A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For January 21/2020 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 96th Day

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A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For January 20-21/2020 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 96th Day
Compiled By: Elias Bejjani
January 21/2020

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on January 20-21/2020
Colombia and Honduras designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization

Honduras becomes latest to officially declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization
U.N. Condemns ‘Vandalism’ and Use of Force against Lebanon Protesters
Online Solidarity with Lebanese Protesters who Lost Their Eyes
Baabda Security Meeting Vows Crackdown on ‘Sabotage Groups’
Lebanon officials vow to deter ‘infiltrator’ attacks
Lebanese security chiefs move to stop vandalism after riots
No Turning Back’ Protests Rage in Lebanon
Rahi welcomes Canadian Ambassador
Kanaan visits Berri: Budget necessary to prevent ‘chaotic expenditures’
Consumers’ Association says reducing prices not impossible
Raad: Whether you participate or not in the government, you are concerned and we will not let you be!
Hajj Hassan after Communications Parliamentary Committee meeting: Cellular companies’ contracts expired on Dec 31, 2019
Lebanon’s protests turn into riots during weekend of violence
Lebanon’s protests turn into riots during weekend of violence/Lauren Lewis, Al Arabiya English/Monday, 20 January 2020
Worried by Violence, Paris Urges New Government in Lebanon
Hariri: Lebanon Sliding towards ‘Unknown’ While Sides Bicker over Govt.
Diab Meets Franjieh, Khalil, al-Khalil, May Accept 20-Seat Govt.
New gov’t needed urgently to avoid collapse: Lebanon’s Hariri
Lebanon FM Gebran Bassil’s invite to Davos sparks protests, online campaign
Jumblat Meets Hariri, Tells Protesters Violence Not Useful
Qassem Says Hizbullah against Rioting, Urges Parties to Sacrifice Shares
U.S. Journalist Held for ‘Broadcasting Beirut Demo to Haaretz’
State Security: U.S. citizen arrested after live-streaming Beirut events for enemy daily
Report: Investigations into ‘Suspicious’ Money Transfers Not Over Yet
Security forces say Lebanon’s rioters ‘organized’ as Hariri warns over ‘cycle of collapse’/Najia Houssari/Arab News/January 20/2020
Lebanon needs international help to fight corruption/Nathalie Goulet/Arab News/January 20/2020

Details Of The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorial published on January 20-21/2020
Colombia and Honduras designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization
كولومبيا وهندوراس يعلنان وضع حزب الله على قوائم الإرهاب
Jerusalem Post/January 20/2020
Netanayahu: They took important step joining Israel and US in fighting terror.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Honduras and Colombia for officially designating Lebanese Shia organization Hezbollah as a terrorist group on Monday. Netanyahu said these countries took an “important step” to “join Israel and the US in our fight against global terror. I call on more countries to join this move.”Honduras and Colombia join Argentina and Paraguay who already view Hezbollah as terrorists. Colombia accepted the full US and EU lists of terrorist organizations, which also includes the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The decisions were announced at a meeting on counterterrorism in Bogota between US Secretary of Mike Pompeo and ministers from several Latin American countries. Pompeo and Netanyahu campaigned in recent months to have more countries in the region sanction Hezbollah. Colombian President Iván Duque tweeted that he has information about Hezbollah activities in Venezuela, and the adoption of the EU and US terrorist lists “will allow timely detection” of terrorist activity. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández announced on Twitter earlier in the day that his country would declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization. “On December 8th, 2019, I addressed the Israeli American Council,” he wrote, “describing the security threat posed by the terrorist group Hezbollah and its activities of transnational organized crime… The terror attack against AMIA in Buenos Aires, and the killing of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman.”
Hezbollah has a long history in Latin America, killing 85 in an attack on the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires. In 2015, Alberto Nisman, a Jewish Argentinian prosecutor, was assassinated shortly before he was to testify about Iranian activities in Argentina. Foreign Minister Israel Katz also praised the Latin American governments for their decision. “This is an important step in the international war on terror, following countries like the UK, Argentina, Paraguay and other countries in the region and the world,” he said. Israel will continue to discuss the matter with Germany, Australia and Brazil, with an expectation that they will follow suit and join the effort against the Iranian proxy organization, Katz said.
“There is no time like now to send the necessary message,” he said. Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon tweeted his thanks to Hernández, saying: “An important step in the fight against Iranian terrorism and proxies in the Middle East and throughout the world. Thank you.”When tweeting his announcement in English, Hernández retweeted Pompeo, who wrote: “On this five-year anniversary of prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s death, we remember the 1994 AMIA Jewish center attack in Buenos Aires and his tireless efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice. We call on all nations to designate #Hezbollah as the terrorist organization it is.”

Honduras becomes latest to officially declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization
Reuters/Monday, 20 January 2020
The Honduran government has formally declared Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah a terrorist organization, the country’s deputy security minister said on Monday. Honduras follows Guatemala which said it was set to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist group as well last week.
Hezbollah, a heavily armed group designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, was established in 1982 by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and is an important part of a regional Tehran-led alliance known as “the axis of resistance.”

U.N. Condemns ‘Vandalism’ and Use of Force against Lebanon Protesters
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 20/2020
The United Nations on Monday condemned the use of force against Lebanese protesters at the hands of riot police. “Violence from protesters and vandalism are of course unacceptable,” said U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
But the vast majority of protesters are peaceful “and they need to be protected,” he added. Lebanon has been rocked by mostly peaceful anti-government rallies since October 17 but the protests turned violent over the weekend amid political stalemate and an ever deepening economic crisis. On Saturday and Sunday night demonstrators, who had called for a “week of rage”, lobbed stones, firecrackers and street signs at riot police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets to clear a road leading to parliament. The escalation saw more than 540 people wounded on the two sides and came as wrangling delayed the formation of a new government to replace that of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who quit last year in the face of street protests.

