Tag Archives: Michael Aoun

Update: Lebanon PM, Mustapha Adib to form new govt.

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Diplomat won votes from 90 MPs and must form a government to push through long-overdue reforms.


Lebanese diplomat Mustapha Adib has been tasked with forming a government by an overwhelming majority of parliamentarians representing the country’s political establishment.

Adib received the votes of 90 MPs out of a possible 120, garnering the support of Hezbollah and its allies the Free Patriotic Movement and the Amal Movement, in addition to the Future Movement of former prime minister Saad Hariri and a number of smaller blocs.

Adib said it was no longer the time for words and promises.

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“It’s time for work to dovetail efforts and join hands, to restore hope among the Lebanese,” Adib told reporters on Monday.

“By the grace of God Almighty, we hope we will be successful in selecting professionals with proven expertise and efficiency to implement the necessary financial and economic reforms.”

Seventeen MPs voted for other candidates, including 14 votes by the Lebanese Forces for International Court of Justice judge Nawaf Salam. About a dozen MPs either voted for no one or did not show up.

Like his predecessor Hassan Diab, who was named by a narrower margin by the country’s establishment following unprecedented anti-government protests that toppled a government last year, 48-year-old Adib is little-known to the public.

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He has been Lebanon’s ambassador to Germany since 2013, has for two decades been an advisor to billionaire former prime minister Najib Mikati, and is seen as being close to the country’s major parties.

Monday’s binding consultations between President Michel Aoun and MPs amounted to little more than a rubber stamp on a decision that had been hashed out among the country’s sectarian leaders in the lead-up to French President Emmanuel Macron’s second visit to Beirut in under a month.

Macron arrives Monday night and has been in direct contact with Lebanese officials since his early August visit in the wake of a massive Beirut explosion that left at least 190 people dead and damaged large parts of the city.

Macron has urged Lebanon’s ossified politicians to come to a political understanding in order to pass through sweeping reforms and halt decades of corruption and mismanagement, which led the country into its deepest-ever economic crisis.

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Blast fallout
Adib will now have to form a government that can push through long-overdue economic, financial and governance reforms in order to unlock international support for the crisis-hit nation, which was already collapsing before the explosion.

The World Bank on Monday estimated the blast caused between $3.2bn and $4.6bn in physical damage, mostly to the transport sector, housing and cultural sites, and incurred an additional $2.9bn to $3.2bn in losses to economic output.

The organisation estimated Lebanon’s immediate needs until the end of 2020 at between $605m and $760m, including for cash assistance, housing, and support for businesses.

Western donors see a resumption of stalled negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, as well as reforms to the electricity and financial sectors, as key conditions for providing large-scale financial assistance.

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Adib’s predecessor, Diab, was unable to push through reforms because of high-level political meddling that is common in Lebanon, a country where major decisions are traditionally made between the handful of ruling sectarian leaders rather than governments.

“We know there are political forces behind these governments that don’t necessarily align with the governments that they appoint, and that makes it difficult to have a programme and solutions to these complicated problems,” Mike Azar, a senior financial advisor, told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media).

He noted Diab’s government had faltered because it didn’t have a clear plan for how to adress the country’s challenges, and included a “hodge-podge of different people with different views,” which led to chronic dysfunction.

Lebanon’s newly appointed Prime Minister Mustapha Adib speaks during a press conference on Monday [Joseph Eid/AFP]

Up-hill struggle
According to Azar, the country faces four key challenges: the recovery and reconstruction after the explosion, the criminal investigation into the explosion, the economic reform programme and financial restructuring, and the restructuring of the political system itself, “which is root cause of most of Lebanon’s current problems”.

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“Most of the needed reforms will be politically and personally costly to the key political decision-makers behind any government that emerges,” he said. “Without a clear strategy for how Adib intends to address these challenges in the face of great political resistance, there is no reason to believe that Adib’s government will be any more successful than Diab’s.”

Adib, therefore, will find it difficult to push forward changes unless top politicians agree to them, even though many of these reforms go against their entrenched interests.

Lebanon’s President Aoun and Hezbollah’s powerful leader, Hasan Nasrallah, have both indicated they are ready to agree to a new political system in Lebanon, as long as it is based on consensus.

But Rima Majed, an assistant professor of sociology at the American University of Beirut who was involved in organising during Lebanon’s uprising, said it was clear Adib had been picked to maintain and protect the interests of the country’s ruling class.

