A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For February 18-19/2020 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 125th Day

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A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For 18-19/2020 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 125th Day
Compiled By: Elias Bejjani
February 19/2020

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on February 18-19/20
Ahmad Tawfic, Another Martyr For The Revolution

Demonstrators Hold Candlelight Vigils after Protester Dies of Wounds
Lebanon’s Tripoli prepares for day of rage after protester Ahmad Toufiq dies
IMF begins talks with Lebanese officials in effort to resolve nation’s financial crisis/Najia Houssari/Arab News/February 18/2020
Lebanon PM will meet IMF delegation amid deeping economic struggles
Lebanon’s Tripoli prepares for day of rage after protester Ahmad Tawfiq dies
Lebanese memes, posts mock Nasrallah’s call to boycott US goods in Lebanon
Report: U.S. ‘Pressures’ Lebanon to Release Fakhoury
Fitch Ratings: Lebanon Finances Point to Debt Restructuring
Diab, IFC Team Discuss Development of Transport Sector, Airport
Strong Lebanon Bloc Stresses Importance of Recovering Stolen Funds
Financial Prosecutor Sues 18 Money Changers for Violating Law
Bahaa Hariri Breaks Silence in Rare Statement
Demonstrators Hold Candlelight Vigils after Protester Dies of Wounds
UK Official Meets Aoun, Affirms Backing for Lebanon
Greek Foreign Minister to Visit Lebanon Wednesday
8 Activists Charged with Bank Torching, Referred to Criminal Court
Probe Ordered in Alleged Eurobond Operations Involving Lebanese Banks
Diab chairs meeting with IFC delegation
Berri meets British Defence Senior Advisors, Ministers of Justice and Defence
Diplomats felicitate Hitti, Syrian Ambassador affirms Lebanon and Syria cannot succeed without integration
Mortada discusses means of supporting Lebanese farmers with Japanese Ambassador
Hariri meets US Ambassador
Akar meets British Defence Senior Advisor
Strong Lebanon’ bloc: To put dossier of stolen money recovery above tensions
Geagea, Canadian ambassador tackle political developments
Geagea: Nasrallah’s call for loyalist, opposition to cooperate attempt to evade responsibility
Telecom Minister meets Spanish Ambassador
Ibrahim presses charges against 18 money changers

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on February 18-19/2020
Ahmad Toufic, Another Martyr For The Revolution
LCCC/February 18/2020
Lebanese today in all Lebanese provinces paid tribute to Ahmad Toufic, who passed away in the hospital after three months of unsuccessful treatment. Ahmad was shot by the Lebanese security forces in Tripoli, north Lebanon with a rubber bullet while peacefully participating in a protest demonstration three months ago.

Demonstrators Hold Candlelight Vigils after Protester Dies of Wounds
Naharnet/February 18/2020
Anti-government demonstrators on Tuesday held candlelight vigils in Beirut, Baalbek and Tyre in tribute to Ahmed Toufiq, a protester who died of his wounds Monday after being injured in clashes in the northern city of Tripoli in October. The demonstrators staged the sit-ins at Beirut’s Martyrs Square, Baalbek’s Khalil Mutran Square and Tyres al-Alam Square. Toufiq was injured by gunshots fired by the army during a violent demo on Tripoli’s Jemmayzet Street during which a hand grenade was hurled at the army without exploding.

Lebanon’s Tripoli prepares for day of rage after protester Ahmad Tawfiq dies
Tommy Hilton, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday, 18 February 2020
Lebanon’s second city of Tripoli is preparing for a “day of rage” on Tuesday after a protester who was reportedly shot by the guards of an MP died on Monday night. Ahmad Tawfiq was reportedly shot in the stomach three months ago in Tripoli, according to Lebanese journalists online. Lebanese protesters online called for a day of rage in Tripoli, with users sharing photos of Tawfiq and commemorating him. Arabic hashtags of Tawfiq’s name and day of rage were spreading across Twitter on Tuesday morning. Tawfiq’s funeral took place in Talhaya, in the northern Lebanese province of Akkar close to Tripoli, on Tuesday, reported Lebanon’s official National News Agency (NNA). According to the NNA, a speech at the funeral called for “a transparent investigation clarifying the circumstances of the incident.” Janoubia news agency also posted a photograph the coffin draped in a Lebanese flag. Lebanon has been rocked by anti-government protests since October. Nationwide demonstrations have criticized the whole political establishment for corruption, nepotism, and a worsening economic crisis.

