A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For February 27-28/2020 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 134th Day

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A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For 27-28/2020 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 134th Day
Compiled By: Elias Bejjani
February 28/2020

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on February 27-28/2020
Third Coronavirus Case Confirmed in Lebanon
Hassan: Lebanon Strengthens Health Control at Border
Lebanese Embassy in Tehran Calls on Nationals to Travel Back
U.S could sanction corrupt politicians, says Schenker
Lebanon begins ‘historic’ offshore oil drilling amid crisis
Suspected Israeli strike ‘kills senior Hezbollah official’ in Syria
Aoun Discusses Monetary Situation with Salameh
Bassil Calls for Protecting Oil from Domestic Corruption, Foreign Greed
Aoun Launches Drillship Work, Diab Says Economic Hope Grows
Sayegh on Exploratory Oil Drilling: Do Not Exaggerate
Lebanon to Request 7-day Grace Period for March Eurobonds
Syrian Linked to Hizbullah Killed near Golan Heights
No More Dollars … Lebanon’s Migrant Workers Hit by Financial Crisis
Watani: a Lebanese exhibition for local brands
Berri invites House committees for joint session Wednesday
Bahrain: Suspension of all flights to and from Iraq and Lebanon until further notice
Diab launches Twitter account for citizens to share proposals on confronting challenges
Army chief meets Ambassadors O’Neill, Lamoureux
Rahi, Ferzli talk latest developments
Rampling from Baalbek: Economic times are tough, UK delivering further support
Activists stage sit in outside Justice Palace in soildarity with Raidy, Sadek
Bukhari meets with US Ambassador
Audeh meets UAE ambassador, Hasbani
Borrell upon world NGO Day: EU committed to the protection and empowerment of civic actors
Moucharafieh meets French Foreign Ministry delegation
Lebanon crisis: the Maronite church is at odds with the state/Michael Young/The National/February 27/2020
USA Treasury Designates Martyrs Foundation Companies and Officials as Global Terrorists

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on February 27-28/2020
Third Coronavirus Case Confirmed in Lebanon
Naharnet/February 27/2020
Lebanon on Thursday confirmed its third coronavirus case, saying the person infected is an Iranian man. A statement issued by the Health Ministry said the 77-year-old Iranian had arrived in Lebanon aboard an Iranian plane that landed in Beirut on February 24. “He was brought from his home via the Lebanese Red Cross once he showed minor symptoms and he is currently in an isolation room at the Rafik Hariri University Hospital,” the statement said, adding that his condition is “stable.”Lebanon’s first two infected people – two Lebanese women — had arrived aboard another Iranian plane earlier this month.
Thousands of Lebanese travel to Iran every year to visit Shiite holy sites in Qom and other cities. The Rafik Hariri University Hospital, a state-run hospital in Beirut, meanwhile announced Thursday that it examined 40 people for the virus over the past 24 hours, keeping nine of them in the coronavirus ward and asking the others to isolate themselves at home. “35 people meanwhile underwent lab tests and tested negative as eight people were discharged from the coronavirus isolation ward and asked to stay home for 14 days after they tested negative twice,” the hospital added. “Until the moment, there are 12 cases in the quarantine zone, knowing that they have tested negative,” the hospital said, adding that the three infected people in the isolation unit are “in a stable condition and are receiving the necessary treatment.”

Hassan: Lebanon Strengthens Health Control at Border
Naharnet/February 27/2020
Health Minister Hamad Hassan stressed on Thursday that strict measures have been imposed on Lebanon’s land borders to counter the deadly Coronavirus threat that killed thousands globally. “Lebanon is strengthening measures on the border to confront the virus. Today, we will inspect the measures in place at the Masnaa border crossing (with Syria) to protect the Lebanese community,” said Hassan speaking during a visit to Baalbek Government Hospital. On the measures taken at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport, Hassan said the measures were “highly praised by international sides. Some mishaps must not label the whole process as negative. The health situation in Lebanon is a red line.”A viral Coronavirus outbreak that began in China has infected more than 82,000 people globally. Lebanon has recorded two cases in one week.

Lebanese Embassy in Tehran Calls on Nationals to Travel Back
Naharnet/February 27/2020
The Lebanese Embassy in Iran urged Lebanese nationals there to take “caution” against Coronavirus risks and to book tickets back to Lebanon “as soon as possible.”The embassy asked Lebanese nationals in “various provinces and cities of Iran to exercise the utmost caution because of the Coronavirus threat, and to follow the medical and health instructions announced by the Iranian Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization.”It also called on “Lebanese in Iran who wish to return back home, to book tickets on the next two flights directly from Tehran to Beirut scheduled on March 2 and 4.”The coronavirus epidemic in Iran has cost 26 lives, and 106 more cases of the disease had been confirmed on Thursday, raising the tally of infections to 245, the highest outside China where COVID-19 originated. Lebanon recorded two cases of the disease in one week in Lebanese women who had traveled from Qom in Iran.
Lebanese had asked authorities to ban flights coming from infected countries and to follow suit the measures adopted in other states. On Tuesday, the Cabinet decided to restrict travel to countries witnessing major coronavirus outbreaks and to order a halt to pilgrimage trips.
The viral outbreak began in China and has infected more than 82,000 people globally. The World Health Organization has named the illness COVID-19, referring to its origin late last year and the Coronavirus that causes it.

