A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For January 15/2020 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 90th Day

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A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For January 14-15/2020 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 90th Day
Compiled By: Elias Bejjani
January 15/2020

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on January 14-15/2020
A Revolution That Does Not Call For The Liberation Of Lebanon Is A mere Tool for the Occupier that is Hezbollah/Elias Bejjani/January 15/2020
Aoun’s speech addressing the diplomatic corps at Baabda Palace
Papal Ambassador meets Aoun: International community stresses need for respectful dialogue among political leaders
Lebanon protesters declare ‘week of anger’ amid ruling-class indifference
Lebanese protesters block roads against government inaction
Lebanese anti-government protesters block roads again
Lebanese protesters block road outside central bank
UN says Lebanon made payment to restore UN voting rights
Banking Control Committee Requests Info on Banks Transfers Abroad
Association of Banks confirms hasn’t issued statement today
Protesters Launch ‘Week of Wrath’, Block Roads across Lebanon
Lebanese in Angry Protests as Crisis Worsens
Report: Activists Angry with Little TV Coverage of Protests
Protesters Injured in Sidon as Scuffles Erupt on Ring Highway
Aoun Urges Competent and Trustworthy Ministers in New Govt.
Hariri Returns to Lebanon, Chairs Meeting of al-Mustaqbal Bloc
Hariri: The solution is to form a government, not to revive one that resigned at the request of the street
Future bloc: Why can’t the parliamentary blocs that unanimously designated Diab reach a ministerial lineup?
Bassil after bloc meeting: We inquired Salameh about questionable transfers, urged him to disclose numbers
Bassil Pays Berri ‘Unexpected’ Visit
Bassil Denies Seeking Ministerial Seats or One-Third Veto Power

Details Of The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorial published on January 14-15/2020
A Revolution That Does Not Call For The Liberation Of Lebanon Is A mere Tool for the Occupier that is Hezbollah
Elias Bejjani/January 15/2020
A revolution that flaunts, hails and turns a blind eye on the Mullahs’ Iranian Hezbollah occupation, terrorism, crimes, trafficking, regional wars, and at the same time advocates for its big lie of resistance is definitely a revolution of hypocrisy. Such a revolution carries it own failure and only serves the occupier’s Iranian devastating agenda.

