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MORNING BRIEF

Papal visit unconfirmed, UN fuel aid ends, recusal in Raja Salameh release request: Everything you need to know to start your Wednesday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Wednesday, April 6 

Papal visit unconfirmed, UN fuel aid ends, recusal in Raja Salameh release request: Everything you need to know to start your Wednesday

Trees bloom in downtown Beirut on Tuesday. (Credit: Joseph Eid/AFP)

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President Michel Aoun announced yesterday in a tweet that Pope Francis will visit Lebanon. The president said the date of this trip and its program will be determined later, adding, “The Lebanese are waiting for the pope’s visit to express their gratitude for his interest in Lebanon and to thank him for the initiatives taken for their country and his prayers for peace and stability.” However, later yesterday the Vatican said the visit “was under consideration,” disputing the claim made by Baabda. If the pope does come, the trip will take place a month after the parliamentary elections, scheduled for May 15. In March, President Michel Aoun visited the pope in the Vatican, where the pontiff reportedly confirmed an upcoming visit to Lebanon, but without specifying the date. The trip followed a visit to Lebanon by the Vatican’s secretary for relations with the states, Mgr Paul Richard Gallagher, during which he called on the international community to help Lebanon.

The United Nations has ended its fuel assistance program that aided hospitals and water stations. The announcement was made by Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Najat Rochdi’s office, which was administering a joint effort by the World Food Program, the World Health Organization, UN Children's Fund, sector partners and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. A statement from the office read that the UN has “delivered the last drop of fuel as part of emergency fuel operations under the UN coordinated Emergency Response Plan.” The Emergency Response Plan was initially launched in August 2021, and has delivered more than 10.4 million liters of fuel to 350 water facilities and 272 health facilities across Lebanon. It has only received 25 percent funding, or $8.5 million. Rochdi’s office ended its statement by thanking donors and partners for their support for “one of the largest fuel service provision operations in the world.” The program ends as global oil prices soar, driving up the cost of diesel and other fuels in Lebanon and raising anxiety that the cost of running generators, on which households and businesses, as well as hospitals and water stations, almost exclusively depend for electricity, will become prohibitive during the long, hot summer months ahead.

Mount Lebanon Indictment Chamber judge Pierre Francis has recused himself from ruling on a request for the release of Raja Salameh. Raja Salameh, who has been in detention since March 17, is the brother of central bank Governor Raid Salameh. The case has now been referred to Baabda Appeals Court judge Elie El Helou. Mount Lebanon Public Prosecutor Judge Ghada Aoun had Salameh arrested after he was questioned in connection to illicit enrichment allegations related to a British Virgin Islands company he runs, Forry Associates. Judge Nicolas Mansour set his bail last week to the tune of LL500 billion; however, Judge Aoun soon filed an appeal contesting the decision. In February, Lebanon received letters from authorities in France and Luxembourg asking for information relating to Banque du Liban Governor Riad Salameh’s bank accounts and assets. In late March, five European countries, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Monaco and Belgium, froze 120 million euros in assets that German prosecutors confirmed were tied to the Salameh investigation.

Electricité du Liban workers have announced the fourth extension of their ongoing strike, which will now last until April 12. In a statement yesterday, the employee’s syndicate said the chair of EDL’s board of directors had confirmed that a plan to address workers’ grievances was in the works and would be presented and discussed in a meeting of the board, without mentioning the date of the meeting. The statement also noted that EDL has not met the workers' demands and, therefore “the strike will continue and the entrance doors will be closed in all [EDL] centers in Lebanese territories” to non-employees. The strike began on March 9, with workers demanding “pricing [EDL employees and workers’] salaries using the same mechanism as that used for [private electricity] service suppliers, guaranteeing full medical coverage and insurance for workers and employees, stopping the violation of [EDL’s] authorities and permissions” and “activating contract penalties against [private electricity] service suppliers that failed to accomplish their missions.” On Monday, two other strikes were announced: one by workers at the Saint Georges Hospital in Ajaltoun and the other by a spokesperson for waste management contractor City Blu.

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “Which candidates made it onto party lists ahead of Lebanon's parliamentary elections?”


Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up. President Michel Aoun announced yesterday in a tweet that Pope Francis will visit Lebanon. The president said the date of this trip and its program will be determined later, adding, “The Lebanese are waiting for the pope’s visit to express their gratitude for his interest in Lebanon and to thank him for the initiatives taken...