Lebanon prepares to unveil PM picks as violence flares

By AFP and Al-Mashareq

A picture taken August 11th shows a traditional Lebanese house in the Gemmayzeh neighbourhood that was heavily damaged in the Beirut port explosion. [Joseph Eid/AFP]

A picture taken August 11th shows a traditional Lebanese house in the Gemmayzeh neighbourhood that was heavily damaged in the Beirut port explosion. [Joseph Eid/AFP]

Lebanon is to hold parliamentary consultations on the choice of a new prime minister in Monday (August 31st), three weeks after the government resigned over a deadly Beirut blast, the president's office said.

French President Emmanuel Macron is due to land in Lebanon the same day to hammer home his message of the need for change made during his last visit on August 6th, two days after the explosion.

Meanwhile, UNESCO announced a massive fundraising drive for Beirut, and violence flared between Hizbullah supporters and Sunni residents south of the capital city.

Representatives of the country's parliamentary blocs and independent lawmakers are to head to the presidential palace Monday morning to announce who they would like to head a new government.

After the consultations, President Michel Aoun will task the nominee with forming a new cabinet to represent the country's myriad political parties and religious sects, an often drawn-out process that can drag on for months.

Among the names circulated in the press is that of independent candidate Nawaf Salam, a former Lebanese ambassador to the UN.

But Hizbullah, which controls a parliamentary majority with its allies and whose choice will likely be decisive, has rejected a "neutral government", and instead wants one gathering all the country's political forces.

Parliament speaker and Amal party head Nabih Berri, suggested again nominating former prime minister Saad al-Hariri, who resigned under street pressure last autumn.

But al-Hariri said this week he had no intention of returning to the post.

Violence flares in Khalde

At least two people were killed Thursday in fighting south of Beirut between Hizbullah supporters and Sunni residents, a security source said.

Ten others were wounded in the late afternoon incident in the coastal town of Khalde after Hizbullah backers strung banners and flags on electricity poles to mark Ashura, the source said.

"A firefight broke out between the two sides, leaving two dead and 10 wounded," said the source.

Ashura usually draws thousands of Shia into the streets. But this year, Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah urged followers to suspend the usual public display of grief due to a spike in novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infections in the country.

He asked people to mark Ashura by hoisting black flags outside their homes and shops. But the display of flags in Khalde angered Sunni Muslim residents.

The army deployed in Khalde and arrested four suspects by the early evening, but shooting could still be heard intermittently in the area, local media said.

UNESCO fundraising drive

UNESCO will organise two conferences to seek "considerable" funding for Beirut, its director said Thursday in the Lebanese capital.

Audrey Azoulay said two events were in the works, including a fundraising event for Beirut's heritage, during which UNESCO would seek hundreds of millions of dollars.

"The first one will be a meeting of the Global Education Coalition dedicated to Lebanon," she said, referring to a body set up to support remote learning since the coronavirus pandemic began. That meeting will be held September 1st.

UNESCO says around 160 schools were destroyed or damaged by the blast, and Azoulay said at least 85,000 children were directly affected by the destruction.

A preliminary assessment showed $22 million would be needed just to rebuild damaged schools, Azoulay said.

A second conference would be organised, probably in late September, to raise funds for Beirut's heritage and the cultural sector, she said.

Several hundred million dollars would be needed just for the restoration of Beirut's heritage, she said.

Do you like this article?

0 Comment(s)

Comment Policy * Denotes Required Field 1500 / 1500