April 18/2019
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


The Bulletin's Link on the lccc Site

News Bulletin Achieves Since 2006
Click Here to enter the LCCC Arabic/English news bulletins Achieves since 2006

Bible Quotations For today
The Lord's Last Supper/Thursday of the Holy Mysterie
Luke 22/14-23: " When the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table with the apostles. He said to them, “I have wanted so much to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer! For I tell you, I will never eat it until it is given its full meaning in the Kingdom of God.” Then Jesus took a cup, gave thanks to God, and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. I tell you that from now on I will not drink this wine until the Kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a piece of bread, gave thanks to God, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in memory of me.” In the same way, he gave them the cup after the supper, saying, “This cup is God's new covenant sealed with my blood, which is poured out for you. “But, look! The one who betrays me is here at the table with me! The Son of Man will die as God has decided, but how terrible for that man who betrays him!”Then they began to ask among themselves which one of them it could be who was going to do this."

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on April 17-18/19
Thursday of the Holy Mysteries & the Last Supper: Rituals, Traditions, Values & Principles
Lebanon Hinges on Moscow in Shebaa Farms Claim
Lebanese President: Judiciary is Cornerstone of the State of Law
Huge Hezbollah radio antenna broadcasts Hamas propaganda deep into Israel
Israel files complaint with international telecom organization after listeners
Hariri Vows Strict Austerity Reforms to Avoid Collapse
Lebanon: Hariri Stresses Need to Protect Pound, Warns of Catastrophe
Lebanese Parliament Approves Amendments to Implement Electricity Plan
State Employees Protest Possible Salary Cuts as Legislative Session Convenes
Report: Khalil Reviews 'Austerity' Budget Plan
Bassil Raises Refugee File, Urges Giving Arab League Seat Back to Syria
Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel Condemns Legal Violation as Parliament Approves Electricity Plan
Hakim: Kataeb Will Not Keep Mum About Violations
Radio Lebanon: We will devote today's programs to covering strike progress
Information, Tourism Ministries' employees stage strike in protest against tampering with salaries
Riad El Solh sit-in staged in protest against salaries' cutback
Iraqi Arrest of Iranian Cleric on Suspicion of Drug Trafficking Stirs Controversy

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 17-18/19

Trump Vetoes Congress Resolution to End US Support for Arab Coalition in Yemen
US Mulling Lifting Sudan off Terror List as Uganda Considers Offering Bashir Asylum
Sources: Bashir Moved to Khartoum's Kobar Prison
Netanyahu Readies for Fifth Term As Israeli PM
New Palestinian PM Says Deal of Century ‘Born Dead’
Israel Demolishes Home of Palestinian Shooting Suspect
Kuwait, UK Welcome New Palestinian Government
Senior US Official Warns Against Operations in Response to Deal of Century
Iranian woman cancels return home after arrest warrant issued
Iran Closes Oil Wells in Flood-hit Khuzestan amid Drop in Output
Assad, Zarif Discuss Boosting Coordination after Trump’s Move to Blacklist IRGC
Iraqi Arrest of Iranian Cleric on Suspicion of Drug Trafficking Stirs Controversy
Haftar Refuses to Halt Tripoli Operation as Sarraj Warns Europe of Refugee Wave
Protests Loosen Stranglehold on Algerian Media
Egypt Refers Cases of 2 Defendants in Killing of Christians to Grand Mufti
Egypt Seeks 6% Economic Growth, 27% Increase in Investments
Turkey: For the First Time in 10 Years, Unemployment Jumps to 14.7%
Turkey’s opposition takes office in Istanbul, appeal still pending
US Investor Sees Promising Opportunities in Egypt, Kuwait
Government of Canada will defend interests of Canadians doing business in Cuba

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 16-17/19
Thursday of the Holy Mysteries & the Last Supper: Rituals, Traditions, Values & Principles/ Elias Bejjani/April 18/2019
The fl are disappointing me with their ridiculous agreement of me3rab and the court he's doing in Hezbollah/Roger Bejjani/Face Book/April 17/19
Les FL me déçoivent avec leur accord ridicule de Me3rab et la cour qu’il font à Hezbollah/Roger Bejjani/Face Book/April 17/19
Huge Hezbollah radio antenna broadcasts Hamas propaganda deep into Israel/The Times Of Israel/April 17/19/
Hariri Vows Strict Austerity Reforms to Avoid Collapse/Naharnet/April 17/19
Lebanon: Hariri Stresses Need to Protect Pound, Warns of Catastrophe/Beirut- Asharq Al-Awsat/April,17/19
Coups Claiming to Be Revolutions/Hazem Saghieh/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 17/19
Opinion/What Will Trump Do First: Make Mideast Peace or Strike Iran?/Daniel B. Shapiro/Haaretz/April 17/19
Lessons to be learned from the ashes of Notre Dame/Zaid M. Belbagi/Arab News/April 17/19
Good behavior in public, and why it matters/Dimah Talal Alsharif/Arab News/April 17/19
Our zero-emission future is in sight/Jeffrey D. Sachs/Arab News/April 17/19