Online Solidarity with Lebanese Protesters who Lost Their Eyes
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 20/2020
Lebanese activists on Monday launched a social media campaign to express outrage and solidarity with anti-government protesters who lost eyes after being hit by rubber bullets fired by riot police. The activists posted pictures of themselves covering one eye under the Arabic hashtag “Our Revolution Is Your Eyes”. Two protesters reportedly lost an eye each after being hit by rubber bullets in Sunday evening’s demo in central Beirut. In another show of defiance, demonstrators who said they took part in the weekend protests used the Arabic hashtag “The Infiltrator Is Me” and disclosed their full personal details in response to accusations by authorities that “infiltrators” are taking part in the demos. More than 540 people, including protesters and security forces, were wounded in the weekend violence in central Beirut, according to a toll compiled by AFP from figures provided by the Red Cross and Civil Defense. Lawyers and rights groups have condemned “excessive” and “brutal” use of force by security forces, who they said hit protesters on the head, face and genitals. Human Rights Watch accused riot police of “launching tear gas canisters at protesters’ heads, firing rubber bullets in their eyes and attacking people at hospitals and a mosque.”The violence also drew condemnation from the United Nations, which called the crackdown “unacceptable.” A 22-year-old protester, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said he was severely beaten by security forces until he was bleeding in the head. “Four of them were beating me with batons,” said the man, who has been in the hospital since Saturday. “Then they dragged me on the ground before they started kicking me,” he told AFP. “One of them slammed the base of a tear gas launcher against my mouth, another jabbed my face.”Protesters had called for a week of “anger” over the political leadership’s failure to form a new government even as the debt-ridden country sinks deeper into a financial crisis. Lebanon has been without a government since prime minister Hariri resigned on October 29 in the face of popular pressure. Political factions agreed on December 19 to appoint former education minister Hassan Diab as the new premier but have since squabbled over ministerial posts and portfolios. “The ruling elite is going back to its traditional bickering over their shares in government” said Bashar al-Halabi a researcher at the American University of Beirut. “This has laid the foundation for a more violent approach by initially peaceful protestors.” Protesters have demanded a new government be comprised solely of independent experts, excluding all established political parties — a demand analysts say is a tall order. The political impasse is worsening an already-dire economic crisis that the World Bank says may see the number of people living in poverty climb from a third to half the population.

Baabda Security Meeting Vows Crackdown on ‘Sabotage Groups’
Agence France Presse/Associated Press/Naharnet/January 20/2020
Lebanon’s top security officials said on Monday that they planned to crackdown on vandalism after a week of rioting in Beirut that left hundreds of people injured and damaged public and private property — violence that comes against the backdrop of a deepening political deadlock. The announcement followed a presidential palace meeting that included President Michel Aoun, the caretaker interior and defense ministers and the chiefs of security agencies. The officials called for more coordination among the Lebanese security agencies to better deal with the unrest.Lebanon has been roiled by three months of largely peaceful anti-government protests that over the past week turned into acts of vandalism in different parts of Beirut. On Saturday and Sunday night demonstrators, who had called for a “week of rage”, lobbed stones, firecrackers and street signs at riot police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets to clear a road leading to parliament. Officials who took part in the security meeting said they would take measures to protect peaceful protesters and prevent attacks on public or private property, the statement said. It added that they would also move to “deter groups that are carrying acts of sabotage,” without elaborating further. Saturday witnessed the worst rioting since the protests began, with nearly 400 people injured, including around 120 who were treated in hospital. On Sunday, more than a 100 people were injured in downtown Beirut. The protesters have also attacked public and private property in Beirut, targeting mostly banks that have imposed informal capital controls, limiting the withdrawal of dollars and foreign transfers. In a show of defiance, demonstrators who said they took part in the weekend protests responded online using the Arabic hashtag “The Infiltrator Is Me”, disclosing their full personal details. They also accused security forces of firing rubber bullets at the eyes of protesters in other Twitter posts, as rights groups and the U.N. criticized police over the crackdown.