U.S could sanction corrupt politicians, says Schenker
Annahar Staff/ February 27/ 2020
Speaking to The National, Schenker said that targetting corrupt members of Lebanon’s political class is a possibility under the Global Magnitsky Act.
BEIRUT: Assistant Secretary of State David Schenker hinted Wednesday at anti-corruption sanctions targetting Lebanese politicians, as his government intensified pressure on the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah’s financial network. Speaking to The National, Schenker said that targetting corrupt members of Lebanon’s political class is a possibility under the Global Magnitsky Act. “It is something important for us and something we are working through right now,” he said.  The U.S Treasury had earlier slapped sanctions on 15 Lebanese entities and individuals linked to the group’s Martyrs Foundation. “Hezbollah profits from the sale of goods vital to the Lebanese peoples’ health and economy, such as pharmaceuticals and gasoline,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “The Trump Administration stands with the Lebanese people, and we are committed to exposing and holding accountable Hezbollah’s terror-funding business schemes.”The companies targetted are Atlas Holding, Medical Equipment and Drugs International Corporation (MEDIC), Shahed Pharm, Amana Fuel Co., Amana Plus, Al Kawthar, Amana Sanitary and Paints Company LTD, City Pharma SARL., Global Touristic Services SAL., Sanovera Pharm Company SARL, Mirath and Capital SA.  Three Hezbollah affiliates were also sanctioned: Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi, identified as a leader or official of Atlas Holding; Jawad Nur Al Din, identified as a leader or official of the Martyrs Foundation and Sheikh Yusuf Aasi, identified as a leader or official of the Martyrs Foundation. According to the US Treasury, Atlas Holding “banked freely at [the now liquidated] Jammal Trust Bank (JTB), despite their open affiliation with previously designated Hezbollah entities”.
JTB was targetted late last year and is currently undergoing liquidation. The bank denied all charges.

Lebanon begins ‘historic’ offshore oil drilling amid crisis
Aassociated Press/February 27/2020
Experts say it would be years before the country could start extracting and reaping the benefits of any oil found in its waters, should any be found.
Beirut: Lebanon’s president Thursday inaugurated the Mediterranean country’s first offshore exploratory drilling for oil and gas, calling it a “historic day” for the cash-strapped country. Michel Aoun spoke aboard the drillship Tungsten Explorer, which will be conducting the drilling operations of the first exploration well, located approximately 30 kilometers (18 miles) offshore from the capital Beirut. “Today is a happy day for us and for all Lebanese, and we hope the dream we’ve all imagined is realized today. It is a historic day,” he said. The ceremony at sea contrasted sharply with Lebanon’s crippling financial and economic crisis, including a deepening liquidity crunch and soaring public debt. The limits have prompted protests against the financial institutions — including violent attacks on ATM machines and some bank branches. 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. Teetering on economic and financial collapse, the Lebanese government is now considering whether to pay or default on its $1.2 billion Eurobond debt, which matures next month. Lebanon has never defaulted on its debt payments. Defaulting could be costly to the national economy and banking system, which until the recent financial crisis was one of Lebanon’s most profitable and reputable sectors. Experts say it would be years before the country could start extracting and reaping the benefits of any oil found in its waters, should any be found. On the ship, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the exploratory drilling “offered a ray of light amid the darkness” and hoped it was the beginning of a transformation that would see Lebanon become an oil country. The media office of Lebanon’s Energy Minister said the excavation work will start in a few days, after receiving drilling equipment and supplies from the logistics base at Beirut port. In 2017, Lebanon approved the licenses for an international consortium led by France’s Total, Italy’s ENI and Russia’s Novatek to move forward with offshore oil and gas development for two of 10 blocks in the Mediterranean Sea, including one that is partly claimed by Israel. Total said the first well will be drilled at a depth of 1,500 meters (4,920 feet). The exploration well aims at exploring targets located more than 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) below the sea bed. The drilling of the well is estimated to last two months, after which the drillship will leave Lebanon, Total said. At a later stage that hasn’t yet been scheduled, drilling should begin in Block 9, part of which Israel also claims. A major find in Lebanon’s southernmost waters could raise the possibility of a dispute with Israel.
The U.S. has been mediating between Lebanon and Israel over the nearly 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea claimed by both countries.

Suspected Israeli strike ‘kills senior Hezbollah official’ in Syria
The New Arab/February 27/2020
A suspected Israeli missile strike on a car near the occupied Golan Heights in Syria has reportedly killed a senior Hezbollah official, media reported on Thursday. Syrian state TV reported that an Israeli drone targeted the vehicle near the southern village of Hader in the Quneitra region.
There was no immediate comment from Israel about the attack. Israeli media reported that Aymad Al-Tawil, a senior Hezbollah member, was travelling in the car when it was targeted by the drone. He was involved in organising Hezbollah cells in Syria to launch cross-border attacks on Israel, Channel 13 reported. Israel has repeatedly struck Iran-linked targets in Syria in recent years including militia targets in the east of the country, warning it will not allow the Islamic Republic to build a permanent military presence in the country. A Syrian military statement reported this week that an Israeli attack near Damascus International Airport had taken place and that its air defences confronted fire coming from the direction of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. It said the defenders intercepted or shot down most of them. In a rare acknowledgement of operations in neighbouring Syria, Israel said its warplanes attacked targets late Sunday of the Palestinian militant Islamic Jihad group, south of Damascus, in addition to sites in the Gaza Strip. It said the sites attacked were used for “research and development of armaments” manufactured in Syria and Gaza and had allegedly produced dozens of kilograms (pounds) of rocket fuel each month.