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on April 17-18/19
Thursday of the Holy Mysteries & the Last Supper: Rituals, Traditions, Values & Principles
 Elias Bejjani/April 18/2019
On the Thursday that comes before the "Good Friday, when Jesus was crucified, Christian Catholics all over the world, including our Maronite Eastern Church celebrates with prayers and intercessions the "Thursday of the Holy Mysteries", which is also known as the "Washing Thursday ", the "Covenant Thursday", and the "Great & Holy Thursday". It is the holy day feast that falls on the Thursday before Easter that commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with His 12 Apostles as described in the four New Testament gospels. It is the fifth day of the last Lenten Holy Week, that is followed by the, "Good Friday", "Saturday Of The Light and "Easter Sunday".
Christianity in its essence and core is Love, Sacrifice, honesty, transparency, devotion, hard work and Humility. Jesus during the last supper with His 12 Apostles reiterated and stressed all these Godly values and principles. In this holy and message proclaiming context He executed the following acts :
He, ordained His Apostles as priests, and asked them to proclaim God's message. “You have stayed with me all through my trials; 29 and just as my Father has given me the right to rule, so I will give you the same right. 30 You will eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom, and you will sit on thrones to rule over the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22/28 and 29)
He, taught His Apostles and every body else, that evil temptation and betrayal can hit all those who detach and dissociate themselves from God, do not fear Him, lack faith, lose hope and worship earthly treasures. He showed them by example that even a disciple that He personally had picked and choose (Judas, the Iscariot) has fell a prey to Satan's temptation. “But, look! The one who betrays me is here at the table with me! The Son of Man will die as God has decided, but how terrible for that man who betrays him!" Luke 22/21)
He, washed His Apostles' feet to teach them by example modesty, devotion and humility. “So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, "Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13/12-16). Modesty was stressed and explained by Jesus after His Apostles were arguing among themselves who is the greatest: "
"An argument broke out among the disciples as to which one of them should be thought of as the greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the pagans have power over their people, and the rulers claim the title ‘Friends of the People.’ But this is not the way it is with you; rather, the greatest one among you must be like the youngest, and the leader must be like the servant. Who is greater, the one who sits down to eat or the one who serves? The one who sits down, of course. But I am among you as one who serves." (Luke 22/24 till 27)
Thursday of the "Holy Mysteries", is called so because in His Last Supper with the 12 disciples, Jesus Christ established the Eucharist and Priesthood Sacraments when "He received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, “Take this, and share it among yourselves, for I tell you, I will not drink at all again from the fruit of the vine, until the Kingdom of God comes.” "He took bread, broke it and gave it to the disciples saying: This is my body which is given for you. Do this in memory of me. And when He Likewise, took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you".
Thursday of the Holy Mysteries (Secrets-Sacraments) is the heart of the last Lenten holy week, in which the Maronite Catholic Church lives with reverence and devotion the Lord's Last Supper spirit and contemplation through prayers and deeply rooted religious rituals and traditions:
The Patriarch prays over and blesses the chrism (Al-Myroun), as well as the oil of baptism and anointing that are to are distributed on all parishes and churches.
During the mass that is held on this Holy Day, the priest washes the feet of twelve worshipers, mainly children (symbolizing the apostles numbers). Jesus washed His disciples feet and commanded them to love each other and follow his example in serving each other.
Worshipers visit and pray in seven Churches. This ritual denotes to the completion of the Church's Seven sacraments (Secrets) : Priesthood, Eucharist, Holy Oil, Baptism, Confirmations, anointing and Service.
This tradition also denotes to the seven locations that Virgin Mary's went to look for Her Son, Jesus, after she learned about His arrest. The detention place, The Council of the Priests, twice the Pilate's headquarters, twice the Herod Headquarters, till She got to the Calvary.
Some Christian scholars believe that this tradition was originated in Rome where early pilgrims visited the seven pilgrim churches as an act of penance. They are Saint John Lateran, Saint Peter, Saint Mary Major, Saint Paul-outside-the-Walls, Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls, Holy Cross-in-Jerusalem, and traditionally Saint Sebastian Outside the Walls. Pope John Paul II replaced St. Sebastian with the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Divine Love for the jubilee year of 2000.
The Mass of the Lord's Supper is accompanied by the ringing of bells, which are then silent until the Easter Vigil. Worshipers used to kneel and pray the rosary in front of the Eucharist (Blessed Sacrament) all Thursday night. The Blessed Sacrament remains exposed all night, while worshipers are encouraged to stay in the church as much as they can praying, meditating upon the Mystery of Salvation, and participating in the “agony of Gethsemane” (Garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives) in Jerusalem where Jesus spent his night in prayer before His crucifixion on Good Friday.
After the homily washing of feet the service concludes with a procession taking the Blessed Eucharist (Sacrament) to the place of reposition. The altar is later stripped bare, as are all other altars in the church except the Altar of Repose.
Thursday of the "Holy Mysteries", is called so because in His Last Supper with the 12 disciples, Jesus Christ established the Eucharist and Priesthood Sacraments when "He received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, “Take this, and share it among yourselves, for I tell you, I will not drink at all again from the fruit of the vine, until the Kingdom of God comes.” "He took bread, broke it and gave it to the disciples saying: This is my body which is given for you. Do this in memory of me. And when He Likewise, took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you". Jesus ordained His disciples as priests of the New Testament when he said to them during the Last Supper: "But you are those who have continued with me in my trials. I confer on you a kingdom, even as my Father conferred on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. You will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Before Celebrating the Resurrection Day (Easter) worshipers live the "Paschal Mystery" through the Thursday Of the Sacraments, Good Friday and Saturday Of The Light.
Because He loves us and wants us to dwell in His Eternal Heaven, Jesus Christ for our sake willingly suffered all kinds of torture, pain, humiliation and died on the Cross to pave our way for repentance and salvation.
Let us pray on this Holy Day that we always remember Jesus' love and sacrifices and live our life in this context of genuine, faith, love, meekness and forgiveness.