Aoun’s speech addressing the diplomatic corps at Baabda Palace
NNA/January 14/2020
The following is President of the Republic, General Micheal Aoun’s speech addressing the diplomatic corps at Baabda Palace.
“Your Excellency Monsignor Joseph Spiteri,
Apostolic Nuncio and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps,
Your Excellencies the representatives of the diplomatic missions accredited in Lebanon,
I cherish this occasion which brings us together at the onset of every year, as per a long-standing tradition, to exchange greetings for the New Year and explore the horizons of the days to come, along with the accompanying challenges and elements of hope.
As I thank your Excellency the Apostolic Nuncio, for your kind words and for the wishes and feelings of affection and solidarity conveyed, in the name of the accredited diplomatic corps, to me personally and to the people of Lebanon, I hope that the New Year brings along peace and wellbeing to you and to your respective States, leaders and peoples.
In this context, I would like to quote the valuable message of His Holiness Pope Francis on World Peace Day. It is remarkable that the Holy Father considers that “peace is a journey of hope”, a common hope among peoples, in the face of wars, persecution and injustice; indeed, hope is at the core of our faith, as we lie in the dust, looking forward to resurrection! If peace is the hope of peoples, this means that it is the very essence of their life. I wish that those who hold the reins of world peace look up to this truth upon making decisions that may threaten peace and stability in various spots of our world.
If, as stated by His Holiness, “the world does not need empty words but rather peacemakers who are open to dialogue”, then Pope Francis is undoubtedly the first and bravest among those needed peacemakers, one who is highly appreciated and deeply loved by all the Lebanese.
Your Excellencies,
Many factors converged, some external and others internal, to generate the worst economic, financial and social crisis that has ever hit Lebanon.
Externally, the world economic crises had a negative repercussion on our economy, in addition to the wars of the neighborhood, which have besieged Lebanon and barred it – and still do – from its vital extension and export markets, significantly affecting its commercial, industrial and agricultural sectors. They also gave way to the heaviest crisis on its already weary economy, I mean the displacement crisis which has brought in as many displaced as half of its original population. And to put the cherry on the cake, the financial embargo restricted the money flow from the outside, causing great harm to the Lebanese economy and financial market.
Internally, Lebanon is paying the price of an accumulation of thirty years of wrong economic and financial policies that depended on rentier economy and indebtedness, to the detriment of production, especially in industry and agriculture, in addition to decades-long corruption and waste in the administration.
Since the beginning of this presidential term, the economic and financial situation has been THE major concern. Indeed, the adoption of the oil and gas extraction decrees was placed on the agenda of the first governmental session, a comprehensive national plan was devised and infrastructure modernization projects were adopted, to be funded by the donors of the CEDRE conference. Nevertheless, the plans remained unexecuted.
From a financial perspective, I have strongly strived to bring the public finance back under the umbrella of the Constitution and the Public accounting law. In fact, three budgets were adopted after 12 years of interruption and random unconstitutional spending.
Yes, I have exerted tremendous efforts in quest of economic solutions. Yet, these endeavors did not produce the desired results because the situation was bad and the obstacles numerous. The growing economic pressure has driven people to the streets, upholding rightful living hood demands and brandishing one request common to all the Lebanese, namely fighting corruption.
The demonstrations presented, especially at their onset, a real opportunity to achieve the desired reform, because they have shaken the confessional and political protectorates and crossed the red lines, making accountability possible, giving strong momentum to Justice which has taken many actions, and enabling the former government to adopt a paper of reforms that would have been otherwise impossible.
Yet, the attempts by some political forces to harness the popular movements dispersed some of them, drowning them into a radicalism of rejection, and jeopardizing their unanimity about the claimed change. Moreover, the rumors spread by some media and some demonstrators derailed the movement, preventing it from correctly identifying real corruption and its perpetrators. I am still relying on the good Lebanese, on the streets and in their homes, to persevere in the fight against.
In turn, the Army and the security forces have addressed this popular movement with great wisdom. Indeed, they have strived to ensure the security and safety of the demonstrators, safeguarding their freedom of speech, while preserving at the same time the freedom of the citizens and their right to move and go to work and home.
Nevertheless, this situation has aggravated the economic crisis and has had a negative impact on the security situation whereas it has led to an increase in the rate of crime of all kinds after we had achieved remarkable progress in bringing it down over the past two years.
The government was expected to see the light last week, but some obstacles have prevented it; and although we do not have the luxury of delay, the formation of this government requires the selection of qualified candidates, worthy of the confidence of both the people and the Parliament, which in turn requires time; what is needed is a government with a specific and swift program for tackling the pressing economic and financial crisis, and countering the tremendous challenges that Lebanon and the whole region are facing. We shall continue to exert all the possible efforts to form the promised government, advancing the higher national interest above any other consideration.
Your Excellencies,
In addition to all the present difficulties, the crisis of the displaced still weighs heavily at all levels, while the international community has not shouldered its responsibility effectively, neither favoring the return, nor supporting Lebanon to mitigate the impact of this displacement; except for some assistance dedicated to the displaced – from which Lebanon only received a small part – coupled with praise for the humanitarian role it is playing, along with political rhetoric about linking their return to the political solution.
We have shown understanding about the causes of displacement and we have extended all the possible cooperation and assistance throughout the years, but today we do not understand the positions pressing to hinder the return, and we have every right to draw a big question mark about this international indifference, especially that I have carried this crisis with me to all the international and Arab fora, explaining its entailed burdens and repercussions for Lebanon.
Amidst this pressing atmosphere, some positive indicators are expected in the near future, when Lebanon embarks on the exploration of its offshore natural resources in its territorial waters. In this context, we reiterate that we hold on to our right to exploit all our oil fields and reject any Israeli attempt to aggress them, as we underscore the necessity to confirm the land borders and delineate the maritime borders, in view of the benefit this has for stability and calm, and in view of safeguarding the rights of Lebanon and the required investment climate.
Your Excellencies,
Although the year 2019 has been wrapped up with a huge crisis, it has been scattered with some international milestones which are significant for Lebanon, on top of which the consecration of our nation as a space for encounter and dialogue among civilizations, religions and cultures, through the vote by the UN General
Assembly on the creation on our land of the “Academy for Human Encounters and Dialogue”.
With the upheaval that surrounds us, it is becoming all the more certain that openness, dialogue and getting to know the other are the foundations for building peace and stability and facing the ideas of extremism, isolation and seclusion.
Moreover, Lebanon has been selected to host the regional headquarters of the International Organization of the Francophonie in the Middle East, in a confirmation of our country’s role in its environment and the world. We hope that this office will be officially inaugurated and will launch its activities in Beirut during this year, in coordination with the Organization.
Your Excellencies,
Lebanon has the destiny and the vocation to be a land of peace, dialogue and tolerance. Therefore, it has been imperative to preserve stability and coexistence therein This is why we hold on to Resolution 1701, to international resolutions and to the international legitimacy based on justice, we are keen on recovering our rights and land and preventing settlement in Lebanon, and we are attached to the principle of disassociating Lebanon from the problems of the region, keeping it away from its axes and flames without relinquishing its power and right of resistance, and devising a defense strategy that would promote this opportunity based on mutual understanding among all the Lebanese.
This year, Lebanon celebrates the first centenary of the proclamation of the State of Greater Lebanon. I am confident that this centennial commemoration will constitute a suitable opportunity, despite all the factors of concern and the lack of visibility, to rediscover the role and position of Lebanon, and even more: a favorable opportunity to renew the commitment of all the Lebanese to the challenge of building a country that is worthy of human dignity, and that lives up to its God-given blessing of being a Message, a message that is fulfilled through reflection, action and the will of the sons and daughters of this nation
Happy New Year
And Long Live Lebanon”.
*Presidency Press Office