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“It still remains a republic of billionaires but its now run by their men, their advisers,” Majed told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media). “It’s disturbing from a class aspect because they are reproducing the system and Adib is clearly coming to preserve the interests of those billionaires, be it Hariri, Mikati or [House Speaker Nabih] Berri.”

She said Adib’s government, once formed, would continue the “counter-revolution” that Diab’s government had begun, putting an end to any chance of a “political process that includes the uprising”.

Part of this is also due to circumstance: Local actors had become more empowered to take part in national politics during the uprising, but the Beirut blast has thrown the process almost-entirely to the international level.

“There’s something bigger being cooked up that the uprising is unable to grasp,” she said.


#Newsworthy…

Beirut explosions: Canada FM wants to help in Lebanon blast probe.

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Canada’s foreign minister Thursday offered help in investigating the cause of the colossal port explosion that ravaged Beirut on August 4.

During a tour of the capital, Francois-Philippe Champagne stressed the need for a “credible investigation” into the blast that killed more than 180 people including two Canadians and wounded thousands.

“Canada would like, under the right circumstances, to contribute to the investigation,” he told Lebanese press.

The United States has already sent FBI investigators to assist at the request of Lebanese authorities, and France has opened its own probe.

A handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra on August 27, 2020 shows Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne speaking to reporters after his meeting with the Lebanese president at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut. DALATI AND NOHRA / AFP.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun accepted the Canadian offer.

“We welcome the help that Canada wants to provide in the ongoing investigations over the explosion at the Beirut port,” Aoun told Champagne, according to the presidency.

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The blast came after hundreds of tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been left unsecured for several years at the port, despite repeated warnings of the dangers it posed.

Western powers, international bodies and Lebanese at home and abroad have called for an international probe into the blast, but Lebanese authorities have rejected this.

Champagne also called for “economic and political reforms” as he met Lebanon’s caretaker foreign minister Charbel Wehbe.

The Canadian minister toured Beirut neighbourhoods devastated by the blast, and met the families of the two Canadians who were killed in the disaster.

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He said Canada would contribute an additional 8 million Canadian dollars ($6 million) to aid efforts to match the contribution of Canadians via a fund launched earlier this month.

Canada, which is home to a large Lebanese community, previously pledged 30 million Canadians dollars (more than $22 million) to help after the blast.

In Lebanon’s ongoing probe, Judge Fadi Sawan has so far issued arrest warrants for 16 people.

He is next week due to start questioning six others, including the director-general of land and maritime transport and four senior security officers responsible for the port.


#Newsworthy…

Lebanon leader, Michael Aoun opens door for possible peace with Israel.

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Lebanese President Michel Aoun, ally of Israel’s arch-foe Hezbollah, seemed to leave the door open to eventual peace with the Jewish state, in an interview with French news channel BFMTV.

Lebanon has technically been at war with neighbouring Israel for decades, with tensions sporadically flaring in the border area in Lebanon’s south, stronghold of the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah movement.

Asked in an interview on BFMTV on Saturday whether Lebanon would be prepared to make peace with Israel, Aoun responded: “That depends. We have problems with Israel, we have to resolve them first.”

His statement came in the wake of an announcement Thursday that Israel would normalise relations with the United Arab Emirates, only the third Arab state to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel since its creation in 1948.

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“It’s an independent country,” Aoun said of the UAE.

Aoun’s Christian Free Patriotic Movement has for years been politically allied with Hezbollah, enabling them to dominate parliament and the government, which resigned on Monday amid outrage over negligence that led to the deadly explosion at Beirut’s port that devastated the capital.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday of the Israel-UAE agreement that “it’s a betrayal of Jerusalem and the Palestinian people. It’s a knife in the back.”

A key point of contention between Lebanon and Israel concerns oil and gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean, where both countries have sought bids for exploration in their exclusive economic zones.

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The maritime border between the countries is disputed.

Aoun’s interview was aired in the aftermath of the Beirut blast on August 4 that killed 177 people and wounded at least 6,500 more, with many blaming systemic corruption and negligence of the entrenched political class for the disaster.

Many Lebanese have demanded the ouster of the entire ruling class, dominated by ex-warlords from the country’s 1975-1990 civil war, including of Aoun.

Asked by the BFMTV journalist if he had thought of stepping down, Aoun said, “it’s impossible, there would be a vacuum”.


#Newsworthy…