Lebanon officials vow to deter ‘infiltrator’ attacks
Al Jazeera/January 21/2020
Protesters lobbed stones, firecrackers and street signs at riot police in weekend clashes that injured over 540 people. Officials in protest-hit Lebanon on Monday promised to take measures to deter attacks on security forces by alleged “infiltrators” during the violence over the weekend that injured hundreds of people. Lebanon has been rocked by mostly peaceful anti-government rallies since October 17, but the protests turned violent on Saturday and Sunday amid political deadlock and an ever-deepening economic crisis. Over the weekend, demonstrators, who had called for a “week of rage”, lobbed stones, firecrackers and street signs at riot police, who fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets to clear a road leading to Parliament. The escalation saw more than 540 people wounded on the two sides and came as wrangling delayed the formation of a new government to replace that of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who quit last year in the face of street protests. On Monday afternoon, President Michel Aoun presided over crisis talks on the violence between the caretaker interior and defence ministers, as well as the chiefs of the military and security agencies. Participants accused “infiltrators” of attacking security forces and vandalising property, and discussed security measures to “deter” further offences and protect peaceful protesters, government sources said after the meeting, without disclosing what measures would be taken. Aoun met security chiefs to work out a plan for deterring violent groups that “security services have detailed information on” while protecting property and peaceful protesters, the sources said.
‘Brutal force’
In a show of defiance, demonstrators who said they took part in the weekend protests responded online using the Arabic hashtag “The Infiltrator Is Me,” disclosing their full personal details. They also accused security forces of firing rubber bullets at the eyes of protesters in other Twitter posts, as rights groups and the United Nations criticised police over the crackdown. Human Rights Watch accused riot police of “launching tear gas canisters at protesters’ heads, firing rubber bullets in their eyes and attacking people at hospitals and a mosque”. The UN also condemned the use of force.
“Violence from protesters and vandalism are, of course, unacceptable,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric. But the vast majority of protesters were peaceful “and they need to be protected”, he added. A 22-year-old protester, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said he was severely beaten by security forces until he was bleeding from the head. “Four of them were beating me with batons,” said the man, who has been in the hospital since Saturday. “Then they dragged me on the ground before they started kicking me. One of them slammed the base of a tear gas launcher against my mouth, another jabbed my face.” Politicians have failed to agree on a government or an economic rescue plan since the unrest pushed Hariri to quit as prime minister on October 29, paralysing efforts to recover from a crisis that has shattered confidence in banks and raised investor concerns about its ability to repay steep foreign debt.
Last month, little-known former minister Hassan Diab was designated prime minister with the backing of armed Shia group Hezbollah and its allies. But a deal on the cabinet formation is yet to be announced, with political factions squabbling over ministerial posts and portfolios.

Lebanese security chiefs move to stop vandalism after riots
The Associated Press, Beirut/Monday, 20 January 2020
Lebanon’s top security officials said on Monday that they planned to crackdown on vandalism after a week of rioting in Beirut that left hundreds of people injured and damaged public and private property – violence that comes against the backdrop of a deepening political deadlock. The announcement followed a meeting that included President Michel Aoun, as well as the interior and defense ministers, at the presidential palace. The officials called for more coordination among the Lebanese security agencies to better deal with the unrest. Lebanon has been roiled by three months of largely peaceful anti-government protests that over the past week turned into acts of vandalism in different parts of Beirut. Protesters first took to the streets in mid-October to denounce Lebanon’s ruling elite, which they blame for corruption and mismanagement. The country has since sunk deeper into a political crisis. Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab has not been able to form a Cabinet over political bickering, a month after his nomination and amid a crippling economic and financial crisis. The outgoing premier, Saad Hariri tweeted Monday that Lebanon needs a new government as soon as possible to help stop the economic and security deterioration “that are increasing by the day.” He added that a caretaker government is not the solution and there should be new leadership that takes over full responsibility.
Government officials said they would take measures to protect peaceful protesters and prevent attacks on public or private property, the statement issued after Saturday’s meeting at the presidential palace said. It added that they would also move to “deter groups that are carrying acts of sabotage,” without elaborating further. Saturday witnessed the worst rioting since the protests began, with nearly 400 people injured, including around 120 who were treated in hospital. On Sunday, more than a 100 people were injured in downtown Beirut. The protesters have also attacked public and private property in Beirut, targeting mostly banks that have imposed informal capital controls, limiting the withdrawal of dollars and foreign transfers. Security forces detained an American freelance journalist on Sunday night, on suspicion of broadcasting live footage to an Israeli newspaper. Lebanon and Israel are at a state of war and ban their citizens from visiting or contacting the other country. In a statement released overnight, Lebanon’s State Security department said the US citizen was at the scene of the protest near the parliament building, a location from which someone was broadcasting live to the Israeli paper. State Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat referred the journalist to Military Intelligence for questioning and investigation, the department said. The area outside Parliament was packed with journalists, many of them correspondents for international news agencies. International coverage of the three-month old protests in Lebanon has picked up in the past two days as the violence worsened. An eyewitness, speaking on condition of anonymity fearing reprisals, said the young man was taken away by men dressed in black who put him in a civilian car and drove away.

No Turning Back’ Protests Rage in Lebanon
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 20/2020
After the most violent weekend in three months of street protests, several roads were blocked on Monday and schools were closed in several areas around the country. The National News Agency said protesters started early in the morning in the northern areas of Tripoli and al-Koura and blocked major roads and some side streets. The Lebanese army reopened some of them. Moreover, schools in the Zahle town of Bar Elias staged sit-in near the banks to protest the monetary policies amid illegal capital controls and restrictions on dollar withdrawal.The National News Agency said several schools were closed in the town of Chekka after students threatened a day earlier that they will prevent access for anyone wishing to go in. School administrations had issued a statement earlier urging parents not to send their children to school. Students had called for a protest and march they dubbed “no turning back.”Demonstrators at the weekend lobbed stones, firecrackers and street signs at riot police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets to clear a flashpoint road near parliament. Over the most violent weekend in three months of street protests, some 530 were wounded on both sides, according to a toll compiled by AFP from figures provided by the Red Cross and Civil Defence. Lawyers and rights groups have condemned the “excessive” and “brutal” use of force by security forces. Human Rights Watch accused riot police of “launching tear gas canisters at protesters’ heads, firing rubber bullets in their eyes and attacking people at hospitals and a mosque”. Internal Security Forces, for their part, have urged demonstrators to abstain from assaulting riot police and damaging public or private property. Protesters had called for a week of “anger” over the political leadership’s failure to form a new government even as the debt-ridden country sinks deeper into a financial crisis. Lebanon has been without a government since outgoing prime minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29 in the face of popular pressure. Political factions agreed on December 19 to appoint former education minister Hassan Diab as the new premier but have since squabbled over ministerial posts and portfolios. Protesters have demanded a new government be comprised solely of independent experts, and exclude all established political parties. The United Nations’ envoy to Lebanon pinned the blame for the violence on politicians. “Anger of the people is understandable, but it is different from vandalism of political manipulators, that must be stopped,” Jan Kubis wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

Rahi welcomes Canadian Ambassador
NNA/January 20/2020
Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Mar Bechara Boutros Rahi, on Monday welcomed at the patriarchal headquarters in Bkerke, Canadian Ambassador to Lebanon, Emmanuelle Lamoureux, with whom he discussed the general situation in the country, especially on the political and economic levels. The ambassador denied rumors that Canada had adopted a special program for the immigration of Christians from Lebanon. She also affirmed that Canada had not altered its immigration policy.