Papal Ambassador meets Aoun: International community stresses need for respectful dialogue among political leaders
NNA/January 14/2020
The following is the speech of dean of the diplomatic corps, papal ambassador, Monsignor Joseph Spiteri, during his meeting with President of the Republic, Micheal Aoun, at Baabda Palace:
“Your Excellency the President of the Republic.
Allow me, at the outset, to express our sincere gratitude for kindly receiving us, Ambassadors and Representatives of International Organizations, on the occasion of the traditional exchange of greetings at the beginning of the New Year. It is an honor for me to represent my esteemed Colleagues as we address to You and to all the Lebanese People our sincere best wishes of peace and wellbeing for 2020. May this Jubilee Year be a year of renewal for Lebanon!
Your Excellency, I have had the opportunity, just like so many of the Ambassadors here present, to visit several humanitarian and charitable institutions in your beautiful country. Most of them are run by faith-based organizations and welcome everyone without any discrimination. All of them bear witness to the profound solidarity that animates Lebanese society; a solidarity that stems from the heart. We are all impressed by the generosity and the resilience of the Lebanese. Lebanon can truly be proud of its sons and daughters who strive to guarantee necessary care and assistance to children, young people, adults and the elderly, particularly those with special needs.
Most Lebanese, however, are also deeply disturbed by a certain dichotomy in their society due to the scourge of corruption, which Your Excellency has constantly denounced. Such a dichotomy, unfortunately, hinders the State from functioning in an effective manner at the service of all its citizens. Corruption impedes the Government from providing quality education, medical care and social security, water and electricity… It also limits the protection and guarantees ensured by an effective rule of law.
We were positively surprised, therefore, by the sincere call for an ethical renewal of the State made by young people during these last three months of protests throughout the whole of Lebanon. The young, joined by the older generations and animated by a fundamental spirit of solidarity, have rallied around the Lebanese flag demanding respect for their inalienable human rights. They are also requesting political, social and economic reforms. They are against corruption. They demand and deserve a better future!
Corruption annihilates solidarity. It poisons our hearts, our thoughts and our actions. It blinds us so that we no longer perceive others as equal in dignity. It induces us to consider them as disposable objects we can use and throw away. It impedes sincere dialogue and the genuine sharing of our talents.
Dialogue and sharing, in fact, are fundamental aspects of solidarity. That is why solidarity can be considered as an antidote to corruption. Dialogue is impossible if we do not consider each other as equals. This fundamental intuition lies at the heart of Your Excellency’s initiative of an Academy for encounter and dialogue, approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 16 September 2019. Please accept our sincere congratulations, Mr. President, as well as our best wishes for a rapid implementation of such a beneficial project at the service of human fraternity in Lebanon and around the world.
No human fraternity is possible without dialogue. The international community, here represented by the Heads of Mission of the Diplomatic Corps and of International Organizations, has been insisting on the need of a sincere and respectful dialogue between political leaders themselves, as well as with all those demanding real change. Dialogue cannot exclude anyone: those in favor, those against, and those who do not wish to take sides. Every citizen has the right to be heard. Any kind of violence, psychological or physical, destroys the possibility of dialogue, as does constantly blaming the other party. Sincere dialogue demands openness, good will and the desire to reach agreement by sacrificing certain positions or stances in favor of the common good. We reiterate today our fervent desire that, through dialogue and the good will of all the parties involved, a viable Cabinet be rapidly formed to implement the urgent and necessary reforms and regain the confidence of all the citizens and of all the friends of Lebanon.
Your Excellency, the celebrations for the First Centenary of Greater Lebanon seem to be overshadowed by the Lebanese “Revolution”, by the financial and economic crisis, and by the problems linked to the formation of a new government. It is not the first time that Lebanon passes through very difficult times. Every calamity seems to signal the end of an era, but it is never the end of history. Lebanese women and men will continue to write new chapters as free citizens of a free country. We are convinced that the Lebanese have the right attitude to discover new opportunities that arise from the present crisis. They are not afraid of the possible wounds that sincere human encounters might cause, because they also believe that solidarity can heal every wound. I would like to pay tribute, on this note, to the role of Lebanese women in society, in administration and especially in the present thawra, as they are not only demanding radical renewal, but are also bearing witness to effective solidarity. May their example inspire all those in authority, particularly in banking and in politics, to be always accountable and to take the right ethical decisions to serve Lebanon and its citizens, above all in this time of need.
Our sincere wishes are that this Centenary may become a privileged occasion to rediscover the fundamental intuition that inspired the foundation of the Lebanese Nation not so much as a gathering of minorities but as a community of free citizens whose inalienable dignity, equality and rights are enshrined in the Constitution.
It is not possible to conclude our address without mentioning the present situation in the Middle East. We are all culturally linked, in some way or another, to this region of the world, which continues to suffer from endless wars and faces renewed tensions. We desire stability and integral human development for all the peoples of this region. Today, we want to encourage all Lebanese to remain steadfast in their commitment to freedom, fundamental rights, democracy and solidarity so that they will continue to inspire hope in the possibility of harmonious coexistence and progress not only in the Land of the Cedars but also in neighboring countries.
Please accept, Your Excellency, the most sincere best wishes for the New Year, from all the Heads of State of the Nations we have the honor to represent before You. They renew their friendship with Lebanon and their heartfelt commitment to support your wonderful Country.
May the Almighty, in His wisdom and mercy, shower His blessings on You and on your family, as well as on all the Lebanese throughout all 2020, the centenary Year of hope.
God bless Lebanon! May God bless all of us present here.
Thank you.”– Presidency Press Office