The fl are disappointing me with their ridiculous agreement of me3rab and the court he's doing in Hezbollah.
Roger Bejjani/Face Book/April 17/19
The Lebanese Forces are disappointing me with their ridiculous agreement of me3rab and their court ther are doing in Hezbollah.
The kataib disappoint me by trying to reintegrate, without redemption none, some ex kataib / L BECAME AGENTS OF HEZBOLLAH AND BA ' ath. Missing out on this reunion and pakradouni reunion.
The new disappointing national block with its attempt to restore a virginity to Hezbollah.
The Pnl is cute but lack of TT: Vision and program especially.
The Mustaqbal is incoherent, reactionary and survival on the sectarian fiber; yet its founder rafik hariri and saad his son never had and do not have a sectarian vision.
Hezbollah is a bunch of terrorist fundamentalists at the service of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Amal is the club of the Duke of berri. Sectarian since his training. Yet I find the estez nice.
The progressive socialist party is presided over by the biological heir of the biological heir of the founder, a feudal lord druze. A indigestible dichotomy.
The Syrian National Social Party, a landmark of assassins who want to invade Cyprus, release Palestine and group these 2 countries in 170 years with Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Jordan in one nation. Crazy things.
The Outdated Democratic party presided over by a mental dumb who will cadging his place in Parliament, totally enslaved to bashar and Hezbollah.
The Orange party, that of people with seriously low IQ, all serious candidates to the dinners of idiots who organize in the city and that of the guys to the little quequette, who believe firm, like the disciples of Charles Mason that their little God, ugly, Coward, liar, populist has 2 under, champion of a nepotism never experienced even in the monarchies before the advent of this calamity, will change the world. The reality being that we must remind him at the dawn of every morning that the embassy of France is no longer in hazmieh and that he no longer needs to go to refuge. His title of vassal chief of Hezbollah is duly protective; at the durex.
Other small parties are useless and non-existent.
As for those who are seriously interested in the title of "Civil society", it is the most important question stupidity. They / they do not even know that civil society includes political parties; especially as politics is the supreme service of people and the city. These fools must realize that we are present in the elections and if we are elected we do politics.
Results of the races: we're damn

Les FL me déçoivent avec leur accord ridicule de Me3rab et la cour qu’il font à Hezbollah.
Roger Bejjani/Face Book/April 17/19
Les FL me déçoivent avec leur accord ridicule de Me3rab et la cour qu’il font à Hezbollah.
Les Kataeb me déçoivent en essayant de réintégrer, sans redemption aucune, certains ex Kataeb/FL devenus des agents du Hezbollah et du Ba’ath. Il manquait à ces retrouvailles Samaha et Pakradouni.
Le nouveau Bloc National décevant avec sa tentative de reconstituer une virginité à Hezbollah.
Le PNL est mignon mais manque de tt: vision et programme surtout.
Le Mustaqbal est incohérent, réactionnaire et survie sur la fibre sectaire; pourtant son fondateur Rafic Hariri et Saad son fils n’ont jamais eu et n’ont pas une vision sectaire.
Hezbollah est un ramassis d’intégristes terroristes au service de la République Islamique d’Iran.
Amal est le club du Duc de Berri. Sectaire depuis sa formation. Pourtant je trouve le estez sympathique.
Le Parti socialiste progressiste est présidé par l’héritier biologique de l’héritier biologique du fondateur, un seigneur féodale Druze. Une dichotomie indigeste.
Le Parti Social National Syrien, un repère d’assassins qui veulent envahir Chypre, libérer la Palestine et grouper ces 2 pays dans 170 ans avec le Liban, la Syrie, l’Iraq et la Jordanie en une seule Nation. Des fous quoi.
Le parti Démocrate désuet présidé par un debile mental qui quémande sa place au parlement, totalement asservi à Bachar et Hezbollah.
Le parti Orange, celui des personnes au QI sérieusement bas, tous candidats sérieux aux diners de cons qui s’organisent en ville et celui des mecs à la petite quequette, qui croient ferme, comme les disciples de Charles Mason que leur petit dieu, laid, poltron, menteur, populiste a 2 sous, champion d’un népotisme jamais expérimenté même dans les Monarchies avant l’avènement de cette calamité, va changer le monde. La réalité étant qu’il faut lui rappeler à l’aube de chaque matin que l’ambassade de France n’est plus à Hazmieh et qu’il n’a plus besoin d’aller s’y réfugier. Son titre de vassal chef de Hezbollah est dûment protecteur; à la Durex.
Les autres petits partis sont inutiles et inexistants.
Quant à ceux qui s’affublent gravement du titre de « société civile », c’est les plus gravissimes question bêtise. Ils/elles ne savent même pas que la société civile inclus les partis politiques; d’autant plus que la politique est le service suprême des gens et de la cité. Ils faut que ces imbéciles réalisent que quant on se présente aux élections et si on est élu on fait de la politique.
Résultats des courses: on est foutus