Kanaan visits Berri: Budget necessary to prevent ‘chaotic expenditures’
NNA/January 20/2020
Finance and Budget Committee Head, MP Ibrahim Kanaan, on Monday met with Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri, and discussed with him an array of financial affairs — on the eve of tomorrow’s legislative session, which had been scheduled to study and approve the 2020 state budget.
In the wake of the meeting, Kanaan said that the meeting had been an opportunity to discuss the Finance and Budget Committee’s amendments to the 2020 budget, as well as some exceptional measures to restore confidence and put Lebanon back on the right track.
“In terms of credits, there is a reduction of LBP 800 billion to the figures received from the government. There are also some exceptional measures that have been approved by the Finance Committee, including prior scrutiny of all loans and grants, especially those involving public institutions,” Kansan explained.
He added that there were legal articles requiring the transfer of Beirut Port money and revenues, and those of both of Lebanon’s cell phone companies, directly to the treasury. Kanaan went on to explain that the budget also included raising deposit guarantees for small depositors from LBL 5 to 75 million.
“What we found out from the Association of Banks and the Central Bank is that 86% of depositors’ finances belong to small depositors, which means that this step can relax citizens, especially in extreme cases which might lead to bankruptcy,” the lawmaker said.
He added that among the measures mentioned in the budget were those related to defaulters in housing, agricultural, industrial, tourism and environmental loans, in terms of stopping the criminal and contractual procedures, and granting a period of 6 months without accumulation of interest, which was agreed upon with the concerned banks.  Kanaan also pointed out that the budget included extending the deadlines for tax exemptions to June 30, 2020, for car mechanics, municipalities, and various taxations. “There are long-awaited items in this budget, including securing the shortage of the optional social security services, in addition to the dues of Lebanese University professors since 2016,” Kanaan said, adding that discussions will also touch on other items such as those involving the Civil Defense. “The approval of the budget is necessary to prevent chaotic expenditures. This is a basic, non-political action that benefits every citizen; it requires integration between institutions, the street, and the citizen to accomplish it,” he added.

Consumers’ Association says reducing prices not impossible
NNA/January 20/2020
The Lebanese Consumers Association on Monday condemned the massive increase in prices “for the first time in the history of Lebanon at rates exceeding 40 percent within 3 months.” The statement deplored the caretaker government’s idleness facing the situation. “The caretaker government is watching and the designated prime minister has not announced any position; however, the depth of the crisis entails a government that thinks differently,” the statement added. It suggested that the new government, when formed, began to get rid of the “false economics claims and jettison boasting about the pioneering and capable role of banks,” and opted instead for studying the experiences of countries that had been subjected to collapse. The measures to reduce the crisis at this exceptional stage should be extraordinary, the statement stressed, adding that the Consumers’ Association, which has accompanied the social, economic, and health conditions of the Lebanese citizen for 20 years, proposes to the Lebanese government to take the following measures to curb prices and eliminate the injustice caused to most nationals:
– Expanding the scope of social security items to include the following sectors: medicine, all basic grains, fuel, meat, milk, and cheese and milk.
The state should support the aforementioned imports and fix their prices to remain within the poorest citizen’s reach.
-Be aware of the fact that subsidies for some commodities have in the past turned into support for traders in this or that sector. For example, mills, bakeries, diesel oil dealers, sugar beets, and others.
-There is no necessity to support local vegetables and fruits but rather immediate investment in agriculture by allocating a double budget to agriculture and industry. That is, opting for a productive economy model. Within this framework, expatriates can play an important assisting role through Lebanese capital, which is available in most of the countries of the world.
– The immediate liberalization of the economy by abolishing all forms of monopoly in all sectors.
– Imposing the use of the national currency immediately as the sole currency in internal transactions, on top of which are all forms of billing, and the allocation of foreign currencies for imports only.

Raad: Whether you participate or not in the government, you are concerned and we will not let you be!
NNA/January 20/2020
“We want to form a government to boost the constitution, and we seek dialogue between all components of the Lebanese society, despite our major comments on all the policies that have led us, since decades, to where we are today,” said Head of the “Loyalty to Resistance” Parliamentary Bloc, MP Mohammad Raad, on Sunday. Speaking during a memorial ceremony in the town of Adloun earlier today, Raad criticized those who say they will not partake in the government, thus fleeing responsibility. “It it is forbidden to escape and relinquish responsibilities…Whether you participate or not in the government, you are concerned, and we will not leave you alone…This country is our country and your country, and for the past thirty years, you have been scooping its good resources…and today, you are abandoning your duty and leaving the people on their own,” he said.
“We are with the people’s movement, but if we actually participated in it, then civil war would have been knocking on our doors by now,” Raad went on. On the prevailing economic crisis, Raad said reassuringly: “We are all troubled by the financial and monetary policy, but do not despair, because it is a transient economic crisis.”

