Tag Archives: Conflict / War / Peace

With food and fuel, Hezbollah prepared for the worst in collapsing Lebanon | Instant News


BEIRUT, (Reuters) – Lebanon’s Hezbollah has been making preparations for the collapse of the fractured nation, issuing ration cards for food, importing medicine and preparing fuel storage from its Iranian patron, three sources with knowledge of the plan told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: Hezbollah flag and a poster depicting Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah pictured along a road, near Sidon, Lebanon 7 July 2020. REUTERS / Ali Hashisho / File Photo

The measures, responding to a severe economic crisis, would mark the expansion of services provided by the armed movement to its large Shia support base, with networks already offering charities, construction companies and a pension system.

The measures highlight growing fears of a Lebanese state explosion, in which authorities can no longer import food or fuel to turn on lights. They underlined Hezbollah’s growing role in dealing with emergencies with the services the government is supposed to provide.

The plan clashes with concerns in Lebanon that people have to rely on political factions for food and security, as did many during the militia era in the 1975-1990 civil war.

Responding to a question about Hezbollah’s plans, Leila Hatoum, the prime minister’s interim adviser, said the country was “in no condition to refuse aid” regardless of its politics.

A source from the pro-Hezbollah camp, who declined to be named, said plans for the worst-case scenario had escalated as subsidies ended in the coming months, raising the specter of famine and unrest.

The Lebanese currency has crashed as the country ran out of dollars, with no country rescue in sight. Food prices jumped 400%.

Fights in supermarkets are now commonplace, as are people rummaging through trash. A brawl over food packages this week killed one person and injured two others.

Hezbollah’s plan will help protect its community – not only members but also a large proportion of the Shia population in the district it dominates – from the worst crisis, the sources said. It could also contain jitters among core supporters, analysts said.

Hezbollah, which with its allies has a majority in parliament and the government, did not respond to requests for comment.

“Preparations for the next stage have already begun … This is indeed an economic battle plan,” said one of the sources, a senior official.

NETWORK OUT

The new ration cards, seen by Reuters, help hundreds of people buy basic goods in local currency – mostly cheaper Iranian, Lebanese and Syrian goods at discounts of up to 40%, subsidized by the party, the sources said.

The cards – named after the Shia Imam – can be used in cooperatives, some of which have recently opened, in the southern suburbs of Beirut and parts of southern Lebanon where Hezbollah holds power. The sources did not specify the budget or recipients.

An Iran-funded paramilitary force that critics have called a “state within the state”, Hezbollah has become increasingly entangled in Lebanese state affairs in recent years.

Washington, which considers Hezbollah to be a terrorist group, has stepped up sanctions to choke off its sources of funding, including an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars from Tehran each year.

Iranian funding makes Hezbollah better off than many in the country, including those who oppose its arsenal. Several factions have issued aid baskets for their patronage communities, but the Iran-backed network is still too large by comparison.

“They all do … But Hezbollah’s coverage is much bigger and stronger, with more resources to deal with the crisis,” said Joseph Daher, a researcher who has written a book on Hezbollah’s political economy. “It’s more about limiting havoc to its popular base. This means that dependence on Hezbollah in particular will increase. “

And while Hezbollah provides ration cards, the country, ravaged by decades of corruption and debt, has been talking about the idea of ​​such a card for impoverished Lebanese for nearly a year without acting.

Ministers say the need for parliamentary approval has halted cabinet plans to get cards.

DARKNESS AND HUNGER

Photos on social media of shelves piled with canned goods, reportedly from one of the Hezbollah operatives, were scattered across Lebanon last week.

Fatima Hamoud, in her 50s, said ration cards allow her once a month to buy grain, oil and cleaning products for the eight-member home. “They know we are in bad shape,” he said. “Without them, what would we do in these difficult times.”

A second Shiite source said Hezbollah had filled warehouses and launched cards to expand services outside the party and close gaps in the Lebanese market, where cheap alternatives were more common than before the crisis.

He said the card offers quotas, based on the number of family members, for necessities such as sugar and flour.

The goods are backed by Hezbollah, imported by allied companies or brought at no customs fees through the border with Syria, where Hezbollah forces have had a foothold since joining the war to support Damascus alongside Iran.

The source added that Hezbollah had similar plans to import drugs. Several pharmacists in Beirut’s southern suburbs say they have received training on the new Iranian and Syrian brands that have appeared on the shelves in recent months.

Two sources said the plan included stockpiling fuel from Iran, as Lebanon’s energy ministry warned of a possible complete blackout. The senior official said Hezbollah was clearing storage rooms for fuel in Syria.

“When we get to the stage of darkness and famine, you will find Hezbollah will use its backup options … and that is a tough decision. Then Hezbollah will fill the position of the state, ”said the senior official. “If that’s the case, the party will take precautions to prevent a vacuum.”

Written by Ellen Francis, Editing by William Maclean

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Britain will support an orderly departure from Afghanistan – Raab | Instant News


British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab wears a protective mask during a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Brussels, Belgium April 14, 2021. REUTERS / Johanna Geron / Pool

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will “support the orderly departure of our troops” from Afghanistan when NATO withdraws from the country, British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said on Wednesday.

“We will support the orderly departure of our troops, while building Afghanistan’s capacity for self-government, and continue counter-terrorism support – to protect the achievements made over the past 20 years,” Raab said in a statement.