Lebanon Hinges on Moscow in Shebaa Farms Claim
Beirut - Khalil Fleihan/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 17 April, 2019/Recent developments along the Syrian-Israeli border have raised security concerns among Lebanese officials, especially following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Israel’s 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights. During his visit last month to Moscow, President Michel Aoun urged his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to help stop Israel from taking an official decision to officially annex the Golan Heights. Beirut says the Shebaa Farms are Lebanese territory while Israel considers it part of the Golan. The United Nations has long held the area, along with its adjacent Kfarshouba Hills, was inside Syrian territory occupied by Israeli forces in the 1967 Middle East war. But Beirut says Israel should have withdrawn from the zone when it pulled its forces out of south Lebanon in 2000.  Well-informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Aoun did not hesitate to raise the issue with any Arab or foreign visitor to Lebanon. He discussed it with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was on a trip to Lebanon last month, and with Arab leaders on the sidelines of the 30th Arab League Summit held in Tunis on March 30. The president also talked about the fate of the Kfarshuba Hills during his meetings with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides last week in Beirut.
Well-informed diplomatic sources admitted that the liberation of the Shebaa Farms would not be easy with only Lebanon’s official recognition. Liberation would either be achieved through the resistance or a Security Council resolution backed by the permanent members. “With regards to the first option, there is a deficiency in the military force due to the superiority of Israeli power, unless it was decided to open a resistance front that will lead to the displacement of the population from the south and the destruction of vital infrastructure of water and electricity, the airport and military barracks, as happened during the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon,” the sources explained. According to the same sources, “the two options are feasible in light of local and global circumstances, especially Trump’s absolute support for Israel.”

Lebanese President: Judiciary is Cornerstone of the State of Law
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 17 April, 2019/Lebanese President Michel Aoun asserted on Tuesday that the judiciary must be an independent constitutional authority, stressing the importance of neutrality and impartiality. “Purging the judiciary has been on top of the priorities of our war against corruption,” Aoun said during a celebration of the Beirut Bar Association’s centenary.  “The judiciary must remain above suspicion… and it should guard and protect justice,” Aoun said, adding that the judiciary is the cornerstone of the state of law. “There is no sate without an independent and clean judicial branch which seeks justice and truth,” he said. Aoun explained that the legal profession is closer to being a vocation than a profession. He called on the judiciary to be an independent constitutional authority in line with article 20 of the Constitution. The President revealed that he has called for a conference set to be held at the Presidential Palace in Baabda under the theme "For a better Justice.”He said the conference aims at launching an open national dialogue between all Lebanese factions concerned with justice, to shed the light on the flaws in the judiciary, and their causes.

Huge Hezbollah radio antenna broadcasts Hamas propaganda deep into Israel
Israel files complaint with international telecom organization after listeners

The Times Of Israel/April 17/19/
The Hezbollah terror group has put up a giant antenna in Lebanon broadcasting a Hamas-run radio station south into Israel, urging Arab citizens to carry out terror attacks, Israeli authorities said this week. Israel in February said that that Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that rules the Gaza Strip, was using its Al Aqsa TV channel to coordinate attacks in the West Bank with on-air cues, after the IDF bombed the network’s Gaza headquarters in December. But some two months ago, Hezbollah built the antenna at a Lebanese army base in the southern Lebanese village of Marwahin to broadcast the network’s radio hundreds of kilometers into Israel and as far as the Tel Aviv area, Channel 12 reported Tuesday night. The antenna is so close to the Israeli border that the TV network was able to publish footage of armed soldiers guarding the antenna.
The radio is being blasted into Israel at the frequency 101.6FM, very close to that of an Israeli radio station that broadcasts on 101.5FM. The latter station has many Arab Israeli listeners and has received several complaints lately about the disruptions to its broadcasts.
Al-Aqsa TV’s reporters have frequently extolled violence against Israelis and rocket attacks on the Jewish state.
The report said the broadcasts can be heard clearly in jails in northern and central Israel, and that the radio has conveyed several messages to Hamas prisoners in recent weeks. Israeli prisons have recently seen severe protests and a hunger strike by Hamas inmates after the Israel Prisons Service installed cellular jamming devices in the wards to prevent prisoners from using smuggled cellphones. The IPS said some 300 contraband cellphones, some carrying messages between terror cells, had been smuggled into the wards in recent months. The cellphones were being used to coordinate terror attacks, and had been implicated in at least 14 recent attempts at coordinating attacks from inside Israeli prisons, the IPS said. The hunger strike came to an end earlier this week after Israeli officials reportedly agreed to install public telephones in their prison wards.
Israel’s Communications Ministry said: “We checked and found that the transmitter is located in Lebanese territory, about three kilometers from the border. The ministry has filed an official complaint with the International Telecommunication Union, and it has been transferred to Lebanese authorities.”
The Shin Bet security service in February accused Al-Aqsa TV and Gaza-based journalists of acting as agents of Hamas’s military wing, passing clandestine messages to terror operatives in the West Bank and East Jerusalem by using quotes from the Quran or subtle gestures by the presenters.
The Shin Bet said the plot was a key factor in the decision made by the Israel Defense Forces to bomb Al-Aqsa TV’s headquarters in Gaza in November. Shortly after the razing of the station’s building, the Hamas-affiliated outlet appeared poised to close, but was kept on air at the last minute, broadcasting from another location, thanks to an influx of money from the terror group. In 2010, the US government designated the station a terror group. Last month, Israel followed in its tracks and also blacklisted the network. Israel has also long accused Hamas and other terror groups of using the special status granted to journalists as a cover for nefarious activities.