Hajj Hassan after Communications Parliamentary Committee meeting: Cellular companies’ contracts expired on Dec 31, 2019
NNA/January 20/2020
Information and Communications Parliamentary Committee on Monday met in session, under the chairmanship of Committee Head, MP Hussein Hajj Hassan, to follow up on the dossier of the contracts of the two cellular companies, Touch and Alpha.
The meeting was attended by Caretaker Minister of Telecommunications Mohammad Choucair. Following the meeting, the Chair of Communications Parliamentary Committee, MP Hajj Hassan, said that the contracts of the two cell phone companies have expired on December 31, 2019, indicating that most Committee MPs during today’s meeting stressed that the sector’s management restoration operation does not require an extraordinary decision by the Council of Ministers. Hajj Hassan said that the Committee MPs considered that the sector’s management restoration decision becomes automatic once the contracts’ date expires, in accordance with article 31 of the contract.

Lebanon’s protests turn into riots during weekend of violence
Lauren Lewis, Al Arabiya English/Monday, 20 January 2020
Riots in Lebanon broke out on Sunday, as riot police deployed water cannons and fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and allegedly real bullets at demonstrators amid a second night of violence. President Michel Aoun is to hold a security meeting at noon on Monday with interior minister, Raya El Hassan, and the heads of the Army, Internal Security Forces (ISF), State Security, and General Security, following two nights of escalating violence. This comes after ISF chief Major General Ima Othman and army commander Joseph Aoun met on Sunday to ensure coordination between the two agencies, after 142 ISF members were injured in Saturday night’s clashes, with three serious injuries including skull fractures. Protesters initially gathered on Sunday evening at Mohammad al-Amin Mosque in central Beirut for a cross-religious evening prayer for 4:55 p.m. However, a number of those present were not there for the prayers. “We are here for the protests,” Jana Hakwaji, a 19-year-old school student, told Al Arabiya English. Shielded security personnel used megaphones to call on protesters to disperse before releasing rounds of rubber bullets, which hit a reporter from Al Jazeera in the leg and injured a crew member from News Channel Al-Jadeed. The leading Lebanese television channel later took to Twitter to condemn the excessive use of rubber bullets by security forces. Initial reports from the Lebanese Red Cross said 38 people had been injured and transferred to hospital, with a further 52 treated onsite. Pictures of grotesque injuries circulated on Twitter, after security forces allegedly contravened international regulations on the use of rubber bullets. “I am here because of what happened last night, I am against this,” Hakwaji said. “I don’t know why they are treating us like this, most of them have sisters, and fathers, and brothers here with us.”The previous night, nearly 400 were treated for injuries.
Protesters returned to downtown after a military motorcade displaying rocket-propelled grenades, armored vehicles, and firearms paraded past the mosque during the call to prayer.
“They are trying to scare us, but we are not scared at all,” Hakwaji told Al Arabiya English. Protesters gathered near Nijmeh Square in downtown Beirut under the slogan “No turning back,” and battered walls with metal poles, using loose fragments to attack riot police on Sunday evening.
One protester held a blowtorch up to the barricade that riot police used to warm their hands in a show of mockery. Others attempted to climb barricades, which have obstructed access to the Parliament building since the beginning of the protests in October.
Amidst an increasing security presence in downtown Beirut, ISF used Twitter to call for calm, and to ask protesters to refrain from vandalizing public and private property and attacking security forces.
Despite requests for calm as clashes escalated, some protesters launched Molotov cocktails over blockades at riot police. Later, cheering crowds of protesters battered into state-run telecommunications company Alfa’s downtown branch and a branch of chocolate shop Patchi, reportedly looting items from inside.
“There is a way to calm the popular storm. Stop wasting time, form a government and open the door to political and economic solutions,” Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri said via Twitter on Sunday. Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab met with President Michel Aoun at Baabada Palace on Sunday evening but made no statement to press regarding the formation of a new government when he left. Sunday marked a month since former Education Minister, Hassan Diab was nominated as the future Prime Minister, and the 95th day of nationwide demonstrations which have protested against the political deadlock that has led the country into its worst economic crisis since the civil war.

Worried by Violence, Paris Urges New Government in Lebanon
Naharnet/January 20/2020
France on Monday expressed concern over the violence that marred the latest demos in Lebanon, urging the formation of a new government that would carry out credible reforms. “France is concerned over the violence in Lebanon’s demos over the past days and it stresses that the demonstrators’ legitimate aspirations should be expressed through peaceful means,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement, while reiterating its support for the right to assembly. “As for the dangerous economic and social crisis that Lebanon is going through, and in light of the latest violent incidents, there is a dire need for a new government to carry out a credible host of reforms to meet the aspirations that the Lebanese have called for since more than three months,” it added. The ministry also underlined that France “will always stand by the Lebanese people.”

Hariri: Lebanon Sliding towards ‘Unknown’ While Sides Bicker over Govt.
Naharnet/January 20/2020
Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri lamented “obstructions” hindering the government formation while the crisis-hit country seems heading towards an “unknown” future. Hariri said in a tweet that his “government has resigned in order to form a new one to address the popular demands, but for over ninety days obstruction continues while the country heads towards the unknown and the group concerned with the formation is taking its time to discuss the kind of government” they desire. On confrontations between security forces and protesters that left hundreds wounded in two days, Hariri said security forces are protecting civil peace. “All security forces assume their responsibilities in applying laws and protecting civil peace. They bear the outcomes of the confrontations with popular movements on a daily basis. Continuing the cycle of security against people only means a persisting crisis and denial of the new political reality,” emphasized Hariri. “A new government must be formed to stop an aggravating economic and security crisis,” he added, noting that a government in a caretaker capacity “is not the solution”, and urging political parties to “stop wasting time.”