IMF begins talks with Lebanese officials in effort to resolve nation’s financial crisis
Najia Houssari/Arab News/February 18/2020
International Monetary Fund will give advice but final decision rests with Lebanon’s government
As financial chaos continues, money changers are accused of profiteering, and robberies are more common
BEIRUT: Meetings between Lebanese officials and a delegation from the International Monetary Fund began on Tuesday in an attempt to find a solution to the nation’s financial crisis.
Lebanon asked the IMF six days ago for help to develop an economic rescue plan in light of a $1.2billion Eurobond debt that is due for repayment on March 9. It is the first of three looming debts due between now and June, worth $2.5bn in total, plus an additional $2bn in interest on a $30 billion debt portfolio. The participants in the meetings will include Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, central bank Governor Riad Salameh and representatives of the Banking Control Commission of Lebanon.
“Lebanon’s economic and financial crisis is being addressed to mitigate its repercussions,” President Michel Aoun told the UK’s Senior Defense Adviser for Middle Eastern Affairs, Lt. Gen. Sir John Lorimer. “The IMF will provide its technical expertise in setting up a plan. “The unstable situation in several Middle Eastern countries in general, and in Syria in particular, has negatively affected Lebanon.” Amal Movement MP Yassin Jaber said: “Lebanon will wait for what the IMF delegation has to say. It will advise Lebanon and will not impose anything. It will then be up to the 20-minister cabinet to decide whether or not to take the advice.” The economic uncertainty has caused chaos in the money markets, and anger at what many see as profiteering by the banks and money changers. They have hiked the exchange rate against the dollar to 2,500 Lebanese pounds, even though the official exchange rate remains at 1,507, and in defiance of an agreement to limit the rate to 2,000 pounds. “The banks’ practices are a form of systematic fraud. They are confiscating the depositors’ money after having (imposed) high interest rates and reaped huge profits,” said MP Mohammad Kabbara. Mahmoud Murad, the head of the Syndicate of Money Changers in Lebanon, said: “The 2,000 Lebanese pounds price that was agreed upon between the (syndicate) and Salameh after the new government received the parliament’s confidence did not last for more than a week. This is due to the competition from illegal money changers found on roads and in homes.”

Lebanon PM will meet IMF delegation amid deeping economic struggles
AFP/BeirutTuesday, 18 February 2020
A delegation from the International Monetary Fund is due to meet Lebanon’s prime minister Tuesday as the debt-ridden country seeks assistance to rescue its moribund economy. Lebanon has the world’s third-highest debt to GDP ratio and has been sliding towards default in recent months, with tight capital controls and a currency devaluation already hitting purchasing power. “Prime Minister Hassan Diab meets at 4 pm (1400 GMT) with a delegation from the International Monetary Fund,” the state NNA news agency reported. Diab’s government won parliament’s confidence only last week and the state immediately requested the Fund’s advice on tackling the economic crisis. Lebanon is expected to decide whether to pay $1.2 billion in Eurobonds that reach maturity on March 9 or to default on its debt. The IMF delegation is expected to provide an assessment of the measures needed to rebuild the economy but has not been asked to provide financial assistance.

Lebanon’s Tripoli prepares for day of rage after protester Ahmad Tawfiq dies
Tommy Hilton, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday, 18 February 2020
Lebanon’s second city of Tripoli is preparing for a “day of rage” on Tuesday after a protester who was reportedly shot by the guards of an MP died on Monday night. Ahmad Tawfiq was reportedly shot in the stomach three months ago in Tripoli, according to Lebanese journalists online. Lebanese protesters online called for a day of rage in Tripoli, with users sharing photos of Tawfiq and commemorating him. Arabic hashtags of Tawfiq’s name and day of rage were spreading across Twitter on Tuesday morning. Tawfiq’s funeral took place in Talhaya, in the northern Lebanese province of Akkar close to Tripoli, on Tuesday, reported Lebanon’s official National News Agency (NNA). According to the NNA, a speech at the funeral called for “a transparent investigation clarifying the circumstances of the incident.” Janoubia news agency also posted a photograph the coffin draped in a Lebanese flag. Lebanon has been rocked by anti-government protests since October. Nationwide demonstrations have criticized the whole political establishment for corruption, nepotism, and a worsening economic crisis.