Lebanon protesters declare ‘week of anger’ amid ruling-class indifference
The NewArab/January 14/2020
The thick smoke of burning tires blanketed parts of Lebanon once again, as a second wave of mass anti-corruption protests appears to have erupted across the beleaguered country, exactly 90 days after the 17 October uprising began.
From north to the south, via the capital Beirut, fed-up Lebanese have declared a “Week of Anger” on Tuesday against their post-war ruling class, which shows no sign of interest in solving the political, economic and financial crises they are accused of inflicting during their three-decade administration of the country, following the end of the civil war in 1990.
Renewed activist momentum
Hundreds of protesters are reportedly blocking main roads and staging pickets outside government departments, banks, and money changers in Tripoli, Beirut, and Saida.Activists on uprising-aligned social media pages are calling it a second wave and celebrating the renewed momentum of their protests, promising a “Week of Anger” against politicians that would include civil disobedience, targeted sit-ins, as well as street protests and road closures. Local reports suggest the protesters are giving the ruling class 48-hours to form a new government, as the country plunges further into a confluence of a crises – sovereign debt, liquidity and economic – all compounded by deep political paralysis. While protests in Lebanon have not stopped over the past several weeks, they had appeared to die down over the holidays, with numbers dropping sharply from the tens of thousands at the peak of the uprising, in October and November. The initial wave of protests succeeded in toppling the government of Saad Al-Hariri, throwing the country into yet another political vacuum all too familiar to Lebanon. Hariri quickly took leave, “on holiday” to France, refusing to discharge his constitutional duties as caretaker prime minister. He is set to return to Beirut on Tuesday.
Ruling class remobillises
Since Hariri’s departure, however, the protest movement has failed to force the other levers of power, led by Hezbollah-allied President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri, to either step down or facilitate the formation of a specialist transitional government that would oversee urgent reforms and early elections, all key demands of the protest movement.  Devoid of any semblance of electoral legitimacy or sectarian cover from Lebanon’s Sunni constituencies – a must under the country’s continuing sectarian power sharing system – Diab has since failed to form a government. Critics say the failure of the protest movement to produce a coherent leadership has allowed the ruling class to regroup and ignore the popular mood, returning to its old squabbles over the division of lucrative government posts, and allowing geopolitical events such as the US-Iran tensions to shape the country’s domestic politics.
In the absence of an adequate response from the authorities, the financial crisis that had triggered the uprising only worsened over the subsequent weeks, accelerating a liquidity crisis in the US dollar – to which the country’s currency is pegged and on which it relies for imports of basic foods, medicines, and fuel.
Enough is enough
The Lebanese pound has lost nearly two thirds of its value against the dollar in the black market, despite still being officially pegged at 1,500 to the dollar, since 1997.  Huge queues outside banks are reported daily, as most lenders restricted access to dollar banknotes and imposed informal capital controls to contain the slow-motion bank run. Dozens of small to medium businesses have meanwhile cut salaries, laid off employees, or shut down altogether, amid reports of shortages of certain basic goods and large hikes in the prices of others. The preoccupation with the fallout from this livelihood crisis brought about a lull in the protests, but now it seems the ruling class were mistaken in thinking the uprising against them was over. On Monday night, a group of left-wing protesters briefly stormed the headquarters of the Central Bank (BDL), before being pushed back by security forces. BLS offices across Lebanon have been targeted repeatedly by the protesters since 17 October. The central bank governor Riad Salameh stands accused of overseeing decades of corruption through a Ponzi-like scheme of financial engineering, which activists and experts say have enabled politically-linked private bankers to accrue billions in profits from Lebanon’s sovereign debt and currency peg while gambling with ordinary people’s deposits and the country’s foreign reserves. Over the past several days, Salameh and other senior banking officials made media appearances promising bank deposits were safe, but said foreign help was now needed to rescue the country, hinting at debt restructuring, once a taboo proposition. These assurances were met with instant disbelief by activists, who seem to have lost all faith in the entire ruling class of politicians and bureaucrats for mismanaging the country’s affairs, and demand they are replaced entirely by new, competent specialists untarnished by corruption or sectarianism.  “All of them means all of them,” remains the leading slogan of the Lebanese protest movement, in reference to this class.

Lebanese protesters block roads against government inaction
Associated Press/ January 14/ 2020
The protesters returned to the streets after several weeks of relative calm, following the designation of Hassan Diab as prime minister in mid-December.
BEIRUT: Lebanese protesters blocked several roads around the capital of Beirut and in other areas of the country on Tuesday in renewed rallies against the ruling elite they say has failed to address the economy’s downward spiral. Protesters burned tires and blocked three main highways leading to the capital from the south, east and north, bringing traffic to a standstill. School and university students took part in some of the protests and hundreds marched down main highways, raising Lebanese flags and blasting rallying songs through loudspeakers. In downtown Beirut, dozens rallied outside the Central Bank, chanting against the governor and his financial policies. Security forces separated the protesters from the bank’s entrance. In the northern city of Tripoli and in Akkar province, protesters sat in the streets and blocked several roads with burning tires or bricks. In the southern city of Sidon, dozens of protesters marched down the streets, rallying outside banks and government offices.
Lebanon is facing its worst economic crisis in decades, with the local currency plummeting before the dollar, losing over 60% of its value over the last weeks while sources of foreign currency have dried up. Meanwhile, banks have imposed informal capital controls limiting withdrawal of dollars and foreign transfers in the country, which relies heavily on imports of basic goods. Panic has set in among residents who fear their deposits are in danger. Nationwide protests for three months have failed to pressure politicians to form a new government to institute drastic reforms. The protesters returned to the streets after several weeks of relative calm, following the designation of Hassan Diab as prime minister in mid-December. But he has so far failed to form an emergency government amid political divisions and jockeying for power. Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned in late October. “I would like to know why they (politicians) are still keeping their seats, ” Elie Zghaib, a protester said. Lately, protesters had focused their ire on banks, rallying at the premises or outside banks and demanding access to their deposits. Dozens have also taunted politicians who showed up in shopping malls or restaurants, sometimes chasing them out of public places and decrying their failure to address the economic crisis. Nationwide protests began in mid-October in Lebanon, denouncing years of government mismanagement and corruption, demanding the political elite to step down.