Diab Meets Franjieh, Khalil, al-Khalil, May Accept 20-Seat Govt.
Naharnet/January 20/2020
Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab held talks Monday at his residence with Marada Movement chief Suleiman Franjieh, Hizbullah secretary-general’s political assistant Hussein Khalil and Speaker Nabih Berri’s political aide Ali Hassan Khalil. LBCI television said the meeting “did not achieve tangible results in terms of resolving the obstacles delaying the government’s formation.”“Diab is still insisting on an 18-minister cabinet and will hold further consultations over a proposal to raise the number of ministers to 20,” LBCI added. Al-Jadeed TV for its part said Diab “insisted on keeping the number of ministers at 18” but noted that he would accept a 20-seat government “should this proposal represent an exit from the country’s crises.” MTV meanwhile revealed details about the “settlement” that is being discussed. “A 20-minister government would be formed in which Marada would get a second Greek Orthodox minister while (Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran) Bassil would back a Greek Catholic minister and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party would name a Druze minister,” MTV said. “But this proposal is awaiting the approval of the PM-designate,” it added.

New gov’t needed urgently to avoid collapse: Lebanon’s Hariri
Reuters, Beirut/Monday, 20 January 2020
Lebanon needs to urgently form a new government to get out of a cycle of collapse that has repercussions for the country’s economic and security situation, caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri tweeted on Monday. Hariri said the country was headed to the “unknown” while obstruction has continued and the team responsible for forming a government has taken its time. Lebanon has been without a government since Hariri resigned on October 29 in the face of mass protests.

Lebanon FM Gebran Bassil’s invite to Davos sparks protests, online campaign
Joanne Serrieh, Al Arabiya English/Monday, 20 January 2020
Social media users are campaigning against the Lebanese caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil representing Lebanon at this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) in Switzerland, the night after anti-government protesters clashed with riot police in Beirut.
Bassil is scheduled to speak during a session titled “The Return of Arab Unrest” at the annual forum that brings together thousands of world leaders to collaborate on activities to shape the global, regional and industry agendas. But back home, Bassil has become a deeply divisive figure, with anti-government protesters accusing him of epitomizing the corruption and nepotism of the current system. Bassil, who is the son-in-law of President Michel Aoun and leads the Hezbollah-allied Free Patriotic Movement party, has refused to step down from politics despite protesters’ demands. Twitter users flooded the platform on Monday calling on WEF and Davos to disinvite Bassil and replace him with someone who better represents the country and the people.  “Out of all people, they chose Gebran Bassil,” wrote Twitter user Ramez Dagher. “The politician featured in the flagship chant of the Lebanese revolution against the political class…”  Another Twitter user Lynn Zovighian called the situation “incredulous” and said it “cannot go unchanged.” She added “Speakership roles at @Davos must be vetted for principles and expertise. @Gebran_Bassil has neither the ethical backbone nor the technical elegance of mind to speak [on the panel].” 
One person directly called out Davos, saying it “legitimizes nepotism, cronyism and corruption” by inviting Bassil to speak.  “[WEF] becomes complicit in the corruption by inviting Gebran Bassil to speak,” wrote Ibrahim Alhusseini on Twitter. “Take a stand and disinvite him immediately and stand with the Lebanese people and not against them.” A Carnegie Endowment scholar based in Beirut even questioned the expense of Bassil’s “luxury trip.” “At whose expense is he taking this luxury trip while Lebanon faces [economic] collapse?” Kim Ghattas asked on Twitter.   Meanwhile, in homage to the iconic protest chant heard across the world out of Lebanon, Alexander Rayes said on Twitter, “Hela hela, hela hela ho! @Gebran_Bassil should not go! @Davos @wef.” Protests have swept through Lebanon since October 2019 and led to the resignation of then Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his cabinet, which includes Bassil, who remains caretaker foreign minister until a new cabinet is formed.

Jumblat Meets Hariri, Tells Protesters Violence Not Useful
Naharnet/January 20/2020
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat held talks Monday with caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri at the Center House. “We will always support this house,” Jumblat said after the meeting, recalling his support for slain ex-PM Rafik Hariri. Addressing what he called the “new protest movement,” Jumblat added: “Violence is not useful… and my words and PM Saad Hariri’s words about Beirut are not in defense of Beirut’s stones but rather in defense of only Beirut’s people.” Noting that most of those who protested in central Beirut on Saturday and Sunday “came from the North,” the PSP leader suggested granting Russia a contract to reactivate Tripoli’s oil refinery. “Oil would come from Kirkuk or from Turkey via Syria. I don’t think that the Syrians can object, seeing as the Russians are in control of those regions, and we would generate income for the Lebanese and the residents of the North,” Jumblat went on to say. As for the stalled formation of a new government, the PSP leader said: “What’s laughable about this government is that there were so-called national unity governments in the past when they invented the one-third veto power (in Cabinet), while today there will be a one-sided government and they are at odds among each other.”Asked whether he and Hariri will “facilitate the work” of the new government, Jumblat said: “Everything happens in due time. We will coordinate together day by day and week by week.”