Earlier on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden said he would begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan on May 1 to end America’s longest war.

Written by William Schomberg

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Australia asked the Myanmar military to release Australia’s economic adviser | Instant News


MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia on Friday asked Myanmar’s ruling military to immediately release an Australian economic adviser to ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been in detention for two months.

Sean Turnell, a professor of economics at Macquarie University in Sydney who has advised Suu Kyi for years, was reportedly charged a week ago under Myanmar’s official secrets law, along with Suu Kyi and several of her ministers.

Describing it as “arbitrary detention”, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement that Turnell had been detained with limited consular access.

“Australia continues to seek immediate release and official information on the reasons for his detention both in Myanmar and through the embassy in Australia,” a foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement. We call on the military regime to allow Professor Turnell to return to his family in Australia.

Turnell is the first foreign national to be arrested after a February 1 military coup overthrew Suu Kyi’s government.

Reporting by Lidia Kelly. Edited by Gerry Doyle

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Exclusive: Germany will propose reconstruction of Beirut port on ‘terms attached’ – source | Instant News


PARIS / BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany will next week submit a multi-billion dollar proposal to Lebanese authorities to rebuild the Port of Beirut as part of efforts to persuade the country’s politicians to form a government capable of averting a financial collapse, two sources. the word.

FILE PHOTO: A scene showing the location of the August 4 explosion in the port of Beirut, Lebanon February 18, 2021. REUTERS / Mohamed Azakir / File Photo

A chemical explosion at the port last August killed 200 people, injured thousands and destroyed entire neighborhoods in the Lebanese capital, plunging the country deeper into the worst political and economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

According to two diplomatic sources familiar with the plan, Germany and France are competing to lead the reconstruction effort. Berlin will on April 7 outline a proposal that the European Investment Bank has agreed to help fund that will clean up the area and rebuild facilities, they said.

One source estimates EIB funding to be in the range of 2 billion to 3 billion euros.

A senior Lebanese official confirmed that Germany will present a comprehensive port reconstruction proposal.

Both the German foreign ministry and consulting firm Roland Berger, which diplomatic sources said drew up the plan, immediately responded to requests for comment. EIB could not be reached for comment.

The two diplomatic sources said that Lebanon’s political elite first needs to agree on a new government arrangement to improve public finances and root out corruption, a condition that donors, including the International Monetary Fund, are also demanding before they open up billions. dollars in aid.

“This plan will not come selflessly,” said one source. “Germany and France want to see governments in a place that are committed to implementing reforms. There is no other way and this is good for Lebanon. “

Eight months after the port disaster, many Lebanese who have lost their families, homes and businesses are still awaiting the results of investigations into the cause of the explosion. Lebanon is on the brink of collapse, with buyers fighting over goods, protesters blocking roads and businesses closing.

Foreign donors say the new government must have a strong mandate to carry out economic reforms, including central bank audits and overhauling the wasteful power sector.

However, the Prime Minister appointed by Saad al-Hariri and President Michel Aoun could not agree on the composition of the ministers. The outgoing cabinet, which stopped after the explosion, remained in the capacity of the caretaker.

The IMF said there had been no program discussions with Lebanese officials, only technical assistance with the Ministry of Finance and several state-owned companies.

GERMAN PROPOSAL

As well as the port itself, German proposals would rebuild more than 100 hectares in the surrounding area in a project that two diplomatic sources said would align with post-war reconstruction in central Beirut.

As for the rebuilding, the plan will involve the formation of a public company similar to Solidere, which was founded by former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in the 1990s and remains on the Lebanese stock exchange.

Sources put the project cost at between $ 5 billion and $ 15 billion, and said it could create as many as 50,000 jobs.

The Lebanese official said French and French ports and container delivery group CMA CGM were also interested in the reconstruction project.

One diplomatic source noted that France had sent several missions, including one in March which included the CMA CGM, which showed interest in playing a role in reconstruction. The mission focuses on special cleanup operations rather than broader rebuilding, the source said.

The French foreign ministry declined to comment immediately. CMA CGM declined to comment.

Lebanese officials assign responsibility for running the project to Europeans who agree on who will take the lead.

“This is a European decision in the end, because they have to decide for themselves. Then when it comes to that matter, the Lebanese government can continue, “the official said.

Diplomatic sources said Germany wanted to cooperate with France on this issue, but Paris was pursuing its own initiative for now.

“The irony of all this is that on the one hand the Europeans are talking about putting pressure on the political class while on the other hand fighting each other over this potential contract while the vultures are still circling,” said one.

Reporting by John Irish in Paris, Joseph Nasr in Berlin, Ellen Francis in Beirut; Supplementary Reports by Maha El Dahan in Beirut and Gus Trompiz in Paris; Edited by Sonya Hepinstall

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Brazil appointed a new military chief amid tensions with Bolsonaro | Instant News


BRASILIA, March 31 (Reuters) – Brazil’s Ministry of Defense on Wednesday appointed three new commanders of its armed forces, a day after previous leaders were sacked amid growing tensions over President Jair Bolsonaro’s attempts to interfere in the military.

Paulo Sergio Nogueira de Oliveira will take over the army, Almir Garnier navy and Baptista Júnior air force, said Defense Minister Walter Braga Netto in his first press conference since taking over his new role this week. (Reporting by Leonardo Benassatto Written by Stephen Eisenhammer Editing by Brad Haynes)

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