Lebanese memes, posts mock Nasrallah’s call to boycott US goods in Lebanon
Joanne Serrieh, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday, 18 February 2020
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is being mocked by Lebanese people online for calling for a boycott of American goods and products despite members of his organization owning American clothes and products.
Nasrallah, who has led Hezbollah since 1992 and has close ties with Iran, called for the boycott during a speech on Sunday as “part of the battle” against US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan. In response, Lebanese people took to social media to share sarcastic memes and posts. Sheikh Mohammed Elhajj Hasan, a Free Shia Movement cleric, shared a photo of Nasrallah’s son Jawad wearing a sweatshirt with “Timberland USA.73” written on it. Hasan wrote “before suggesting to your audience boycotting the US, please remove your son’s sweatshirt and dress him in Iranian [clothing].”
He pointed out Nasrallah’s son is the man in the center of the photo. Others shared the photo as well with similar criticism.
Dima Sadek, a Shia Lebanese journalist, shared a meme depicting cartoon character Tom from “Tom and Jerry” as a neighborhood spy speaking in a dialect from southern Lebanon, an area that is predominately Shia. He’s talking about someone named Abbas, a common Shia name. He says, “Peace be upon you Hajj, Abbas is smoking Marlboro.”
Twitter user Ma3lick’s Wrist responded to the call for boycott with several questions. “What about all the payment in US dollar? Is that halal? Why don’t they use the Iranian currency?”
Cynthia Karam, Lebanese Twitter user, sarcastically wrote in Arabic “If I see any Hezbollah member carrying an iPhone, I will complain about him to Nasrallah.”
Lebanese people have frequently responded to political situations in entertaining ways using sarcasm and jokes.
Viral videos of demonstrators singing and dancing in the streets were widely shared over the past few months. One of the most popular videos was of protesters surrounding a car with a toddler in it while they sang and danced to “Baby Shark.”Anti-government protests have been ongoing since October last year driven by the slogan “all of them [politicians] means all of them.” Lebanese people across the country are continuing to denounce years of government corruption, and demand solutions to the country’s political and economic crisis.

Report: U.S. ‘Pressures’ Lebanon to Release Fakhoury
Associated Press/Naharnet/February 18/2020
Under the pretext of health conditions, Lebanon is being “pressured” to release Amer Fakhoury charged with murder and torture of Lebanese citizens during Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon, al-Akhbar daily reported on Tuesday. Fakhoury, Lebanese-American, is reportedly undergoing cancer treatment, and it remains unclear if he’ll be able to stand trial. According to “informed sources,” the United States is threatening to impose “strict sanctions” on Lebanon if it keeps Fakhoury in custody, urging authorities to let Fakhoury fly back to the United States, said the daily. “The case must be followed up closely,” said the sources, pointing out that “US pressures on Lebanon in secret are greater than those brought out to public.” Last week, a U.S. senator Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who is reportedly working on a sanctions bill, said that Fakhoury is “being held by authorities despite no proof of wrongdoing.” Earlier in February, a military investigative judge charged Fakhoury with murder and torture of Lebanese citizens, crimes he allegedly committed during Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon, judicial officials had said. The accusations could carry a death sentence. Amer Fakhoury is accused of working as a senior warden at Khiam Prison, which was run by an Israel-backed Lebanese militia. The prison has been described by human rights groups as a center for torture. He was detained in September after he returned to his native Lebanon from the U.S., and Lebanon’s intelligence service says he confessed during questioning to being a warden.