Qassem Says Hizbullah against Rioting, Urges Parties to Sacrifice Shares
Naharnet/January 20/2020
Hizbullah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem on Monday said that his party is against “rioting,” in the wake of a week that witnessed several violent demos and acts of vandalism against many banks. “This is rioting that we do not accept and it will only lead to further deterioration in the country, that’s why we must all press and contribute to breaking the government deadlock,” Qassem said. Calling on the parties forming the new government to “offer sacrifices and shun shares and ministerial seats,” Qassem stressed that Hizbullah “cannot form the government on its own.”“We are a part and it is necessary to convince the other parts and cooperate with the various blocs,” he added. Qassem, however, pledged that Hizbullah would continue to “exert all possible effort to secure the government’s formation as soon as possible so that we don’t reach further financial, economic and social deterioration.”

U.S. Journalist Held for ‘Broadcasting Beirut Demo to Haaretz’
Associated Press/Naharnet/January 20/2020
Lebanese security forces overnight detained an American freelance journalist on suspicion of broadcasting live footage of the central Beirut clashes to Israeli newspaper Haaretz. In a statement, the State Security agency said the U.S. citizen was at the scene of the protest near the parliament building, a location from which someone was broadcasting live to the Israeli paper. State Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat referred the journalist to Military Intelligence for questioning and investigation, the agency said. The area outside Parliament was packed with journalists, many of them correspondents for international news agencies. International coverage of the three-month old protests in Lebanon has picked up in the past two days as the violence worsened. An eyewitness, speaking on condition of anonymity fearing reprisals, said the young man was taken away by men dressed in black who put him in a civilian car and drove away. Media reports meanwhile said the American journalist was not the one broadcasting to Haaretz and that the Israeli daily’s website was using footage from the Reuters news agency.

State Security: U.S. citizen arrested after live-streaming Beirut events for enemy daily
NNA/January 20/2020
The State Security agency said Monday it had arrested a U.S. citizen residing in Lebanon for live-streaming the recent events in Beirut for Haaretz, an Israeli enemy newspaper. “Following social media news about a person who had been live-streaming the events in Downtown Beirut for the Israeli Haaretz daily, a State Security patrol managed to track and locate the whereabouts, and suspected an individual who had filmed the same footage that appeared on the enemy’s newspapers’ page. He had then been brought in for questioning,” a communiqué by the State Security indicated. The man, had been identified as Nicholas A., a U.S. citizen residing in Beirut; he claimed to be a freelance journalist.

Report: Investigations into ‘Suspicious’ Money Transfers Not Over Yet
Naharnet/January 20/2020
The central bank of Lebanon on Monday denied reports claiming that investigations have identified the names of individuals reportedly involved in “suspicious money transfers abroad when Lebanon’s banks were closed at the start of protests, LBCI reported on Monday. BDL sources, told LBCI: “The Special Investigation Committee at BDL did not receive any letter from correspondents (banks) related to money transfers between October 17 and the end of the year.” In December, central bank governor Riad Salameh said he would investigate reports of large transfers of money abroad after the October 17 uprising, which if confirmed, would mark a violation of banking restrictions curtailing such transactions. “We will do everything premissable by law to investigate all transfers (abroad) that happened in 2019. If there are suspicious funds, we will be able to find out,” he said. Faced with a grinding US dollar liquidity crisis, Lebanon’s banks have since September imposed increasingly tight restrictions on dollar withdrawals and transfers abroad in an attempt to conserve dwindling foreign currency reserves. This has fuelled tensions in the debt-ridden country, where an almost four-month-old protest movement is demanding the removal of political leaders deemed incompetent and corrupt. Activists say ordinary depositors are footing the bill for a liquidity crisis worsened by politicians, senior civil servants and bank owners who used their influence to get their hefty savings out of the country.A report by the Carnegie think tank in November said that nearly $800 million left Lebanon between October 15 and November 7, when most citizens could not access their funds because banks was closed due to protests. Many of the country’s top leaders own, or have large shares in, several banks.

Security forces say Lebanon’s rioters ‘organized’ as Hariri warns over ‘cycle of collapse’
Najia Houssari/Arab News/January 20/2020
BEIRUT: Lebanese security forces claimed demonstrations in the country had been infiltrated by organized groups in order to provoke riots at a meeting with President Michel Aoun at the country’s Presidential Palace on Monday
Security force commanders said the information led them to “take the necessary measures to protect peaceful demonstrators and prevent attacks on public and private properties, while stopping rioters and coordinating with the judiciary to enforce the law.”
The decisions came after three nights of violent confrontation between protestors and the Internal Security Forces (ISF), during which tear gas, smoke grenades and rubber bullets were used, severely wounding civilians and journalists.
Commanders submitted security reports on developments since the start of the protests in November 2019, in which they spoke of “measures taken to face the elements infiltrating the ranks of demonstrators to cause riots.”
Aoun asked for responsibility to be taken in identifying those who could be deemed dangerous for stoking riots, and those protesting peacefully.
Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri did not attend the meeting, instead tweeting: “Lebanon needs to quickly form a new government to stop a cycle of collapse and worsening economic and security conditions.
“Our government resigned in order to transition to a new government dealing with popular changes but obstruction has continued for 90 days and the country is moving towards the unknown,” he said, adding: “The continuation of the caretaker government is not the solution so let’s stop wasting time and have the government bear the responsibility.”
After three months of peaceful demonstrations, the protesters switched to what they have called “revolutionary violence” in light of the continued indifference of the political class towards their demands. For a third successive day on Monday they tried to breach the barriers around parliament, but were repelled by riot police. The father of a wounded young man called Eid Khodr said his son suffered a fractured skull due to a rubber bullet.
“We protected ourselves, we wore helmets on our heads, facemasks and plastic coats for the water. What more can we do? We wrote ‘press’ on our chests and stood aside and still, they targeted us and shot a rubber bullet into my leg,” journalist Ihab Al-Akdi told Arab News.
Sanaa Al-Sheikh, a 29-year old soccer player who seen defying the security forces and climbing the obstacles and barbed wire surrounding parliament on Saturday, is still being treated in hospital for wounds on her back due to severe beating from police.
Al-Sheikh, from Tripoli, is an accredited referee with the Lebanese Football Association. She has been a sports coach for almost 15 years, holds a law degree, and has a sports academy in Tripoli called “Sanaa Star”.
“The political class has to listen to the people. Someone is trying to shift our attention in the wrong direction. The ISF personnel are our children, just like the demonstrators. Citizens are committing transgressions and nobody can control them but, we cannot compare their transgressions to those of the security forces,” the president of the Beirut Bar Association, Melhem Khalaf, told Arab News.
Calls have emerged on social media platforms, asking Lebanese people living abroad to contact or comment at the World Economic Forum in Davos, which Caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil is scheduled to attend.