Lebanese anti-government protesters block roads again
Al Arabiya/Tuesday, 14 January 2020
Lebanese protesters blocked several roads around the capital of Beirut and in other areas of the country on Tuesday in renewed rallies against the ruling elite they say has failed to address the economy’s downward spiral. Protesters burned tires and blocked three main highways leading to the capital from the south, east and north, bringing traffic to a standstill. School and university students took part in some of the protests and hundreds marched down main highways, raising Lebanese flags and blasting rallying songs through loudspeakers. In downtown Beirut, dozens rallied outside the Central Bank, chanting against the governor and his financial policies. Security forces separated the protesters from the bank’s entrance. In the northern city of Tripoli and in Akkar province, protesters sat in the streets and blocked several roads with burning tires or bricks. In the southern city of Sidon, dozens of protesters marched down the streets, rallying outside banks and government offices. Lebanon is facing its worst economic crisis in decades, with the local currency plummeting before the dollar, losing over 60 percent of its value over the last weeks while sources of foreign currency have dried up.
Meanwhile, banks have imposed informal capital controls limiting withdrawal of dollars and foreign transfers in the country, which relies heavily on imports of basic goods. Panic has set in among residents who fear their deposits are in danger. Nationwide protests for three months have failed to pressure politicians to form a new government to institute drastic reforms. The protesters returned to the streets after several weeks of relative calm, following the designation of Hassan Diab as prime minister in mid-December. But he has so far failed to form an emergency government amid political divisions and jockeying for power. Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned in late October. “I would like to know why they (politicians) are still keeping their seats,” Elie Zghaib, a protester said. Lately, protesters had focused their ire on banks, rallying at the premises or outside banks and demanding access to their deposits. Dozens have also taunted politicians who showed up in shopping malls or restaurants, sometimes chasing them out of public places and decrying their failure to address the economic crisis. Nationwide protests began in mid-October in Lebanon, denouncing years of government mismanagement and corruption, demanding the political elite to step down.

Lebanese protesters block road outside central bank
The Associated Press/Tuesday, 14 January 2020
Lebanese protesters used sandbags and bricks Monday to block a main street outside the country’s central bank, protesting financial policies they say deepened a liquidity crunch. Lebanon is facing its worst economic crisis in decades, with the local currency losing over 60 percent of its value to the dollar over the last weeks while sources of foreign currency have dried up. Meanwhile, banks imposed informal capital controls limiting withdrawal of dollars and foreign transfers in the country that relies heavily on imports of basic goods. Panic has set in among residents who fear their deposits are in danger. Nationwide protests for three months have failed to pressure politicians to form a new government to institute drastic reforms. The incumbent prime minister Saad Hariri resigned in late October. The president after consulting parliamentary blocs designated a new prime minister in December, who has yet to form a new Cabinet amid deep political divisions. After weeks of calm, protesters threatened to launch a week of protests, culminating in civil disobedience, demanding the immediate formation of a government to deal with the severe financial crisis. Late Monday, dozens of protesters blocked a main thoroughfare in central Beirut. The brief closure ended with limited scuffles with the police. Protesters then moved to outside Banque Du Liban, installing sandbags and bricks to block the street. “Down with the bank rule,” chanted the protesters. In a video posted by the protesters, they said the roadblock is to respond to the banks blocking depositors accessing their accounts. The National News Agency reported protesters also blocked a main road in the southern city of Sidon. Nationwide protests began in mid-October denouncing years of government mismanagement and corruption, demanding the political elite to step down.

UN says Lebanon made payment to restore UN voting rights

The Associated Press, United Nations/Tuesday, 14 January 2020
The United Nations said Monday that Lebanon has paid its UN dues, restoring its voting rights in the General Assembly. The UN had announced on Friday that seven countries – including Venezuela and Lebanon – were so far behind in paying their dues that they were losing their voting privileges in the 193-member world body. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the UN controller reported on Monday that Lebanon has just made a payment and “Lebanon’s voting rights have been fully restored.”Lebanon is grappling with its worst economic and financial crisis in decades and has seen increased electricity cuts. Protesters took to the streets in October over proposed new taxes but are now calling for an end to the rule of the political elite that has run the country since the 1975-90 civil war ended. Dujarric said: “We fully recognize that the recent events in Lebanon have challenged the banking system, delaying part of this money.” Lebanon’s payment leaves Venezuela, Central African Republic, Gambia, Lesotho, Tonga and Yemen without voting rights. Three other countries – Comoros, Sao Tome and Principe and Somalia – are also in arrears but the General Assembly decided in October that they can retain their vote until September.

Banking Control Committee Requests Info on Banks Transfers Abroad
Naharnet/January 14/2020
The Banking Control Committee on Tuesday requested that local banks provide them with information on the volume of transfers to “Swiss banks,” amid suspicious large transfers of money abroad. The Committee said banks should provide them with said information –including the transfers to branches and other units of Lebanese banks in Switzerland– of customer and partner deposits that originated from credit contracts starting 10/17/2019 until the current date. In December, the central bank governor Riad Salameh said he would investigate reports of large transfers of money abroad, which if confirmed, would mark a violation of banking restrictions curtailing such transactions. Salameh said that there has been a lot of talk about “politicians, senior civil servants and bank owners” involved in capital flight, adding however that a probe is necessary to identify those responsible.

 Association of Banks confirms hasn’t issued statement today
NNA/January 14/2020
The Association of Banks in Lebanon on Tuesday announced that it had not issued any press statement today.
It explained further that all the data or news that has been circulated through the social media about the formation of a government or requests of the judiciary to intervene, as well as the allusion to the closure of banks were “completely unfounded.”

