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Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government is set to hold its first meeting as a fully empowered cabinet today. The cabinet, tasked with rescuing Lebanon from its worst economic crisis in decades, will follow an 11-item agenda, much of which is largely procedural. It includes a draft decree that would transfer LL16 billion to the army to fund soldiers’ salaries until the end of the year, a loan agreement with Kuwait’s Fund for Arab Economic Development and an Agriculture Ministry request to renew the delegation of authority over wine, arak, and other alcoholic products from the minister to the ministry’s director general. Sources close to the Presidential Palace told our sister publication, L’Orient-Le Jour, that the meeting will also likely discuss an important item not on the official agenda: the makeup of a team that will negotiate a rescue package with the International Monetary Fund.
The registration period for diaspora voters wishing to cast ballots in the upcoming parliamentary elections from overseas has been set as Oct. 1–Nov. 20. Foreign Affairs Minister Abdallah Bou Habib issued a circular to Lebanon’s diplomatic missions abroad yesterday setting out the time frame and acceptable forms of ID. Voters will be able to register in person, online or by mail. The 2018 parliamentary elections were the first to feature overseas voting by the diaspora; however, registration rates were low.
The families of victims in the 2020 port explosion are planning a sit-in at the Justice Palace in Beirut at 1 p.m. today to protest political interference in the port blast investigation. Judge Tarek Bitar’s investigation into the explosion has been suspended since Monday amid legal challenges. Meanwhile, a young Beiruti man who went into a coma after sustaining injuries in the explosion died overnight on Monday, becoming the latest casualty of the blast, which killed more than 200 people, injured thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands.
The Lebanese Army arrested nine new suspects in the case of 20 tons of ammonium nitrate seized earlier this month in the Bekaa. According to the army’s statement on the arrests, these nine are in addition to six others arrested earlier in the course of the investigation, some of whom were subsequently released. Ammonium nitrate can be used both as agricultural fertilizer and as an explosive. The Beirut port explosion was caused by the ignition of some 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate.