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Environment Minister Nasser Yassin said yesterday that the wildfires that began over the weekend “are of human origin” and called for a continuation of Interior Ministry investigations into the causes of the blazes. Yassin said “we are sure that all of these fires are man-made … and are most probably due to the burning of grass,” adding that he believed some of them were intentionally set. Studies in the US and Europe have found that the vast majority of all wildfires are caused by human activity, whether intentionally or by accident. Yesterday afternoon Civil Defense announced its teams were still working to put out fires in several areas in the districts of Koura, Batroun and Baabda.
Authorities in Luxembourg have opened a criminal case in relation to central bank governor Riad Salameh, a judicial spokesperson from the country told Reuters. The spokesperson declined to give further details on the investigation, and a spokesperson for the central bank said Salameh has not been informed of any case against him in Luxembourg and declined further comment. Salameh is facing at least two other investigations on the continent, with Swiss and French authorities inquiring about money laundering allegations. Salameh has denied any wrongdoing.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called for an end to the “deadly stagnation” that has caused the cabinet not to meet for more than a month and led the country to what he called “a political abyss.” The comments came at the end of the Amal Movement’s weekly meeting. Amal’s ministers, along with those of Hezbollah, reportedly demanded the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar from the Beirut port explosion investigation and threatened to boycott cabinet sessions until their demands were met. The cabinet has not met since, with Prime Minister Mikati saying he will not convene a session until a solution to the matter is found. In a statement released this morning, Mikati said in response to reports that a political compromise was being worked out in relation to Bitar’s fate “there is absolutely no political interference in the work of the judiciary, and there is no link between the resumption of cabinet sessions and the file of the judicial investigation into the Beirut port explosion.”
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has scheduled a session on Wednesday for the finance and budget and the administration and justice parliamentary committees to discuss a draft capital control law. Last month the full body of Parliament had an opportunity to consider the law, but sent it back to committee for further study. Lebanon has not implemented any formal capital controls since the start of its financial and economic crisis two years ago. Meanwhile banks, often coordinating their actions through the Association of Banks of Lebanon, have implemented a host of informal capital controls that prevent depositors from withdrawing money or transferring it abroad, especially highly prized US dollar deposits.
Turkey’s foreign minister landed in Beirut last night to kick off a visit that is expected to include meetings with several Lebanese leaders and the launching of Turkish-funded projects. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu arrives fresh off of a visit to Tehran, where he met with his Iranian counterpart to discuss regional cooperation. In recent days Lebanon has again found itself in the crosshairs of the Gulf-Iran rivalry, with Gulf Arab countries cutting diplomatic ties in protest of what they see as Iranian hegemony in Lebanon. Çavuşoğlu will hold a press conference with Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib later today.
Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Environment Minister Nasser Yassin said yesterday that the wildfires that began over the weekend “are of human origin” and called for a continuation of Interior Ministry investigations into the causes of the blazes. Yassin said “we are sure that all of these fires are man-made … and are most probably due to the burning of...