Protesters Launch ‘Week of Wrath’, Block Roads across Lebanon
Agence France Presse/Associated Press/Naharnet/January 14/2020
Lebanese protesters resumed blocking major highways on Tuesday in what they said would be a “week of wrath” demanding an end to a nearly three-month political vacuum. Samer al-Khoury, a 29-year-old protester, said the protesters were giving the politicians 48 hours to form a new government. “We need solutions,” he said. “The street is angry because some people are more poor than others; some people are dying in hospitals; some people don’t have food on their table.” Rabih al-Zein, an activist protesting in Jal el-Dib, north of Beirut, said the rallies are a reminder to the rulers that the reasons for their protests are still here. “Today we add the students to the revolution — those who will handle the country when the current rulers will go to the dustbin of history,” he said. Although protests had declined in size in recent weeks, demonstrations have been ongoing since October, increasingly targeting banks and state institutions blamed for driving the country towards collapse. The movement has been fueled by a crippling economic crisis, the worst since Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war. The unprecedented cross-sectarian protests led to the government stepping down in late October, but no new one has yet been formed as political parties argue over its composition. As a liquidity crisis grows and the cost of living rises, protesters have returned to the streets to urge politicians to speed up the process. On Tuesday morning, dozens of protesters blocked key highways in Beirut with overturned rubbish bins and burning tires, an AFP correspondent reported. Laila Youssef, 47, said she was taking part to call on politicians to wake up. “We’ve gone back to closing down roads because we can’t stand it anymore,” the mother of three told AFP. “What we earn today is not enough to buy the basics for home,” she said. Many Lebanese have lost their jobs or seen their salaries reduced by half in recent months. Even as banks cap withdrawals, the value of the Lebanese pound to the U.S. dollar has fallen by almost 40 percent on the parallel exchange market. There were demonstrations on Tuesday in the provinces too, including second city Tripoli and the southeastern town of Hasbayya, Lebanese television channels showed. A protester in Tripoli said the situation had become “unbearable.””Prices are exorbitant, yet still they’re taking their sweet time” to form a new government, he told LBCI television. In December, a new premier was tasked with forming a government but the country’s rival political parties have failed to agree on names put forward for the various ministries. The protesters are demanding a new government made up solely of independent technocrats, but analysts warn this may be a tall order in a country ruled by a sectarian power-sharing system since the end of the civil war.

Lebanese in Angry Protests as Crisis Worsens
Agence France Presse/Associated Press/Naharnet/January 14/2020
Hundreds of angry Lebanese protested across the country on Tuesday in renewed rallies against the ruling elite they say has failed to address the economy’s downward spiral. Protesters blocked several roads and major highways starting ealry with the morning rush hour in the capital Beirut, the northern city of Tripoli, the southern city of Nabatieh and Mount Lebanon, they also denounced a class of political leaders they deem incompetent and corrupt. School and university students took part in some of the protests and hundreds marched down main highways, raising Lebanese flags and blasting rallying songs through loudspeakers. In downtown Beirut, dozens rallied outside the Central Bank, chanting against the governor and his financial policies. Security forces separated the protesters from the bank’s entrance. Although protests have declined in size, demonstrations have been ongoing since October 17, increasingly targeting banks and state institutions blamed for driving the country towards collapse. The movement has been fuelled by a crippling economic crisis, the worst since Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war. The World Bank has warned of an impeding recession that may see the proportion of people living in poverty climb from a third to half the population. To make matters worse, a liquidity crunch has pushed Lebanese banks to limit dollar withdrawals and transfers since September. This has forced depositors to deal in the plummeting Lebanese pound, which has lost nearly two thirds of its black market value against the greenback for the first time since it was pegged at 1,500 to the dollar in 1997. Lebanon has been without a government since former Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29, bowing to popular pressure. His successor, Hassan Diab, was designated on December 19 but is yet to form a government in a delay donors say debt-saddled Lebanon can ill afford. In a statement on Friday, he said he still stands by his pledge to form a government of independent experts to rescue the country from the brink of collapse, a key demand of protesters. But he said his efforts were being challenged.”The pressures, no matter how large, will not change my conviction,” he said on Twitter. “I will not bow to intimidation.”The delay in forming a government has drawn the ire of demonstrators. “We are tired of this skirting of responsibility,” said Rolan Younan, a demonstrator. “We need to reshape the political class.”

Report: Activists Angry with Little TV Coverage of Protests
Naharnet/January 14/2020
Lebanese activists express resentment at what they say is “fading media coverage” of their movements in the past few weeks, after the outbreak of mass protests on October 17 where TV live coverage largely helped its success and continuity, Asharq al-Awsat daily reported on Tuesday.
The daily said some link it to a decline in the momentum of protests as a result of weather conditions and holidays. Others see that the political elite has come to reimpose their presence on TV networks by “pumping” the funds needed to the financially-stricken stations.
“With the beginning of the year 2020, TV stations returned to host the same faces that ruled the country and led it to bankruptcy in an attempt to clear their image,” said activist Lucien Abou Rjeily to the daily. “That brings to mind what happened during the parliamentary elections when politicians monopolized the screens with their money to make false promises.”On his part, editor-in-chief of MTV news program, Walid Abboud assured that “the station is still keeping pace with events whose momentum has receded for various reasons, including weather and holidays. We are not in a position to fabricate an event, but rather cover incidents when they happen.”He said live coverage during the first two months of the uprising has largely contributed in encouraging people to join the protests. “During the first two months, live broadcast was open for 18 hours per day,” he said, noting that protests will resume their momentum and TV coverage will return despite salary deductions due to the great economic and financial crisis inflicting Lebanon’s institutions. During the past three months, the majority of local media outlets, mainly visual, laid off employees and introduced salary cuts due to a massive decline in the advertising market. “Media coverage of the popular movements retreated due to the decline in momentum and the media’s pursuit of material resources in the absence of advertisements,” activist Walid al-Alami told Asharq al-Awsat. “When the revolution was the focal attention, TV stations were forced to cover it to attract viewers. It is more likely that coverage will return with the return of momentum,” he added.