Fitch Ratings: Lebanon Finances Point to Debt Restructuring
Associated Press/Naharnet/February 18/2020
Lebanon’s financial situation points to a likely restructuring of the country’s massive debt and financial sector to preserve declining foreign currency reserves, Fitch Ratings said Tuesday. The credit rating agency’s report comes as Lebanese officials are debating whether to pay back $1.2 billion worth of Eurobonds that mature on March 9 amid a severe economic and financial crisis, the worst since the country’s 1975-90 civil war. Lebanon has never defaulted before, and the decision is causing much anxiety in the crisis-hit country. Many have argued the priority should be to use shrinking foreign currency to pay for imports of basic needs such as wheat, medicine and fuel. A delegation from the International Monetary Fund was expected to visit Lebanon this week to meet officials and give an assessment on what is needed to save the plummeting economy. Lebanese banks have imposed capital controls to manage depleting foreign currency. Lebanon’s economy has depended heavily on U.S. dollars since the 15-year civil war ended in 1990. Fitch said the Lebanese central bank’s declining gross foreign currency assets remain sufficient on paper for the country to pay its external debt service in 2020 and into 2021, “provided de facto capital controls are maintained.” It added that Lebanon’s gross external financing requirement stands at less than $10 billion annually in 2020 and 2021, while the central bank has $29 billion of gross foreign currency reserves at its disposal. “However, this capacity to pay will become increasingly stretched and it would be unrealistic, both economically and politically, to run these assets to zero,” Fitch said. Lebanon has one of the highest debt to GDP ratios in the world, standing at about $87 billion or more than 150% of the country’s GDP. Most of the debt is held by local lenders but there are concerns that if Lebanon defaults, some foreign investors might take legal action against the tiny country. The economic and financial crisis has worsened since mid-October, when nationwide protests began against the ruling elite that is blamed for years of corruption and mismanagement. President Michel Aoun said Tuesday the government is working to limit the effects of the crisis, adding that the IMF delegation will give the government its technical experience.

Diab, IFC Team Discuss Development of Transport Sector, Airport
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 18/2020
A delegation from the World Bank’s private lending arm met Tuesday with Prime Minister Hassan Diab, as the debt-ridden country seeks assistance to rescue its moribund economy. The meeting tackled the possibility of “launching joint cooperation projects between the public and private sectors and the issue of developing the transportation sector and the airport,” the National News Agency said. The meeting was attended by the ministers of economy, industry, public works and transport and energy, in addition to Council of Ministers Secretary-General Mahmoud Makkiyeh. Lebanon has the world’s third-highest debt to GDP ratio and has been sliding towards default in recent months, with tight capital controls and a currency devaluation already hitting purchasing power. Diab’s government won parliament’s confidence only last week and the state immediately requested the International Monetary Fund’s advice on tackling the economic crisis. Lebanon is expected to decide whether to pay $1.2 billion in Eurobonds that reach maturity on March 9 or to default on its debt. A IMF delegation is due to start talks with top Lebanese officials on Thursday, a source close to the prime minister told AFP.

Strong Lebanon Bloc Stresses Importance of Recovering Stolen Funds
Naharnet/February 18/2020
The Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc, which is led by the Free Patriotic Movement, on Tuesday stressed the importance of recovering the state’s stolen funds and establishing a financial crimes court among other measures. Decrying the “continued suffering of the Lebanese due to the selective and unfair measures that the banks are imposing,” the bloc said the central bank is yet to answer its inquiry about the suspicious transfers abroad of large sums of money. “We will not accept to remain silent and we have information that millions and billions were transferred, especially after October 17,” the bloc added in a statement issued after its weekly meeting. “Citizens cannot withdraw 200 or 300 dollars per week,” Strong Lebanon lamented. Noting that it is continuing in parliament “the legislative course related to the recovery of stolen funds, the lifting of bank secrecy, the unveiling of accounts and properties, and the court specialized in financial crimes,” the bloc urged all political blocs to “put this file above all polarization.”

Financial Prosecutor Sues 18 Money Changers for Violating Law
Naharnet/February 18/2020
Financial Prosecutor Ali Ibrahim on Tuesday filed lawsuits against 18 money exchange shops on charges of violating the law regulating the sector and “harming the state’s financial standing.”“He referred the files to the investigative judges of the governorates,” the National News Agency said. In January, money changers had agreed Tuesday to cap the dollar exchange rate at 2,000 pounds. It later turned out that the cap was for the maximum rate they would offer those seeking to sell their dollars and not the opposite. The rate at which they would sell the dollar meanwhile continued to rise and reportedly hit the LBP 2,600 mark in recent days. The Lebanese pound is officially pegged to the greenback at a rate of 1,500 to the dollar but the country’s sharp economic downturn has sent the currency into a tailspin in foreign exchange offices. The Lebanese Money Changers Association had announced in January that it had agreed with the central bank on “an exchange rate for the U.S. dollar capped at 2,000 Lebanese pounds.” The cap in the parallel market of foreign exchange offices has however created a fully illegal black market with higher rates. Debt-ridden Lebanon faces its most serious economic crisis since the end of its 1975-1990 civil war.