Lebanon needs international help to fight corruption
Nathalie Goulet/Arab News/January 20/2020
The Lebanese seem determined to make sacred union around the fight against corruption. The protests in Beirut at the end of last year that led to the fall of Saad Hariri’s government highlighted the country’s financial problems. The protests have turned violent as the economic crisis deepens and, on Saturday, protesters tried to storm Parliament.
Corruption on all levels, the flight of capital, ill-gotten property — the list of the misappropriations that have for years plagued this country, which is also a favorite theater of regional conflicts, goes on and on.
On many occasions, at international conferences such as CEDRE in Paris in 2018, or as part of an EU policy, the international community has looked at the situation in Lebanon. However, Lebanon still struggles to have electricity 24 hours a day, every day of the week, and the roads are in a dramatic state. Mobile phone plans are probably the most expensive in the world.
All these reasons lead us to reflect on how to get the international community to come to the aid of Lebanon and its new prime minister-elect Hassan Diab. There is no question here of reprogramming any donor conference; it is a question of the Lebanese authorities taking concerted action to finally put an end to the widespread and endemic corruption.
Transparency International, in its 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index, ranked Lebanon 138th out of 180 countries studied, with an alarming score of 28 out of a possible 100. The same organization’s Global Corruption Barometer for 2019 showed that Lebanese people are outraged by this situation, with 68 percent of them believing that corruption increased in 2019, while 87 percent thought the government was failing to fight corruption and 89 percent believed that government corruption was a big problem.
The 2018 CEDRE conference aimed to raise funds to help stabilize Lebanon’s financial situation by reviving the economy and encouraging growth and employment. Financial support was offered with the promise of loans of $10.2 billion and grants of $860 million. The sums mentioned are astronomical and it is now necessary to apply the law using an anti-corruption task force that has the cooperation of international institutions and experts.
Laws and regulations do exist and they were reinforced by a text that was voted in last June. Law 154 from 1999 defines unlawful enrichment as the enrichment of public servants by corruption and the misuse of their prerogatives. To combat this, it provides that civil servants and public service officials at the third level and above must declare their assets at the beginning of their duties. Meanwhile, law 318/2001 aims to combat money laundering. This law kept the Lebanese banking sector away from money laundering operations and preserved secrecy on funds deposited with banks in Lebanon. It allowed the removal of Lebanon’s name from the list of countries not cooperating with the international Financial Action Task Force.
In 2008, an act increased the powers of the Special Commission of Inquiry that was established under law 318/2001, granting it the exclusive prerogative to freeze accounts and lift bank secrecy in accordance with conventions and laws aimed at fighting corruption.
In June last year, the Lebanese Parliament adopted a law on the fight against corruption in the public sector, which was undoubtedly a laudable initiative and a first step toward transparency and the consolidation of public spending. This was the result of the hard work of a group of parliamentarians who are against corruption, chaired by Ghassan Moukheiber, with contributions from civil society representatives and several experts.
This law tries to define the crimes to be placed under the label of corruption and the means to combat them, entrusting this fight to an independent commission of six members, made up of two judges, one jurist and three experts who are disconnected from political circles. The commission is to be supported by an administration that will work on the implementation of its decisions and directives, without replacing the control bodies that already exist. It is urgent that civil society, Lebanese experts and parliamentarians put these structures in place.
One case that is often cited in debates on corruption is an EU-funded waste treatment plant in Tripoli. No one can say to date whether or not public funds have been misappropriated, but the lack of control of the European taxpayers’ money and the lack of evaluation of the needs are subject to investigations.
It is now necessary to apply the law using an anti-corruption task force that has the cooperation of international institutions and experts.
In Lebanon, as in France and many other countries around the world, civil society — nourished and supported by social networks — is rightly demanding transparency. France is not immune from criticism, as the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption last week called on Paris to implement better policies to fight corruption.
It would be interesting for Lebanon to get closer to the Council of Europe to benefit from its independent and recognized expertise on corruption, as well as institutions such as the Venice Commission, which advises on constitutional law. It would also be useful to consult the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). Such a coordinated will would be an example for many other countries.
Lebanon’s social and financial stability concerns us all, for Lebanon is an essential part of the stability of the Middle East. This is why the international community must place itself at the disposal of the new prime minister and ensure, at the first request, the implementation of the new commission’s anti-corruption measures.
*Nathalie Goulet is a member of the Senate of France, representing the Orne department (Normandy). Twitter: @senateur61