Protesters Injured in Sidon as Scuffles Erupt on Ring Highway
Naharnet/January 14/2020
Scuffles erupted Monday evening on the Ring highway in central Beirut after security forces tried to reopen the road, which was blocked by anti-government protesters.Several people were meanwhile injured in scuffles between the army and protesters at Sidon’s Elia square.
MTV said protesters blocked most internal roads in the city after the scuffles. Several arrests were also made during the confrontation. Many roads were meanwhile blocked in the northern city of Tripoli. Although protests have declined in size, demonstrations have been ongoing since October 17, increasingly targeting banks and state institutions blamed for driving the country towards collapse. The movement has been fueled by a crippling economic crisis, the worst since Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war.

Aoun Urges Competent and Trustworthy Ministers in New Govt.

Naharnet/January 14/2020
President Michel Aoun on Tuesday said that the formation of the new government requires choosing “competent individuals who deserve the confidence of people and parliament.”“The government should have been formed last week, but some obstacles have prevented that,” Aoun said. “We will continue to exert all possible efforts to reach the promised government, putting the higher national interest above all else,” the president vowed. He also said that he is still “counting on the good Lebanese on the streets and in homes in the fight against corruption.”

Hariri Returns to Lebanon, Chairs Meeting of al-Mustaqbal Bloc
Naharnet/January 14/2020
Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri presided over a meeting for al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc on Tuesday afternoon, shortly after he returned to Lebanon from a vacation abroad that involved offering condolences in Oman over Sultan Qaboos’ death. A statement issued by Hariri’s office said the meeting was tackling “the latest developments and the general situations.”Hariri had visited Muscat earlier in the day where he was received by the new Sultan at al-Alam Palace. Sultan Qaboos, 79, passed away on Friday and the new royal ruler Haitham bin Tariq was selected and sworn in.

Hariri: The solution is to form a government, not to revive one that resigned at the request of the street
NNA/January 14/2020
Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri said that the solution is to form a new government and not to revive a government that resigned at the request of the street. He added that he is assuming his duties as head of the caretaker government in full accordance with the constitution, but if what is required is more then there is no problem.
In a chat with reporters after heading the meeting of the Future parliamentary bloc this afternoon at the Center House, he said: “Since I submitted my resignation, I have been assuming my responsibilities as caretaker Prime Minister. I am surprised by the talk about the caretaker government because I do not see anything stalled at this level. If what is required is more, then no problem, but enough stalling, the solution is the formation of a new government. There is a Prime Minister-designate, Hassan Diab, who has the task of forming a government with those who designated him, so let him form the government with the President. If I failed somewhere in doing my job as caretaker Prime Minister, please tell me where”.
Question: But Speaker Berri is calling for a government meeting
Hariri: The caretaker government has some powers and we are using these powers. Imagine that I talk to the World Bank and agree on something, can I implement this agreement with a caretaker government? No, I cannot. A government that has the confidence of Parliament and works normally can. The solution today is to form a government. Is it required to strike the constitution? We have to solve things as they should be solved. The constitution is very clear, the prime minister resigns, then binding consultations take place, a prime minister is designated and he forms a government in agreement with the president. I am totally fulfilling my duty.
Question: Will you participate in a parliamentary session to discuss the budget or to legislate?
Hariri: I will meet with Speaker Nabih Berri and we will agree on that.
Question: Will you meet with him today?
Hariri: I do not know if I will meet him today.
Question: Are you in favor of reviving the caretaker government?
Hariri: I am with the formation of a new government, not with reviving a government that resigned at the request of the street.
Question: Can the current government take any decision on the economic level?
Hariri: We all know that anything we want to do in the economic file requires us to cooperate with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other international institutions. Can a caretaker government cooperate with these institutions, or should there be a regular government that has parliamentary confidence? Otherwise, let us cancel the constitution.
Question: What do you respond to those who accuse you of obstruction?
Hariri: There are those who say that I am building a long wide Sunni dam. Those who obstruct accuse me of obstructing the formation of the government.
Question: Is there a light at the end of the black tunnel where the Lebanese live today?
Hariri: There is a country called Lebanon whose people suffered a lot. We can get out of this tunnel, on the condition that we put our differences aside and give ministerial portfolios to whoever actually knows how to manage them. Is there a country in the world other than Lebanon that appoints non-specialists in ministries?
Question: Do you consider Speaker Berri’s stances towards you a prelude to bringing you back to the premiership?
Hariri: When I see Speaker Berri I will talk to him.