Bahaa Hariri Breaks Silence in Rare Statement
Naharnet/February 18/2020
Lebanese-Saudi billionaire Bahaa Hariri, the eldest son of slain ex-PM Rafik Hariri, issued a rare statement Tuesday in which he denied playing behind-the-scenes roles in Lebanon’s troubled political life. “For a while now, Lebanese media outlets have been circulating news related to Sheikh Bahaeddine Hariri that have nothing to do with reality, following 15 years of intentional silence on his side, during which he stayed away from Lebanon and did not even exploit his commercial projects for personal or political marketing,” the statement said. It noted that Bahaa’s visit to Saudi Arabia in 2017 was made at an invitation from the Saudi leadership. “Anyone who gets invited by the kingdom meets the invitation, except for its enemies from the Iranian militias and their cronies,” the statement added. As for reports that he sent an envoy to Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat in November 2017, Hariri’s statement clarified the ambiguity. “In fact Jumblat communicated with Sheikh Bahaa Hariri via WhatsApp and spoke of threats facing the country, most importantly his speculation that the Israeli entity would launch a destructive war on Lebanon and the region. Accordingly, an agreement was reached on a meeting between him and an envoy dispatched by Sheikh Bahaeddine Hariri and this is what happened,” the statement said. Turning to Bahaa Hariri’s relation with ex-minister Ashraf Rifi, the statement said the Lebanese-Saudi billionaire sent him armored cars “after his security was exposed by the ruling authorities at the time,” noting that Rifi and his team had “unveiled the killer of his father, Martyr Premier Rafik Hariri, according to the report of the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission.”“They did not engage in any communication after that,” the statement added.

Demonstrators Hold Candlelight Vigils after Protester Dies of Wounds
Naharnet/February 18/2020
Anti-government demonstrators on Tuesday held candlelight vigils in Beirut, Baalbek and Tyre in tribute to Ahmed Toufiq, a protester who died of his wounds Monday after being injured in clashes in the northern city of Tripoli in October. The demonstrators staged the sit-ins at Beirut’s Martyrs Square, Baalbek’s Khalil Mutran Square and Tyres al-Alam Square. Toufiq was injured by gunshots fired by the army during a violent demo on Tripoli’s Jemmayzet Street during which a hand grenade was hurled at the army without exploding.

UK Official Meets Aoun, Affirms Backing for Lebanon
Naharnet/February 18/2020
Senior adviser to the British Ministry of Defense for Middle East Affairs, General Sir John Lorimer, reiterated Britain’s “continued support” for crisis-hit Lebanon, the National News Agency reported on Tuesday. Lorimer’s position came during talks with President Michel Aoun at Baabda Presidential Palace, NNA said. The UK official affirmed that “Britain will continue to support Lebanon, especially its army and security forces,” as the country grapples its worst economic crisis in decades. For his part, Aoun said the “regional tension in several Middle Eastern states, mainly in Syria, had taken its toll on the situation in Lebanon,” stressing the need to counter the repercussions. In January, the UK had affirmed through its British Ambassador to Lebanon Chris Rampling that “we stand ready to support Lebanon, but we look to this government to demonstrate its commitment to the reforms which Lebanon desperately needs.”

Greek Foreign Minister to Visit Lebanon Wednesday

Naharnet/February 18/2020
The Foreign Minister of Greece is expected to visit Lebanon on Wednesday for talks with senior officials, the National News Agency reported on Tuesday. Nikos Dendias’s visit comes as Lebanon grapples with an unprecedented economic crisis very similar to Greece’s 2007–08 financial crisis.
Dendias is scheduled to meet with President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri, PM Hassan Diab and his Lebanese counterpart Nasif Hitti. Hitt and Dendias will speak at a press conference after the meeting.

