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Morning brief

Everything you need to know to start your Wednesday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Everything you need to know to start your Wednesday

Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri is working to resolve the problem of cabinet seat allocations. (Credit: Hussam Shbaro)

Saad Hariri met with Michel Aoun at the Presidential Palace amid continuing efforts to form a new cabinet. The premier-designate did not make any comments to the press following the sit-down, the pair’s third in four days. Hariri has proposed a road map for rotating the sectarian allotments for ministerial positions, except for the Finance Ministry, which will remain under the purview of Shiite political leaders, our sister publication L’Orient-Le Jour reported. It’s been over 11 weeks since the resignation of Hassan Diab’s cabinet following the Aug. 4 Beirut port blast, with political leaders failing so far to form a new government.

Lebanon registered 1,809 new COVID-19 cases, a record tally, while eleven more people died from the virus, bringing the death toll to 590. In a series of tweets yesterday, Firass Abiad, the general manager of Rafik Hariri University Hospital, said that while COVID-19 case numbers appear to be plateauing, the pandemic was still “clearly not under control” and “measures should be tightened.” Following a meeting of Parliament’s Public Health, Labor and Social Affairs Committee yesterday, its head Assem Araji said that December and January could be the most difficult months of the pandemic and that the health sector is unable to handle a large caseload.

The Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights meets today to discuss a draft law that concerns the National Human Rights Institute. Committee chair Michel Musa and rapporteur Rola Tabsh said the committee would discuss the payment mechanism for the organization’s members and whether an independent fund should cover their salaries. Formally established in October 2016, the National Human Rights Institute’s work has been held back by state inaction, with its officers appointed a year and a half later in May 2018.

The Federation of Bakeries Syndicates will hold a general assembly today in the afternoon to discuss whether they should go on strike over state fines. The vice president of the Federation, Ali Ibrahim, told L’Orient Today that bakeries were upset over fines levied by the Economy Ministry under Minister Mansour Bteich in 2019. Ibrahim alleged that these fines were imposed for political, and not technical, reasons. The Economy Ministry said that fines are imposed if the weight of bread bundles is lower than the minimum requirement, if bakeries are selling bread at higher than official prices, or if food safety conditions are violated.

A Russian diplomatic delegation is set to visit Beirut today, after President Aoun received the credentials of Moscow’s new ambassador to Beirut on Oct. 16. Sputnik News, a Russian state-operated outlet, said the delegation would meet senior Lebanese officials as part of a two-day official visit. In other diplomatic news, the UN Security Council will meet today to discuss Secretary-General António Guterres’ latest report on the implementation of Resolution 1559. Released last week, the report calls for Lebanese leaders to “rise above partisan considerations and personal interests” to quickly form a new government.

Talks resume today over the disputed maritime border between Lebanon and occupied Palestine at UNIFIL’s headquarters in Naqoura. Mediated by the US, the negotiations kicked off on Oct. 14 with delegations from Lebanon and Israel, but not Palestine, included. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said on Oct. 1 that success in the negotiations could help Lebanon exploit potential hydrocarbon reserves and allow the country to pay off its debts. Initial offshore exploration earlier this year failed to find a reservoir of commercially viable resources.

Lebanon celebrates the Prophet Mohammad’s birthday starting at sundown today. Tomorrow will be a public holiday, with schools and banks closed for the day. The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a pall over the commemoration, with dozens of municipalities across the country ordered shut to spread the virus while authorities have tried, unsuccessfully, to limit social gatherings.


Saad Hariri met with Michel Aoun at the Presidential Palace amid continuing efforts to form a new cabinet. The premier-designate did not make any comments to the press following the sit-down, the pair’s third in four days. Hariri has proposed a road map for rotating the sectarian allotments for ministerial positions,