Aoun Discusses Monetary Situation with Salameh
Naharnet/February 27/2020
President Michel Aoun met with Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh at Baabda Palace where discussions focused on the monetary situation in Lebanon, the National News Agency reported on Thursday. The meeting comes as Lebanon grapples with means to address its spiraling economic crisis, a debt burden among the largest in the world and a liquidity crunch that made banks impose tough restrictions on dollar withdrawals. Lebanon’s government faces a $1.2 billion debt payment on Eurobonds that reach maturity on March 9. Economists, investors and government officials are divided over what to do with the March bond payment. Prime Minister Hassan Diab met last this week with a delegation from the International Monetary Fund to discuss how to tackle the country’s spiraling economic crisis.

Bassil Calls for Protecting Oil from Domestic Corruption, Foreign Greed
Naharnet/February 27/2020
Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil on Thursday called for protecting Lebanon’s oil and gas resources from “domestic corruption and foreign greed.” Reminiscing the efforts of ten years that eventually led to the launch of offshore oil and gas drilling, Bassil said some parties “ridiculed” the endeavor and voiced skepticism “but the dream has become reality.” Noting that some had sought to “obstruct” the exploration efforts, Bassil stressed in a tweet that “entire Lebanon will benefit” from the development. Earlier in the day, President Michel Aoun inaugurated the country’s first offshore exploratory drilling for oil and gas, calling it a “historic day” for cash-strapped Lebanon. Experts say it would be years before the country could start extracting and reaping the benefits of any oil found in its waters, should any be found.

Aoun Launches Drillship Work, Diab Says Economic Hope Grows
Associated Press/Naharnet/February 27/2020
President Michel Aoun on Thursday launched the work of a French ship that will drill for oil and gas in block 4 of Lebanon’s Exclusive Economic Zone. “Today is a happy day for us and for all Lebanese. We hope the dream which we sought to achieve will be realized. Today is a historic day,” Aoun said at the ceremony. Thanking the Total, Eni and Novatek firms for their efforts, the president hoped there will be “cooperation with them in other fields in Lebanon’s Exclusive Economic Zone.”Prime Minister Hassan Diab for his part said that “from the middle of complete darkness, today a large window of light is being opened.”“It increases hope that Lebanon would overcome the severe economic crisis,” he said. “It is a historic day on which we start drilling offshore to turn Lebanon into an oil producing country,” the premier added.
The ceremony at sea contrasted sharply with Lebanon’s crippling financial and economic crisis, including a deepening liquidity crunch and soaring public debt. The limits have prompted protests against the financial institutions — including violent attacks on ATM machines and some bank branches. 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. Teetering on economic and financial collapse, the Lebanese government is now considering whether to pay or default on its $1.2 billion Eurobond debt, which matures next month.
Lebanon has never defaulted on its debt payments. Defaulting could be costly to the national economy and banking system, which until the recent financial crisis was one of Lebanon’s most profitable and reputable sectors. Experts say it would be years before the country could start extracting and reaping the benefits of any oil found in its waters, should any be found. The media office of Lebanon’s Energy Minister said the excavation work will start in a few days, after receiving drilling equipment and supplies from the logistics base at Beirut port. In 2017, Lebanon approved the licenses for an international consortium led by France’s Total, Italy’s ENI and Russia’s Novatek to move forward with offshore oil and gas development for two of 10 blocks in the Mediterranean Sea, including one that is partly claimed by Israel. Total said the first well will be drilled at a depth of 1,500 meters (4,920 feet). The exploration well aims at exploring targets located more than 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) below the sea bed. The drilling of the well is estimated to last two months, after which the drill ship will leave Lebanon, Total said. At a later stage that hasn’t yet been scheduled, drilling should begin in Block 9, part of which Israel also claims. A major find in Lebanon’s southernmost waters could raise the possibility of a dispute with Israel. The U.S. has been mediating between Lebanon and Israel over the nearly 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea claimed by both sides.

Sayegh on Exploratory Oil Drilling: Do Not Exaggerate
Naharnet/February 27/2020
Democratic Gathering Parliamentary Bloc MP Faysal al-Sayegh downplayed what he said are “exaggerations” that Lebanon can be listed among oil- producing countries, saying it is still early to know that.
“What is happening today off the Lebanese coast is exploratory drilling operation to know whether there is gas in commercial quantities or not! Lebanon is still in a ‘Fish in the Sea’ stage,” said Sayegh. The MP was referring to President Michel Aoun’s announcement on Wednesday that Lebanon will witness a “historic day” Thursday with the official launch of offshore oil and gas drilling. Sayegh said Lebanon still has “about $ 50 billion lost in depositors’ money, billions of Eurobonds due within 10 days, an international monetary fund shocked by our inability to draw a rescue plan, and indifference to our support by the Gulf brothers, adding to Coronavirus from Iran, and escalating US sanctions.”“So please do not exaggerate the Lebanese way, but instead start devising realistic solutions to our problems with the available practical capabilities, do not trade and mortgage our oil wealth have mercy on our children and future Lebanese generations,” he concluded.

Lebanon to Request 7-day Grace Period for March Eurobonds
Naharnet/February 27/2020
Lebanon plans to request a seven-day grace period to decide on restructuring a plan for it Eurobond debt maturing on March 9, media reports said on Thursday. The government is weighing whether to pay or default on its $1.2 billion Eurobond debt, which matures next month, amid an economic crisis that has sparked months of unrest. A government source who spoke on condition of anonymity said Lebanon is entitled to ask for grace period to give financial advisers more time to devise a restructuring plan for the debt.