8 Activists Charged with Bank Torching, Referred to Criminal Court

Naharnet/February 18/2020
Mount Lebanon Examining Magistrate Bassam al-Hajj on Monday issued an indictment in the file of protest movement activist Rabih al-Zein and seven others. The indictment says al-Zein “incited to the felony of the premeditated torching of banks.”He was referred along with seven others to the Mount Lebanon Criminal Court. Al-Hajj had issued an in-absentia arrest warrant for al-Zein in recent days.

Probe Ordered in Alleged Eurobond Operations Involving Lebanese Banks
Naharnet/February 18/2020
Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm on Tuesday asked State Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat to request information from the central bank’s Special Investigation Commission on alleged Eurobond operations involving some Lebanese banks and global financial firms. The National News Agency said Najm’s move follows “media reports that some Lebanese banks have placed their bonds under the name of some foreign institutions to pressure the State to pay the debt.” Lebanon has the world’s third-highest debt to GDP ratio and has been sliding towards default in recent months, with tight capital controls and a currency devaluation already hitting purchasing power. Lebanon is expected to decide soon whether to pay $1.2 billion in Eurobonds that reach maturity on March 9 or to default on its debt. The country has requested help from the International Monetary Fund to assess the measures needed to rebuild the economy, but has not yet asked for financial assistance. An IMF delegation is due to start talks with top Lebanese officials on Thursday.

Diab chairs meeting with IFC delegation
NNA/February 18/2020
Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, chaired Tuesday at the Grand Serail, a meeting attended by a delegation of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), alongside Ministers Raoul Nehme (Economy), Imad Hoballah (Industry), Michel Najjar (Public Works and Transportation), and Raymond Ghajar (Energy), as well as Secretary General of the Council of Ministers, Mohammad Makkieh. The meeting was devoted to discussing projects of cooperation between the public and private sectors, in addition to the development of the airport and the transportation sector.

Berri meets British Defence Senior Advisors, Ministers of Justice and Defence
NNA/February 18/2020
Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri, on Tuesday held talks with the UK’s Defence Senior Advisor, Lieutenant General Sir John Lorimer, who came to Ain-el-Tineh in the company of British Ambassador to Lebanon, Chris Rampling. The meeting reportedly featured high on the current general situation in Lebanon and the broader region. Berri later received Minister of Justice, Marie-Claude Najm, with whom he discussed an array of ministerial affairs, in addition to the means to bolster the judiciary work. The Speaker also met today with Minister of National Defence, Zeina Akar, over the latest security and political developments and the latest economic and financial situation on the local scene. Separately, Berri cabled his Chinese counterpart, Li Zhanshu, to whom he expressed solidarity with China amid the current Coronavirus crisis.

Diplomats felicitate Hitti, Syrian Ambassador affirms Lebanon and Syria cannot succeed without integration
NNA/February 18/2020
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, Nassif Hitti, on Tuesday welcomed Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdel Karim Ali, who relayed to him the felicitations of his Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Muallem. “I listened to the minister’s point of view on the means to endure the delicate situation in fraternal Lebanon and to face the many challenges before this government,” the Syrian diplomat said. “We discussed the situation in Syria, which has witnessed many victories, and which should allow more cooperation to face common challenges and to seek exits where we see mutual interest for both of our countries in the political and economic fields,” he added. Ali confirmed close coordination between the authorities of the two countries over the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland. “With regard to the ongoing coordination over the refugee file, it has been more than clear that we have spared no effort or initiative to encourage Syrian nationals to return to all its areas and partake in its reconstruction process,” the Syrian Ambassador said. Moreover, Ali denied having relayed any invitation to the minister to visit Syria. Separately, the Foreign Minister also met respectively with the ambassadors of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Qatar, and Austria, who congratulated him on his assumption of office.

Mortada discusses means of supporting Lebanese farmers with Japanese Ambassador
NNA/February 18/2020
Agriculture and Culture Minister, Abbas Mortada, on Tuesday met in his office at the Ministry the Japanese Ambassador to Lebanon, Takeshi Okubo, who came on a protocol visit. The pair reportedly discussed means of cooperation between Lebanon and Japan in the various domains, especially in terms of providing support to the Lebanese farmers and the agricultural sector. Minister Mortada highlighted the necessity of cooperation between Lebanon and Japan, hailing Japan’s humanitarian, social and economic support to Lebanon. The Minister also underlined the importance of cooperation between the two countries, notably in the cultural sphere, given that Lebanon is a country rich in its cultural, civilizational and archaeological heritage.”