Future bloc: Why can’t the parliamentary blocs that unanimously designated Diab reach a ministerial lineup?
NNA/January 14/2020
Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri chaired today at the Center House a meeting of the Future parliamentary bloc that focused on the latest developments.
At the end of the meeting, the bloc issued the following statement read by MP Rola Tabsh:
First – The bloc considers that the return to disputes over the powers and required criteria to form the government constitutes the highest denial of the economic and financial risks facing the country, and an insistence on applying policies of escaping the changes imposed by the popular movements in all regions.
The bloc considers that the priority should be on securing the formation of the government as soon as possible and not wasting time on ministerial shares with the consequent failures, the price of which is paid by the Lebanese citizen from his socio-economic stability.
The bloc is surprised that the parliamentary blocs that unanimously named Dr. Hassan Diab to form the government are not capable of reaching a ministerial formation that ends the series of postponements.
Hence, the bloc believes that the confusion around the birth of the government places full responsibility on the president and the Prime Minister-designate, who are constitutionally concerned with agreeing on the line-up and issuing the decrees. It is a responsibility that must be freed from the pressures of politics and parties, and in return notice the socio-economic and monetary pressures that are worsening, as well as the regional developments that put Lebanon in front of the region’s flames and conflicts.
The urgent need is to form the government, and it is wrong to forever push the country and its crises towards a caretaker government, knowing that Prime Minister Saad Hariri did not and will not fail to assume his constitutional and national responsibilities in this regard. He bet on the birth of the government before the New Year according to all presidential and leadership stances who agreed unanimously on this matter.
The Future parliamentary bloc hopes the country will get out of the obstruction tunnel, and calls to stop the suspicious hands that carry the task of designating ministers, and to form, according to the norms, a government that carries its constitutional duties before Parliament, and discusses pressing issues and draft laws.
Second – The bloc expresses its satisfaction with the end of the military escalating tone in the region, and underscored that political dialogue is the only way to prevent the region from entering a new wave of disasters and wars.
The bloc reaffirms the importance of the Lebanon’s commitment to the disassociation policy and stopping the policies of involvement in external conflicts and in the internal affairs of the Arab countries. It emphasizes the necessity of the commitment of the Lebanese state and the relevant ministries before all others to these obligations, and to adopting the required balance in approaching developments, so as not to condemn the attack on Iraq and abstain from condemning other attacks.
It would have been more useful in this regard if the Lebanese positions had approached the regional risks the way the Iraqi leadership approached its crises, where the President of the Republic, of the government and of the parliament, and the spiritual reference Ayatollah Sistani, all refused that Iraq becomes an arena for the American-Iranian conflict, and called to make the language of reason prevail, as well as the adherence to international pacts, and the respect of the Iraqi state and its government’s decisions and assisting it to overcome this serious crisis threatening it, the region and the world with a devastating war.
Third – The bloc expresses its condolences to the brotherly Omani people and His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said for the passing of Sultan Qaboos bin Said, and hopes that the Sultanate of Oman would continue the path of development, progress and stability established by the late Sultan Qaboos who will be remembered by the Lebanese for his support for Lebanon and his contribution to the reconstruction.

Bassil after bloc meeting: We inquired Salameh about questionable transfers, urged him to disclose numbers
NNA/January 14/2020
Change and Reform bloc Head, caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, announced after the bloc meeting held this Tuesday that he had sent a letter to Central Bank Governor, Riad Salameh, on the money transfers and their discretionary nature, and “demanded that he discloses the numbers,” expressing “willingness to cooperate.”He talked about a “discretion in dealing with citizens,” deeming it unacceptable to prohibit people from making simple banking transactions while some “transfer hundreds of millions abroad.”
Bassil said: “We were among those who demanded the inception of a rescue economic and financial plan. We have previously presented relevant plans, and today we also submitted a proposal to the concerned parties.”
On the political reality, he said “we were meant to assert that we have never had a special [portfolio] request, except that of forming a government of salvation. And in light of the developments that took place today, we are further motivated to assume our responsibility, now more than ever.”
“By virtue of our parliamentary responsibilities: we either grant confidence or withhold it, and the criterion is the ability to rescue [the country]. Neither did we previously choose [a candidate], nor will we name one today,” he asserted.
Bassil stressed that “demanding the assumption of caretaking roles does not entail reviving the resigned government, nor should it delay the formation of the new government. What is required is a government that earns the confidence of the people, and we do not have the luxury of delay. Look where the people are today; every day of delay is deadly to us.”
“The country cannot be reformed with the same economic and financial policy adopted over the past thirty years, and this is the priority. Words about quotas and ‘blocking third’ are groundless,” the minister stressed.

Bassil Pays Berri ‘Unexpected’ Visit
Naharnet/January 14/2020
Caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil on Tuesday paid Speaker Nabih Berri a “surprise” visit in Ain el-Tineh. The head of the Free Patriotic Movement’s visit comes ahead of an expected meeting of his Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc in the afternoon.
According to reports, Bassil will discuss the formation of the government and the possibility of his not participating in the new government.

Bassil Denies Seeking Ministerial Seats or One-Third Veto Power
Naharnet/January 14/2020
Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil on Tuesday called for the formation of a new government that would gain “the confidence of people, parliament and the international community,” stressing that the FPM is not seeking ministerial seats or a one-third veto power in Cabinet. “We were supposed to declare an advanced stance today but today’s developments have pushed us to further shoulder our responsibility,” Bassil said after the weekly meeting of the Strong Lebanon bloc, referring to the renewal of massive street protests across the country. “We do not have the luxury of time and the PM-designate must perform his duties,” Bassil urged. “There are rumors about the new government and we have not changed our stance,” Bassil added. “From the very beginning, we have said that we do not have partisan requests regarding the new government,” he said. He also lamented that caretaker PM Saad Hariri and some caretaker ministers are “not performing their duties.”Bassil had met earlier in the day with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.Al-Manar TV said the meeting “has launched a new positive course in the government formation process.”