Syrian Linked to Hizbullah Killed near Golan Heights
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 27/2020
A Syrian linked to Lebanon’s Hizbullah was killed in a cross-border Israeli drone strike Thursday that targeted his car in a village near the annexed Golan Heights, a war monitor said. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP that the man was killed in Haidar village in Quneitra province of southern Syria. An informed source named the man as Imad Tawil, while Syria’s official news agency SANA said he was a civilian resident of Haidar. On Sunday night, Israeli air strikes near Damascus killed six pro-regime fighters, according to the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria. Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes on regime targets as well as forces of the government’s Iranian and Hizbullah allies since the Syrian conflict erupted in 2011.

No More Dollars … Lebanon’s Migrant Workers Hit by Financial Crisis
Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 27 February, 2020
Eighteen-year-old domestic worker Mary came to Lebanon to help support her family, but now a financial crisis is preventing her from sending money home to Ethiopia. A crippling liquidity crunch in the Mediterranean country has drastically limited access to dollars, and tens of thousands of migrant workers toiling for remittances in the hard currency are suffering the backlash. On a recent Sunday, Mary strolled down a bustling street in the capital Beirut with her girlfriends, dressed in an elegant outfit of skirt, jacket and ballerinas for her day off.
“I used to earn 400 dollars … but today I get my salary in Lebanese pounds,” she told Agence France Presse. “I can’t send money to Ethiopia anymore.”Around her, migrant workers of all ages flocked to shops that sell imported food or clothes from home, the women in their Sunday best. Young men sat on the pavement outside calling centres and restaurants, music spilling out onto the street.
The Lebanese pound used to be easily exchangeable for dollars at a fixed rate, but now banks have capped withdrawals of the US currency and its value has plummeted on the parallel market. The de-facto devaluation means Mary has lost at least a third of her salary. But she insisted her employees were not to blame. The problem, she said, “is from the state”. In a wave of mass street protests since October 17, Lebanese have railed against what they condemn as a corrupt political class that has mismanaged the country. An estimated quarter of a million domestic workers live in Lebanon, many in conditions that have repeatedly been condemned by their countries of origin and rights group, who point to the fact that many are underage. The large majority of foreign workers hail from Ethiopia, but many also come from the Philippines, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. A sponsorship system known as “kafala” leaves maids, nannies and carers outside the remit of Lebanon’s labor law, and at the mercy of their employers. Thousands more foreign men work petrol pumps, clean the streets or labour in private businesses and restaurants.
Before Lebanon’s economy went into meltdown, most of these workers earned the equivalent of 150 to 400 dollars a month, often according to nationality. But their salaries have now been de facto slashed. With access to dollars severely limited and the value of the local currency tumbling, many employers have decided to pay their employees in Lebanese pounds. Migrant workers are then forced to exchange their local wages into foreign currency at a substantial loss on the black market. “What will I do?” Mary asked. “My siblings are in school and I’m supposed to help my family, but now I can’t.”
After years of political turmoil, Lebanon’s economy is collapsing, prices have soared, and businesses are struggling to stay open. Amandeep Singh, 23, has been working for four years in a plant nursery north of Beirut and sent money home to India.
He says his salary has suddenly been slashed from 500 to 360 dollars after his employer decided to pay him half in pounds. He was told the situation would improve soon. “I’ll wait and see,” Singh said. But “if there are no more dollars, there will be nothing left for me in Lebanon. I will go home to India.”The crisis saw more than 1,000 Filipinos flock to their embassy in December to sign up for free repatriation. The mostly female domestic workers, some with children in tow, signed up for the free flight. Jasmin Bighoun, 32-year-old female domestic worker from Bangladesh, said she used to be able to send 300 dollars home to the family, but now that has dropped to just 150. “There are no more dollars and everything is more expensive. It’s not the same as before, life is hard,” she said. If necessary, she and her husband will pack up and return to Bangladesh, she said. Other migrant workers have already made up their minds.
Nav, an 18-year-old from Ethiopia who works as a cleaner for hourly wages, said the sacrifices are no longer worth it. “They pay me in pounds,” she said. “What’s the point of staying? I want to leave.”

Watani: a Lebanese exhibition for local brands
Annahar/February 27/2020
the crisis has certainly left the country deeply ravaged. This is especially true when it comes to local brands and businesses.
BEIRUT: Lebanon has been facing a deteriorating economic crisis that has affected all of its industries. Whether it’s the dismissal of thousands of employees in the service industry, or the shortage in pharmaceuticals and food staples like bread, the crisis has certainly left the country deeply ravaged. This is especially true when it comes to local brands and businesses. However, Lebanese brands are taking action. For the first time in Lebanon, an all-Lebanese. Exhibition named Watani is taking place to showcase Lebanese brands from various sectors and highlight their achievements. Organized by AR Events in collaboration with the Association of Lebanese Industrialists (ALI), Watani will gather over 100 Lebanese brands including big names like Ghandour, Poppins, Snips, Cosmaline, and Fattal group. “The idea of [Watani] came out of the need of the market,” Rouwayda Tahtouh, one of the organizers, told Annahar. “When we saw that we had problems importing products and were thus suffering a shortage of supplies and raw materials, we knew it was time to rely more on local production.”Watani will be a three-day exhibition taking place on 6,7,8 March at AVA Venue Achrafieh, and will include specific-themed conferences organized by the showcasing brands. Entrance fee is 7,000LL, and attendees get a 5,000LL voucher that allows them to buy any item they want. “This way, we guarantee that every attendee will be purchasing an item no matter how cheap it may be and directly support the economy,” said Tahtouh.