Hariri meets US Ambassador

NNA/February 18/2020
Former Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, welcomed on Tuesday at his residence in Downtown Beirut the US Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard, who came on a farewell visit upon the end of her diplomatic mission in Lebanon.

Akar meets British Defence Senior Advisor
NNA/February 18/2020
Vice Prime Minister, National Defense Minister Zeina Akar Adra, on Tuesday met in her office at the Ministry with the UK’s Defence Senior Advisor, Lieutenant General Sir John Lorimer, who came in the company of British Ambassador to Lebanon, Chris Rampling, and British Military Attaché.
Sir John Lorimer congratulated Minister Akar on her new ministerial post. The meeting reportedly featured high on the existing cooperation projects between the two sides, including the joint border towers project to secure the borders with Syria. Sir Lorimer expressed his Country’s readiness to boost cooperation between the two sides. On the other hand, Minister Akar met with UN Resident Coordinator for Lebanon, Philippe Lazzarini, with talks reportedly touching on the general headlines of coordination between the United Nations agencies and the concerned Lebanese ministries within the framework of the support provided by the United Nations Organization to Lebanon.

Strong Lebanon’ bloc: To put dossier of stolen money recovery above tensions

NNA/February 18/2020
The “Strong Lebanon” parliamentary bloc convened in a periodic meeting on Tuesday under the chairmanship of MP Gebran Bassil, and followed up on the legislative path relevant to the recovery of stolen money, in addition to the current situation on banks. Reading out the bloc’s statement following the meeting, former minister Mansour Bteish indicated that conferees lengthily discussed the unfair measures taken by the banks in this juncture. He added that the Central Bank had not given answers yet about money transfers abroad, especially after October 17, 2019. “We will not remain silent; we have information about the transfer of millions and billions,” Bteish said. He went on to say that the bloc was keenly following up on the legislative path of the recovery of stolen money, urging all political forces to put this dossier above their tensions.

Geagea, Canadian ambassador tackle political developments

NNA/February 18/2020
“Lebanese Forces” Party Leader, Samir Geagea, on Tuesday received in Meerab Canadian Ambassador to Lebanon, Emmanuelle Lamoureux, with whom he discussed most recent political and economic developments in the country.

Geagea: Nasrallah’s call for loyalist, opposition to cooperate attempt to evade responsibility
NNA/February 18/2020
“Lebanese Forces” party leader, Samir Geagea, on Tuesday stressed during a meeting with the press in Meerab that Hezbollah Secretary-General, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s call for loyalists and oppositionists to cooperate in a bid to save the country was “an attempt to start evading responsibility.”
“The ones that can help now more than ever to remedy the situation, halt deterioration, and bring back a healthy economy to the country are Hezbollah and Sayyed Nasrallah,” Geagea maintained. “If he [Nasrallah] seriously wants to help at the strategic level, the issue requires of him three main steps; the first step is to expose any of its corrupt allies; the second it is to distance [Hezbollah] from regional developments — given that the party’s interference in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria has had a negative impact on Lebanon at the economic and financial levels; the third and most basic step is to help the Lebanese state recover an acceptable limit of its credibility in order to be able to rise again,” Geagea explained, asking of Hezbollah to leave strategic and military decisions up to the state.

Telecom Minister meets Spanish Ambassador
NNA/February 18/2020
Minister of Telecommunications, Talal Hawwat, met Tuesday with Spanish Ambassador to Lebanon, Jose Maria Ferre, who congratulated his host on his new post. According to a statement by the Minister’s press office, the pair discussed the current general situation in Lebanon and the economic and political challenges.

Ibrahim presses charges against 18 money changers
NNA/February 18/2020
Financial Prosecutor, Judge Ali Ibrahim, on Tuesday pressed charges against 18 money changers for violating currency exchange-related law and harming the state’s financial prestige. Judge Ibrahim referred the files to First Investigative Judges of the governorates. 

Pictures Enclosed/Ahmad Toufic’s Funeral Procession/His Picture