Hariri Vows Strict Austerity Reforms to Avoid Collapse
Naharnet/April 17/19
Prime Minister Saad Hariri warned Wednesday that Lebanon is heading toward an economic "catastrophe" unless the government implements strict austerity measures to reduce a ballooning budget deficit and massive national debt. The stark warning came shortly after parliament passed amendments necessary to implement an ambitious plan to restructure the country's crumbling electricity sector. Restructuring the power sector, dysfunctional since Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war, has been among key demands for reforms by the World Bank and international donors.
Outside parliament, hundreds of civil servants protested, fearing the austerity measures to be adopted in the new budget would lead to wage cuts for state employees amid the economic crisis. The budget is still in the works and is expected to be sent to parliament for approval in the coming weeks.
The electricity plan was approved by a large majority in parliament Wednesday, days after it was agreed on by the government. It aims to eventually bring electricity to the Lebanese 24 hours a day, securing an additional 1,450 megawatts of temporary power by next year so that total output will reach 3,500 megawatts — enough to provide power around the clock. In the longer term, the plan calls for power production to be increased by more than 3,000 megawatts over the next six years by building new plants and relying more on renewable energy.
Lebanese officials hope that plans to fix the electricity sector that has cost state coffers about $2 billion annually would lead to the release of $11 billion in loans and grants made by international donors at the CEDRE conference in Paris last year. The protest by more than 2,000 state employees in downtown Beirut comes amid discussions by the government of what it called "painful" and "unpopular" measures to be taken to try to cut the budget deficit and slow the growth of the national debt, which stands at more than $85 billion, or more than 150% of the gross domestic product, making it among the highest in the world.
"We have approved the electricity plan and we are working on the budget, which will include a wide austerity package," Hariri told journalists in a tense back and forth after Wednesday's parliament session. Without going into details, Hariri hinted that some civil servants and members of the military may have to make "sacrifices," insisting that such steps will not affect the poor.
"I am not saying that Lebanon is about to collapse but if we don't take major steps, we will reach a place where no one wants to be," Hariri said. Speaking about overspending, Hariri added: "If we continue this way, we will reach a catastrophe."
He later posted on Twitter that his two-month old government "is obliged to put forth an austerity budget unprecedented in the history of Lebanon." No agreement yet has been reached but leaks about possible wage cuts have led to random protests and street closures by members of a worried public. Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil tweeted over the weekend that if wages are not reduced, "there will be no salaries for anyone" in the future. "The draft budget does not include so-called wage cuts," Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil told reporters after Wednesday's parliament session, seeking to calm nerves. Some economists say the crisis has begun already and is getting worse every week with new waves of layoffs, rising debt and slow growth. Chawki Saliba, a chemistry professor at the Lebanese University, was in the protest area Wednesday and expressed worries that his wage could be cut.
"There are major concerns, especially that living conditions are becoming very expensive and difficult. Civil servants cannot tolerate" having their wages cut, he said. "Those who led us to this point should take the responsibility. Why did we reach this level? Because they have been stealing for 20 years," Saliba said about Lebanese politicians.

Lebanon: Hariri Stresses Need to Protect Pound, Warns of Catastrophe
Beirut- Asharq Al-Awsat/April,17/19
Lebanon faces catastrophe if the government does not agree what may be the most austere budget in its history, the prime minister said on Wednesday, urging national unity and saying everyone should be ready for sacrifices if necessary. Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri's government is finalising a 2019 state budget expected to follow through on its promise of "difficult and painful" reforms to put the public finances on a sustainable path. The budget is seen as a critical test of its will to enact reforms that economists say are more pressing than ever for an economy that has suffered years of low growth. State finances are strained by a bloated public sector, high debt servicing costs and hefty subsidies spent on the power sector. Small protests over the last two days against cuts have underlined the political minefield facing a government that has put off reforms for years. Some public sector workers went on strike on Wednesday. On Tuesday, retired army officers blocked highways with burning tyres to warn against any pension cuts. "What is required from us as a government today is to carry out a budget that may be the most austere in the history of Lebanon," Hariri told reporters after a meeting of parliament, saying the government must be "sincere" with the people. While Lebanon was not in "a state of collapse", Hariri said that "if we continue like this we will reach a catastrophe". Unlike other states that had suffered financial crises such as Greece, Lebanon would have no-one to save it, he added. Debate over state spending cuts has sharpened since the foreign minister on Saturday hinted that public sector wages would be cut. Hariri was cited by Lebanese media as telling parliament earlier that he supported recipients of state pensions but also wanted to protect the Lebanese pound, which has been pegged at its current level against the dollar for more than two decades. After the session, he addressed soldiers and the public more widely, saying everyone should be prepared to make sacrifices if necessary, though it might not get to that point. He held out the possibility of austerity measures that might last for a few years after which "things will return to how they were". He also hinted at cuts to benefits enjoyed by some state workers such as overtime, furniture expenses and cars. "Why should I make the Lebanese people bear all these costs?" he said in his comments to reporters. Hariri, speaking in parliament, said that while the government, which was formed at the end of January, had promised to issue a 2019 state budget in one or two months, it was also trying not to harm anyone. "We are certainly in a difficult time," he said. Serious steps towards reform would help Lebanon unlock some $11 billion in financing pledged at a Paris conference last year for infrastructure investment that would boost growth. As part of its reform effort, the government last week approved a plan to overhaul the state subsidised power sector that is a major drain on finances. Parliament approved the plan at Wednesday's session.

Lebanese Parliament Approves Amendments to Implement Electricity Plan
Associated Press/Naharnet/April 17/19/The Parliament passed on Wednesday amendments necessary to implement an ambitious plan to restructure the country's crumbling electricity sector. Restructuring the power sector, dysfunctional since Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war, has been among key demands for reforms by the World Bank and international donors. Lawmakers have turned down a proposal submitted by Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan on appointing a regulatory body in a maximum period of six months, LBCI TV station said. The electricity plan was approved by a large majority in parliament, days after it was agreed on by the government. It aims to eventually bring electricity to the Lebanese 24 hours a day, securing an additional 1,450 megawatts of temporary power by next year so that total output will reach 3,500 megawatts — enough to provide power around the clock. In the longer term, the plan calls for power production to be increased by more than 3,000 megawatts over the next six years by building new plants and relying more on renewable energy. Lebanese officials hope that plans to fix the electricity sector that has cost state coffers about $2 billion annually would lead to the release of $11 billion in loans and grants made by international donors at the CEDRE conference in Paris last year.