Berri invites House committees for joint session Wednesday
NNA/February 27/2020
Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri, has called the parliamentary committees of Finance, Foreign Affairs, Economy, Defense, and Energy, to convene in a joint session at 10:00 am on forthcoming Wednesday.

Bahrain: Suspension of all flights to and from Iraq and Lebanon until further notice
NNA /February 27/2020
The Civil Aviation Affairs (CAA) in the Kingdom of Bahrain has declared the suspension of all flights to and from the Republic of Iraq and the Lebanese Republic until further notification, with immediate effect.
The CAA asks all citizens and residents of Bahrain who are at present in regions influenced by the Coronavirus (COVID 19) and who were planning to come back to the Kingdom of Bahrain to call the accompanying number +973 17227555. The CAA attests that it is liaising with all authorities to take the vital measures considering COVID-19. All arrivals and appearances to Bahrain International Airport suspected of infection will be tested and, if seen as experiencing the condition, are instantly shifted to assigned centers for segregation and treatment.
The Civil Aviation Affairs placed emphasis on the need to abide by established health guidelines in order to battle against COVID-19. —-Bahrain News Agency

Diab launches Twitter account for citizens to share proposals on confronting challenges
NNA/February 27/2020
Prime Minister, Dr. Hassan Diab, has launched a new Twitter account for the Lebanese citizens to communicate their suggestions and ideas on confronting challenges and building a better Lebanon, as aspired by all.
The page entitled “Hassan Diab Official Team for Plans & Suggestions” holds the motto “Communciate with us to Make Your Voice Heard.”

Army chief meets Ambassadors O’Neill, Lamoureux
NNA/February 27/2020
Army Commander Joseph Aoun on Thursday welcomed at his Yarzeh office Women Affairs, Peace and Security Ambassador, Jacqueline O’Neill, accompanied by Canadian Ambassador to Lebanon, Emmanuelle Lamoureux, and Canadian Military Attaché David Jones. Discussions reportedly touched on the cooperation relations between the armies of both countries.

Rahi, Ferzli talk latest developments
NNA/February 27/2020
Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Beshara Rahi received Thursday in Bkerki Deputy House Speaker, Elie Ferzli, with whom he discussed the current general situation and latest developments. Speaking to reporters following the meeting, Ferzli said talks featured high on the economic condition in the country, as well as on the independence of the judiciary and the recovery of stolen funds.

Rampling from Baalbek: Economic times are tough, UK delivering further support
NNA/February 27/2020
During his fourth visit to Baalbek, British Ambassador Chris Rampling toured ongoing UK funded projects, and inaugurated new ones, underlining the UK’s unswerving support to Baalbek and its surrounding areas. Accompanied by Governor Bashir Khodr, Ambassador Rampling attended the Lebanese Enterprise and Employment Programme’s ‘UK Support To Baalbek’ event for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) at the Palmyra hotel, where he also announced the launch of a new mobile tourism application for Baalbek. Both projects – funded by UK aid – are aimed at creating economic opportunities and jobs, and boosting tourism to the City of the Sun, and the surrounding areas.
Under the UK-Lebanon Year of Education 2020 launched in October 2019, Ambassador Rampling visited Al Bashaer High School run by Al Mabarrat Association to see the impact of UK support designed to raise the quality of education delivered to students. The British Council has been supporting Al Mabarrat through the Connecting Classrooms programme since 2009. Received by Col Salman Salman, Ambassador Rampling visited Four Land Border Regiment and a Forward Operating Base in Baalbek and saw how UK support to the Lebanese Army is securing the borders with Syria, as the sole legitimate defenders of Lebanon. Since 2019, Lebanon had complete authority over its border with Syria. UK support to the Lebanese Army since 2011 has reached over $92 million.
At the end of his visit, Ambassador Rampling said: “I am pleased to be in Baalbek again, my fourth visit since I arrived, a testimony of the importance we place to support the city and surrounding areas. Baalbek represents a breadth of our UK aid programmes: through education, supporting the economy, boosting tourism and above all security which is key to the success of all our projects.
The UK recognises the deep economic challenges facing local businesses and municipalities here in Baalbek and across Lebanon. We recognise the need for urgent action by the Government of Lebanon to address urgent and mounting economic pressures. We know the economic challenges are stark, and we recognise the burden of refugees that Lebanese communities continue to bear. Since 2014, UK aid’s contribution to the Baalbek-Hermel region has been over $3.5 million, reaching over 125,000 beneficiaries.
We are here to deliver more. Today we are investing further in Baalbek and surrounding areas, through the Lebanon Enterprise and Employment Programme to introduce grants to SMEs, the backbone of Lebanon’ economy and crucial to the country’s economic recovery. We are keen to work more closely with its residents to improve access to services, and to create further job opportunities.
I’m also delighted to launch with Governor Bashir Khodr a new mobile tourism application for Baalbek to further support the economy, boost tourism to this spectacular city, and encourage more tourists whether from Lebanon or abroad to learn about its remarkable history. The new app can be downloaded by Android users, and will be available on the Apple Store in due course.
We will continue to support Lebanon through our programmes that have achieved a great deal reaching over $250 million in 2019 – in security, prosperity, education and stability.”
*British Embassy Press Release

Activists stage sit in outside Justice Palace in soildarity with Raidy, Sadek
NNA/February 27/2020
A number of protesters on Thursday gathered outside the Justice Palace, in solidarity with activist Gino Raidy and Media Figure Dima Sadek, NNA field reporter said. MP Paula Yaacoubian and several social media activists were also present.

