the country into total paralysis in addition to the implications of the corona pandemic,” the patriarch said in his sermon.
His remarks came after two main Christian parties, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Lebanese Forces, said this week they would not back the nomination of former Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri to lead a new government to tackle the deep economic crisis, further complicating efforts to agree a new premier. “The responsibility and accountability is collective. Who among you officials has the leisure of time to delay consultations to form a government?” he said.
“No one is innocent of Lebanon’s (financial) bleeding.”
Hariri, who quit as prime minister last October in the face of the 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.
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.


Iran breaks its record for most new coronavirus cases in one day

Updated 11 min 43 sec ago

Iran breaks its record for most new coronavirus cases in one day

  • Iran, which emerged early on as an epicenter of the virus, has seen its worst wave of deaths from the illness in recent weeks
TEHRAN: Iran on Tuesday reported its highest single-day toll of new coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic with more than 5,000 new infections, as the country struggles to cope with a surge in transmission.
Iran’s health ministry also reported that 322 people had died from the virus, pushing the death toll over 31,000. The new infection count on Tuesday eclipsed the previous high of 4,830 last week, shining a light on the nation’s floundering efforts to combat the virus.
Iran, which emerged early on as an epicenter of the virus, has seen its worst wave of deaths from the illness in recent weeks. Monday’s death toll shattered its previous single-day record, prompting state news outlets to declare it a “black day.”
Hospitals in the hard-hit capital of Tehran are overflowing. Last week, health officials announced that the city had run out of intensive care beds for virus patients.
The increase comes after Iranians packed cafes and restaurants at vacation spots during recent national holidays, and after schools reopened for in-person instruction last month.
The government has resisted a total lockdown because it does not want to further weaken an economy already devastated by unprecedented US sanctions. The Trump administration re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran after withdrawing in 2018 from Tehran’s nuclear accord with world powers.
With the death toll skyrocketing, authorities are now starting to impose more restrictions. The government closed museums, libraries, beauty salons, schools and universities in Tehran earlier this month, and imposed a mask mandate outdoors.