State Employees Protest Possible Salary Cuts as Legislative Session Convenes
Naharnet/April 17/19/Lebanese University teachers, civil servants and the Union Coordination Committee staged a sit-in on Wednesday protesting a government’s proposal to cut their wages as part of measures to reduce spending and slash the budget deficit. The protesters gathered in Riad al-Solh Square in Beirut in parallel with a legislative session held in Parliament. Later in the day, the state-run National News Agency said it is committed to the strike and that it will only cover news related to protests that will be held across Lebanon. State hospitals and most of the state’s institutions including the National Social Security Fund followed suit and joined the strike. As part of government plans to reduce budget deficit, suggestions emerged that pay cuts might be imposed on salaries of public sector employees and retirees. It surfaced after remarks made by Froeign Minister Jebran Bassil last week, he said: “If the government doesn't reduce wages there will be no more salaries, no economy and no Lebanese Lira.”Similar protests took place on Tuesday when retired military and security officers blocked several roads in different Lebanese areas to warn against wage cuts. The legislative session convened to discuss 19 items on the agenda including the electricity plan and establishing special economic zone in the Batroun district and another in the district of Tyre along with the current one in Tripoli.

Report: Khalil Reviews 'Austerity' Budget Plan
Naharnet/April 17/19/Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil conducted a comprehensive review of the 2019 state budget after extended meetings with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the most recent was late on Tuesday in the Center house, in the presence of all political factions represented in the government, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Wednesday. The daily said Khalil has prepared a budget plan with suggestions to cut spending and an alternate plan without reductions shall agreement fails on the first one. In the budget plan currently being discussed the deficit may fall from 12 to 9 percent, said the daily. Spending cuts reportedly are to affect the salaries of high earners without impacting median salaries. The proposal seriously seeks to reduce all high salaries so that there can be no higher salary than the President of the Republic, said al-Joumhouria. Moreover, there is a proposal to freeze 10 to 15 percent of public sector salaries for two years to be subsequently paid back in installments or calculated manner so that it remains an acquired right for the employees, it said. Unnamed sources who spoke on condition of anonymity told the daily that a series of meetings were held away from the spotlight before taking the proposed formulas to the Grand Serail. Some of the meetings were between Khalil and the Director-General of the Ministry of Finance, Alan Biffani, senior officials and the budget division. Similar meetings are reportedly held almost on a daily basis to prepare a tight budget in order to reduce the state deficit from 11 to 9%. Suggestions to slash Lebanon’s budget deficit amid reported salary cuts was not welcomed by public sector employees, mainly military retirees, who staged protests on Tuesday and blocked roads in several areas around Lebanon.

Bassil Raises Refugee File, Urges Giving Arab League Seat Back to Syria
Naharnet/April 17/19/Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil on Tuesday urged from Moscow the Arab League to return Syria to its seat and raised calls from Moscow for the repatriation of Syrian refugees from Lebanon, the National News Agency reported. "It is no longer acceptable to continue squandering Arab rights in preparation for the announcement of 'the deal of the era,’ which turned out to be a chain suffocating our cause,” Bassil said at the Arab-Russian Cooperation Forum. "Unmistakably, our enemy is Israel and our compass is Palestine. All that distracts us from our goal defending the rights of the Palestinian people is an attempt to keep our attention away from the best interests our peoples; thus, I call upon you to reconsider your calculations and to redefine your objectives," he added. "Some might think that I'm digressing and not sticking to the main subject of our meeting, but fact is, the political sphere is the most important aspect of the Arab-Russian cooperation so as to restore balance to our region," he added. "Strengthening our cooperation is not directed against anyone, and no one should be concerned, because the main objective of this meeting is coordination, cooperation, and seeking ways to a better life in our Arab region," Bassil maintained. "Every time we meet, there is a vacant seat disrupting the joy of our Arab gatherings; it is no longer permissible for Syria to remain outside the Arab scope," he added, pushing Arab foreign Minister to give Syria back its seat in the Arab league. "Historically, each of us had reservations on the Syrian regime. Personally, I used to be an opponent of the Syrian presence in Lebanon. However, when the Syrian army withdrew to Syria, we wanted to build in the best of relations with our neighboring country," Bassil explained.Now that the Syrian crisis is on the verge of an end, Bassil went on to voice support to a political solution that would be approved and chosen by Syrians, coupled with democratic elections, reconstruction, and refugee return. "Lebanon nowadays is an Arab and international responsibility, and it is not Russia's responsibility alone to support it in its mission helping refugees return sagely to Syria," Bassil added as seeking unified Arab support towards this end.

Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel Condemns Legal Violation as Parliament Approves Electricity Plan 17th April 2019/Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Wednesday deplored the Parliament's endorsement of the electricity plan despite its flaws, saying that lawmakers have failed to abide by their own legislations. The Parliament approved legislation necessary to kick off the implementation of the government's power plan, thus extending Law 288 which grants the Cabinet a three-year full power award permits and licenses to produce electricity. "What happened today is a complete violation of the Lebanese Constitution since the 2017 Public-Private Partnership Law (PPP) is supposed to manage any tendering process carried out in the electricity sector, and, therefore, annuls all previous legislations," Gemayel told reporters following the Parliament session. “Failing to abide by the PPP law and the public accountability law have led to legal vacuum in the tendering process,” Gemayel said.
“Hastiness does not justify the disrespect of the legal norms endorsed by the Parliament,” he stressed. “We do not legislate so that we end up disregarding our legislations; unfortunately, this is what happened today." By extending Law 288, Gemayel noted, there is no legal constraints controlling the tendering process which will be based on political discretion. "The Energy Ministry has been given some sort of green light to do whatever it wishes to; all that is left from the Tenders Department's role in such a process is only the building,” he noted. “The Energy Ministry will be in charge of setting the tender rulebook and will be supervising all the stages of the process. It is responsible of the technical committee which can reject any offer that it does not like."“The Energy Ministry has been given absolute powers that are not subject to the legal tendering mechanisms," Gemayel warned. "This will lead to major problems that we will not keep mum about it."

Hakim: Kataeb Will Not Keep Mum About Violations 17th April 2019/Former minister Alain Hakim on Wednesday stressed that the electricity plan still violates the law despite being voted unanimously by the Parliament, slamming the populism accusations targeting the Kataeb party over this issue. “The distortion of the truth doesn’t make something truthful. An aberration can never turn into rightfulness, and evil doesn’t become good just because there is unanimity over it,” Hakim wrote on Twitter. “The Kataeb party will not remain silent over the law violations whether it's inside or outside the government,” he added. Hakim was responding to FPM lawmaker Simon Abi Ramia who previously accused the Kataeb's stance regarding the power plan as populist, adding that the project cannot be hindered after being unanimously passed by the Parliament.

Radio Lebanon: We will devote today's programs to covering strike progress
Wed 17 Apr 2019/NNA - Radio Lebanon announced in a statement that it stands "in solidarity with the Association of Public Administration Employees and their rightful demands, the most important of which protecting the salaries, wages and social contributions of employees against cutbacks," pledging to cover the protests through its programs today (Wednesday). "Radio Lebanon, all of Lebanon, is the voice of the citizen, especially when this voice reflects fear for the future of the employees and their families. Radio Lebanon will cover the strike's updates through its 98.5 and 98.1 wavelengths, and its website," the statement read.

Information, Tourism Ministries' employees stage strike in protest against tampering with salaries
Wed 17 Apr 2019/NNA - The employees of the Ministries of Information and Tourism on Wednesday staged a strike in protest against tampering with state employees' salaries and wages. Participating in the sit-in, which was held outside the Ministries' building, had been Head of National Audiovisual Media Council, Abdelhadi Mahfouz, Director General of the Ministry of Information, Dr. Hassan Falha, Director General of the Ministry of Tourism, Nada Sardouk, Director of the National News Agency, Laure Sleiman, and Director of Radio Lebanon, Mohammed Ghareeb. Senior Radio Lebanon officials and heads of departments also partook in said sit-in. In his delivered word, Falha described today's gathering as "national comprising the entire Lebanese political spectrum," and a "peaceful civilized move" to ensure the preservation of state institutions and public administrations in the context of "bolstering our future and the future of this country."Dr Falha underlined that "it is impermissible to tamper with salaries in this manner," calling for finding solutions not at account of citizens and public sector employees. "The salary scale is a right to state employees," he corroborated. "State employees represent an essential and indispensable part of the state's survival and continuity. We will ever remain in the service of the state alone," Falha maintained. The Director General also stressed that today's move is keen on the work and continuity of state institutions and departments, stressing that Lebanon's future can be maintained by the preservation of citizens' rights. Tourism Ministry's Director General Sardouk, in turn, said that today's move is not directed against anyone, stressing that "state employees' salaries are a red line."Sardouk called for finding solutions to public deficit away from "employees' pockets."For her part, NNA Director Sleiman, pointed out that since state employees' rights are being "munched," the NNA has decided to refrain [today] from covering news except those related to today's strike and sit-ins. Sleiman called for finding solutions to public deficit and over expenditures not at the account of state employees' salaries, who relentlessly work for the sake of their institution. "We are key components of the state and we do not want anyone to tamper with our rights," Sleiman corroborated. "We will continue the strike today, and if any new action is taken, we will also take part. We solidarize with all colleagues in public , administrations," NNA director asserted.

Riad El Solh sit-in staged in protest against salaries' cutback
Wed 17 Apr 2019/NNA - The sit-in at Riad El-Solh Square has started, in response to the call of the Union Coordination Committee, the Association of Full-Time Professors at the Lebanese University and the Lebanese University contractors rejecting the cuts expected on State employees, teachers and retirees’ salaries. MP Qassem Hashem participated in the sit-in, along with Head of the General Labor Confederation, Bechara Asmar, who said that "those who passed the Civil Service Board test ought to be done justice by appointing them in fitting positions." "We raise the voice because the government finds it easy to tamper with the public sector," Asmar said, commenting on the suggestion made to cut off public employees’ salaries and pensions. "Reform measures should be discussed with the concerned parties, namely the General Labor Confederation and the UCC," he said. "Do we live in a State were all things are imposed by force?" he asked.

Latest LCCC English Miscellaneous Reports & News published on April 17-18/19
Trump Vetoes Congress Resolution to End US Support for Arab Coalition in Yemen

Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 17 April, 2019/President Donald Trump vetoed on Tuesday a resolution by Congress to end Washington’s support for the Saudi-led Arab coalition to restore legitimacy in Yemen, announced the White House.
“This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future,” Trump said in the veto message. Congress lacks the votes to override him. United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash hailed Trump’s veto, tweeting that his “assertion of support to the Arab Coalition in Yemen is a positive signal.” The decision is both “timely and strategic” Gargash added Wednesday.