Bukhari meets with US Ambassador
NNA/February 27/2020
Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon, Walid bin Abdullah Bukhari, on Thursday welcomed at his Yarzeh residence, US Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard, upon the end of her diplomatic mission in Lebanon.
Both Ambassadors reportedly broached the most recent developments on the regional and international scenes, as per a statement by the Saudi Embassy Press Office. The pair also seized the occasion to exchange views on a number of issues of mutual concern. Ambassador Bukhari wished the outgoing US Ambassador success in her future mission.

Audeh meets UAE ambassador, Hasbani
NNA/February 27/2020
Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Beirut and its Suburbs, Elias Audeh, on Thursday met with UAE Ambassador to Lebanon, Hamad Saeed Al Shamsi, with whom he discussed the current situation in the country. Archbishop Audeh then welcomed former Vice Prime Minister, Ghassan Hasbani.

Borrell upon world NGO Day: EU committed to the protection and empowerment of civic actors
NNA/February 27/2020
Upon the world day of non-governmental organisations, High Representative of the European Union, Josep Borrell, maintained that the EU is committed to the protection and empowerment of civil society actors, and lauded their contributions to human rights and democracy.
Following is Borrell’s statement:
“On world Non-Governmental Organisation Day, celebrated on 27 February, the European Union applauds the fundamental contribution made by civil society organisations to the promotion of human rights, good governance, democracy and the rule of law. As such, they are key partners for the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We are witnessing an unprecedented crackdown on civil society in many countries – restrictive legislation on foreign funding, restrictions for registration or association of civil society organisations, anti-protest laws, gagging laws, laws that criminalise online dissent and expression, the blocking of access to websites and social media and, in some cases, violent attacks and harassment.
This trend needs to stop.
The EU is committed to the protection and empowerment of civic actors, including human rights defenders, and to the promotion of space for civil society. We will continue to meet with human rights defenders, monitor their trials, visit them in detention, and raise their cases with governments. The EU also supports key international actors, such as UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights defenders, freedom of association, and freedom of expression. The EU is the world’s largest donor to civil society. The European Instrument for Democracy and Human rights (EIDHR) is one of the largest EU instruments dedicated to supporting civil society. Testament to its importance, the European Commission has proposed to keep its level of funding under next financial framework at a high level, with €1.5 billion for 2021-2027. This instrument facilitates direct cooperation with isolated or marginalised civil society actors, including through the allocation of direct grants to those operating in particularly difficult human rights and democracy contexts. Since 2005, the EU has supported more than 30, 000 human rights defenders. Today and every day, the EU stands up for a strong and pluralistic civil society. We will continue to promote a safe and enabling environment, in which civil society can operate free from hindrance and insecurity.”

Moucharafieh meets French Foreign Ministry delegation
NNA/February 27/2020
Social Affairs Minister, Professor Ramzi Moucharafieh, received this Thursday in his office at the ministry, a delegation from the French Foreign Ministry, chaired by the Director General of the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons, Julien Boucher, with whom he discussed the current situation of refugees in Lebanon and the work of the Ministry with the concerned international and local organizations in this dossier.

