Emmanuel Macron will visit Lebanon this month to exert pressure on the ruling elite that has so far failed to form a government or enact reforms outlined in France’s rescue plan. The French president announced the visit, to be his third since the Beirut port explosion in August, during a UN-French virtual donor conference that sought to follow up on aid to Lebanon in the wake of the blast. Macron and UN Secretary-General António Guterres spoke of plans for a new, World Bank-managed fund to channel humanitarian aid to Lebanon. Appearing by video, Lebanese President Michel Aoun voiced support for the seemingly doomed French initiative in Lebanon and promised to push ahead with forming a government and on a forensic audit of the central bank. The World Bank, UN and European Union will announce details of their “Reform, Recovery and Reconstruction” plan in a press conference Friday.
In a heated session of the joint parliamentary committees, MPs failed to enter any concrete discussions on reallocating subsidies on imports including fuel, medicine and food staples. With foreign reserves dwindling, support for a move from across-the-board subsidies to aid targeted to the poorest members of society has been growing. MP Ibrahim Kanaan, the head of the Finance and Budget Committee, said after the session that Parliament will not present any recommendations on the pressing issue but will wait for the cabinet, in coordination with BDL, to present its own plan. BDL’s Central Council is set to meet today.
Beirut’s public prosecutor for appeals has charged eight senior military officers with illicit enrichment, including retired army commander Jean Kahwaji. The case is the first to be launched under a new “illicit enrichment” law adopted by Parliament on Sept. 30, our sister publication L’Orient-Le Jour reported. Wadih Akl, an attorney and member of the Free Patriotic Movement, took credit for sparking the investigation when he published documents related to Kahwaji’s bank accounts. The eight men are expected to be questioned on Dec. 10.
Caretaker Interior Minister Mohamed Fehmi appeared for questioning before Public Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat over comments in which he accused 95 percent of Lebanon’s judges of being corrupt. In his testimony, Fehmi maintained that he “did not intend to harm the judicial authority” and praised “the close relationship between security [forces] and the judiciary,” the NNA reported. Judge Oueidat will study the testimony and report to the Higher Judicial Council during its weekly meeting today.
General Security announced that it has restarted registration for “voluntary return” trips for Syrian refugees. The returns, organized in coordination with the Syrian regime, have been on hold since February due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, about 20,000 refugees had returned via the General Security-organized trips, which, while pitched as voluntary, have drawn scrutiny from humanitarian organizations and rights groups. Approximately 880,000 Syrian refugees are registered with the UN in Lebanon.
For the second day in a row, student body elections at St. Joseph University’s Huvelin campus were marred by partisan violence. Brawls broke out between supporters of Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces outside the campus, and several people were injured, the NNA reported. The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections condemned the “hateful sectarian incitement” by and violence between political party supporters, and said that it “seriously and negatively affects the atmosphere of the electoral process” and had prevented many students from exercising their right to vote. Election results are to be announced today.
Emmanuel Macron will visit Lebanon this month to exert pressure on the ruling elite that has so far failed to form a government or enact reforms outlined in France’s rescue plan. The French president announced the visit, to be his third since the Beirut port explosion in August, during a UN-French virtual donor conference that sought to follow up on aid to Lebanon in the wake of the blast....