Lebanon crisis: the Maronite church is at odds with the state
Michael Young/The National/February 27/2020
Beirut bishop’s terse exchange with the country’s Maronite president echoes the Christian community’s unhappiness with the elite
In early February, on the occasion of Saint Maron’s Day – celebrating the founder of Lebanon’s Maronite Church, the spiritual authority of the country’s largest Christian community – the bishop of Beirut Paul Abdel-Sater, spoke at a mass in the presence of President Michel Aoun and other senior officials. The bishop’s remarks said a great deal about how the Maronite religious hierarchy views the months-long protests against the political class and its endemic corruption.
“Do the tens of thousands of Lebanese who elected you not deserve a correction to the political, economic and financial imbalance?” Bishop Abdel-Sater asked officials at the ceremony. “Does your conscience not move you at the sight of a mother wailing over her son, who committed suicide because he was unable to provide for his children?” He requested that the officials “work with the true revolutionaries [protesting the current situation] day and night” to resolve Lebanon’s crisis, “otherwise, the most honourable thing to do is to resign”.
The bishop’s remarks echoed widespread popular disgust with Lebanon’s politicians. Yet it was still unusual to see a Maronite clergyman so boldly take officials to task in public, in particular Mr Aoun, who is himself Maronite.
The irony is that Mr Aoun and his son-in-law Gebran Bassil have always portrayed themselves as purveyors of a Christian revival in Lebanon
Yet there was good reason for Bishop Abdel-Sater doing what he did, at a time when the Maronite patriarch, Bishara Al Rai, has also supported Lebanon’s protest movement. The church is alarmed that the catastrophic social and economic situation the country’s political elite has caused is driving youths to leave the country. As a minority, Christians will be hit particularly hard by this trend.
The church is correct in regarding Lebanon’s problems as having existential implications for the country’s Christians, but also in many ways for Lebanon itself. Even the most optimistic estimates suggest that it will take years for the country to begin emerging from its current predicaments, which means many more young people will leave to go abroad – a process already well under way before the crisis began.
The irony is that Mr Aoun and his son-in-law Gebran Bassil have always portrayed themselves as purveyors of a Lebanese Christian revival. Yet a cursory look at the presidents’ record would indicate a very different reality. When he headed a military government in 1988-1990, Mr Aoun embarked on a pair of conflicts with the Syrian military, then with the Christian Lebanese Forces militia, which provoked a mass migration of Christians at the time.
Since then, the president and Mr Bassil have also contributed to creating a highly negative climate in the country that has again undermined confidence. With Hezbollah’s support, they blocked parliament and much of the political system for more than two years between 2014 and 2016 as blackmail for Mr Aoun to be elected president. That period was one in which the country was dangerously adrift, economic conditions deteriorated, and institutions ceased to function effectively.
Mr Aoun has rarely allowed Lebanon’s interests to interfere with his personal ambitions. However, for a president who has claimed to be a champion of Christians to be so explicitly criticised by a senior member of the Maronite clergy only confirmed the extent to which Mr Aoun’s presidential mandate has been perceived as a fiasco by all but the president’s most credulous supporters.
Christians are estimated at roughly 30 per cent of the Lebanese population, though a census has not been held since 1932. Some figures go higher. However, the reality is that the dysfunctional Lebanese system, dominated by a corrupt sectarian political class and a militarised party, Hezbollah, which follows an Iranian agenda, offers no appeal to many young Lebanese. When youths graduate, their first impulse is to leave the country to find work elsewhere.
These dynamics have been particularly damaging to Christians, given their lower demographics. The reason is that those who leave Lebanon usually do so permanently, because there are few interesting job opportunities open to them at home and the economy often fails to reward innovation and initiative. Moreover, given the sectarian leaders’ predatory lock on the political system, it is virtually impossible to break the prevailing status quo.
The Maronite church, though often seen as a bastion of rigid conservatism, has been an instrument of profound change in Lebanon’s history. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the church’s educational institutions were responsible for creating a class of educated people willing to challenge the prominent lordly families, thereby injecting social dynamism into the community against a feudal order.
The Maronites were not the only church to do so, but the reality is that the clergy has not been systematically aligned with the political elite, or even with the Maronite president. For instance, during the civil war of 1958, the patriarch at the time, Paul Peter Meouchi, strongly opposed the president, Camille Chamoun. In other words, the Maronite church has a legacy of opposition to the political elite on which to build as it seeks to defend its community’s presence in Lebanon.
In his remarks, Bishop Abdel-Sater was making a fundamental point, namely that the Maronite community is not defined by the whims of its politicians. Yet all the signs today are that it is threatened by the folly of its most dominant leaders.
**Michael Young is editor of Diwan, the blog of the Carnegie Middle East programme, in Beirut

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY
PRESS RELEASES
USA Treasury Designates Martyrs Foundation Companies and Officials as Global Terrorists

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February 26, 2020
Washington – The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) three Lebanon-based officials and 12 Lebanon-based entities linked to the Martyrs Foundation, part of Hizballah’s support network. Specifically, OFAC designated Atlas Holding for being owned or controlled by the Martyrs Foundation, as well as senior Atlas official Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi, and ten Atlas-affiliated companies. Jawad Nur-al-Din and Sheikh Yusuf Aasi were also designated, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, as amended, for being leaders or officials of the Lebanon-based Martyrs Foundation, which was designated for supporting terrorism in July 2007. Mirath S.A.L., which is owned or controlled by Jawad Nur-al-Din, was also designated today.
“Hizballah profits from the sale of goods vital to the Lebanese peoples’ health and economy, such as pharmaceuticals and gasoline,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “The Trump Administration stands with the Lebanese people, and we are committed to exposing and holding accountable Hizballah’s terror-funding business schemes.”
Hizballah put the Lebanese banking sector at risk through its deep coordination with Jammal Trust Bank, which was designated as an SDGT in August 2019. Atlas Holding — a company controlled by the Martyrs Foundation and subordinate to Hizballah’s Executive Council — along with several of its subsidiaries banked freely at Jammal Trust Bank despite their open affiliation with previously designated Hizballah entities. In fact, Jammal Trust Bank facilitated hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions through the Lebanese financial system on behalf of Atlas Holding and its subsidiaries, and aided Hizballah officials in evading scrutiny on these accounts from Lebanese banking authorities.
Hizballah was designated by the Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in October 1997 and as an SDGT pursuant to E.O. 13224 in October 2001. As noted in previous Treasury actions, the Lebanon office of the Martyrs Foundation acts as an Iranian parastatal organization and is an integral element of Hizballah’s global terror support network. It provides services such as financial support to the families of killed or imprisoned Hizballah members, as well as to families of suicide bombers from HAMAS and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
ATLAS HOLDING
Atlas Holding is owned or controlled by the Martyrs Foundation.
Atlas Holding owns or controls at least ten companies in numerous sectors in Lebanon, including fuel, pharmaceuticals, tourism, and clothing. According to corporate registration information, the Martyrs Foundation and its senior official Sheikh Yusuf Aasi are listed as founders of Atlas Holdings. As of late 2017, Atlas was among several entities identified as being subordinate to Hizballah’s Executive Council, which takes advantage of its entities’ legitimate and civilian appearance to conceal money transfers for Hizballah’s military use. Although the funding from these Executive Council companies went into Hizballah’s coffers and military activities, Hizballah hoped that the seemingly legitimate business funds could protect Hizballah from sanctions.
KASSEM MOHAMAD ALI BAZZI
Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi is a leader or official of Atlas Holding.
Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi serves as the CEO and Chairman of the Board of Atlas Holding as of 2019, and is the company’s largest shareholder. Additionally, according to corporate registration information, he serves as an official for several of Atlas Holdings’ subsidiaries, including Amana, Amana Plus, Medic, Shahed Pharm, City Pharma, al Kawthar, and Global Touristic Services.
JAWAD NUR-AL-DIN
Jawad Nur-al-Din is a leader and official of the Martyrs Foundation.
Jawad Nur-al-Din serves as the Director General of the Lebanon-based Martyrs Foundation. In this capacity, he oversees payments to the families of Hizballah fighters who have been killed, and has coordinated these payments with senior Hizballah officials such as SDGT Hashim Safi al-Din. As a senior official of the Lebanon-based Martyrs Foundation, he works closely with senior Hizballah officials and publicly represents the Martyrs Foundation alongside senior Hizballah officials including Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Hashim Safi al-Din was designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 in May 2017. Hassan Nasrallah was designated pursuant to E.O. 12947 in January 1995, pursuant to E.O. 13582 in September 2012, and pursuant to E.O. 13224 in 2018.
SHEIKH YUSUF AASI
Sheikh Yusuf Aasi is a leader or official of the Martyrs Foundation.
In his role with the Martyrs Foundation, Sheikh Yusuf Aasi has publicly advocated for the foundation in light of U.S. sanctions against Hizballah and the rising number of Hizballah operatives killed in Syria. Additionally, Sheikh Yusuf Aasi is one of the founders of Atlas Holdings, which is being designated today for being owned or controlled by the Martyrs Foundation.
MEDICAL EQUIPMENT & DRUGS INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION (MEDIC)
Medic is owned or controlled by Atlas Holding. According to corporate registration information, founders of Medic include both Atlas and Bazzi. Atlas is the majority shareholder for the company, and Bazzi, who holds fewer shares, serves as the Director General, Chairman, and authorized signatory for the company.
SHAHED PHARM
Shahed Pharm is owned or controlled by Atlas Holding. According to corporate registration information, senior Martyrs Foundation official Jawad Nur-al-Din is listed as one of its founders, along with Atlas Holdings, and Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi is listed as a shareholder, director, and authorized signatory for the company.
AMANA FUEL CO.
Amana Fuel Co. is owned or controlled by Atlas Holding. According to corporate registration information, Atlas Holdings controls the majority of shares in the company, and Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi is listed as a founder, director, and authorized signatory for the company.
AMANA PLUS CO.
Amana Plus Co. is owned or controlled by Atlas Holding. According to corporate registration information, Atlas Holdings is a founder of, and the largest shareholder for, Amana Plus Co. Jawad Nur-al-Din and Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi are also listed as company founders, with Bazzi also serving as the Director General, Chairman, and authorized signatory of the company.
AL KAWTHAR
Al Kawthar is owned or controlled by Atlas Holding. Also of note, corporate registration information lists Atlas Holding and Martyrs Foundation CEO Jawad Nur-al-Din as founder of Al Kawthar, and Atlas is a majority shareholder in the company.
AMANA SANITARY AND PAINTS COMPANY L.T.D.
Amana Sanitary and Paints Company L.T.D. is owned or controlled by Atlas Holding. According to corporate registration information, Atlas and Jawad Nur-al-Din are both founders of the company, with the majority of the company’s stock being allocated to Atlas.
CITY PHARMA S.A.R.L.
City Pharma S.A.R.L. is owned or controlled by Atlas Holding. According to corporate registration information, Atlas is a founder of the company along with Jawad Nur-al-Din, and Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi was the authorized signatory for the company.
GLOBAL TOURISTIC SERVICES S.A.L.
Global Touristic Services S.A.L. is owned or controlled by Atlas Holding. According to corporate registration information, the company was founded by Atlas, Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi, and Jawad Nur-al-Din. Additionally, Atlas is the majority shareholder in the company, Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi is the authorized signatory, and Jawad Nur-al-Din and Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi are members of the board of directors.
MIRATH S.A.L.
Mirath is owned or controlled by Jawad Nur-al-Din. According to corporate registration information, Jawad Nur-al-Din is the chairman of the board, majority shareholder, as well as a founder of, and authorized signatory for, Mirath S.A.L.
SANOVERA PHARM COMPANY SARL
Sanovera Pharm Company SARL is owned or controlled by Atlas Holding.
CAPITAL S.A.L.
Capital S.A.L. is owned or controlled by Atlas Holding.
SANCTIONS IMPLICATIONS
The Treasury Department continues to prioritize disrupting the full range of Hizballah’s illicit financial activity, including its financial support network.
As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of these targets that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within the United States (including transactions transiting the United States) that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons. In addition, persons that engage in certain transactions with the individuals and entities designated today may themselves be exposed to sanctions or subject to an enforcement action.
Furthermore, the individuals and entities designated today are subject to secondary sanctions pursuant to E.O. 13224, as amended. Pursuant to this authority, OFAC can prohibit or impose strict conditions on the opening or maintaining in the United States of a correspondent account or a payable-through account by a foreign financial institution.