US Mulling Lifting Sudan off Terror List as Uganda Considers Offering Bashir Asylum
London - Mustafa Serri /Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 17 April, 2019/The United States said Tuesday it may consider lifting Sudan off the state sponsor of terrorism list if the country’s leadership and policies change and the military no longer holds power. “We will be willing to look at removing Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism if there is significant change in the country’s leadership and policies,” a US State Department official told Reuters. The Trump administration suspended talks on normalizing relations with Sudan after the military deposed veteran autocrat Omar al-Bashir last week saying it would oversee a two-year transition, followed by elections. Separately, Uganda said it would consider granting asylum to Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court. "If Uganda is approached to grant asylum to Bashir it is an issue that can be considered at the highest level of our leadership," state minister for foreign affairs Henry Okello Oryem told AFP. He said that as a result of Bashir's key role in mediating a peace deal in neighboring South Sudan, "his asylum in Uganda is what the government of Uganda can consider."In the meantime, "Uganda is keenly following the developments in Sudan and we ask the new leadership there to respect the aspirations of the Sudanese people among them peaceful transfer of power to the civilian rule". Bashir's three-decade reign was toppled last week by top commanders after four months of nationwide demonstrations. Protest leaders say Bashir must face justice, however the transitional military council currently leading the country has said it will not extradite the ousted leader. The council says Bashir remains in custody, but has not specified his whereabouts or that of other senior regime leaders. Uganda is one of several African nations which have hosted Bashir in the past without handing him over to the ICC, despite being signatories of the tribunal.Bashir faces charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity relating to the conflict in Darfur.

Sources: Bashir Moved to Khartoum's Kobar Prison
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 17 April, 2019/Sudan's deposed president Omar al-Bashir was moved to Kobar prison in the capital Khartoum late on Tuesday, two family sources said. Bashir is being held under tight security in solitary confinement, a source at the prison said. Since his removal by the military last Thursday, Bashir had been detained under heavy guard in the presidential residence inside the compound that also houses the Defense Ministry, the family sources told Reuters. Another family source also confirmed to AFP that Bashir was transferred to Kobar. Witnesses said there was a heavy deployment of soldiers and members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Force outside the prison in north Khartoum."There are troops in vehicles mounted with machine-guns near the prison," a witness told AFP.

Netanyahu Readies for Fifth Term As Israeli PM
Tel Aviv- Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 17 April, 2019/Benjamin Netanyahu is set to be formally given the nod for a fifth term as Israeli prime minister Wednesday, but his potential indictment for corruption will hang over tough coalition negotiations in the days ahead. Despite a strong challenge from a centrist alliance in last week's elections, Netanyahu emerged victorious with the help of allied right-wing parties that give him enough support to form a governing coalition. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who must choose which parliament member should form the next government, held consultations with political parties this week on their recommendations. Netanyahu received the support of 65 of 120 parliament members to remain prime minister, and Rivlin is expected to announce his selection on Wednesday night. He will have 28 days to form a government with a possible extension of a further two weeks. The results from the April 9 election put Netanyahu on course to become Israel's longest-serving prime minister later this year, surpassing founding father David Ben-Gurion, but numerous risks lie ahead. The 69-year-old's first task will be to reconcile divergent demands from his likely coalition partners.
Netanyahu's outgoing government was seen as the most right-wing in Israel's history, and the next is expected to be similar if not further to the right. The coming months are also expected to see the unveiling of US President Donald Trump's long-awaited plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Trump has shown no sign so far that he would be willing to make significant demands of his close ally Netanyahu in connection with his plan, though even minor concessions to the Palestinians could lead to criticism from far-right coalition partners.
But the biggest danger hanging over Netanyahu is his potential indictment on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. The attorney general has announced his intention to indict Netanyahu pending an upcoming hearing. He would be the first sitting prime minister to be indicted.
Many analysts said one of Netanyahu's main motivations in moving toward early elections last week was to be able to confront the charges with a fresh electoral mandate behind him. In a speech on Tuesday night, Netanyahu pledged to be "everyone's prime minister," but also took shots at journalists reporting on whether he will appoint an ally as justice minister who will seek changes to the supreme court long sought by the right. There has been speculation over whether that could backfire and result in judges taking a harsher view of Netanyahu's alleged corruption. "The citizens of Israel gave us full, clear-cut, and unequivocal confidence," Netanyahu said. "And these commentators threaten us with a personal price," he added, referring to speculation over a potential prison sentence. "That's what they call democracy and the rule of law. But every time, you give them a lesson in democracy at the ballot box."
The final election results show Netanyahu's Likud with 35 seats, the same number won by his main opponents from the centrist Blue and White alliance led by ex-military chief Benny Gantz. But Gantz was left with no ability to form a coalition, with only 45 members of parliament backing him as next premier in consultations with Rivlin. The election was seen in many ways as a referendum on Netanyahu, who has been prime minister for a total of more than 13 years.
He has built a reputation as guarantor of Israel's security and economic growth, but his divisive right-wing populism and alleged corruption have also led to calls for change. Netanyahu highlighted his relationship with Trump throughout the campaign -- and especially the US president's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital -- as part of his argument that he remains Israel's essential statesman. In the coming coalition negotiations, many analysts expect Netanyahu to seek demands from partners that they would remain in the government after he is indicted. Another major stumbling block will be a contentious bill that would seek to force ultra-Orthodox religious students to serve in the military like their secular counterparts. Ultra-Orthodox parties, which will control 16 seats in the next coalition, plan to resist the change, but former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman is conditioning his inclusion in the government on the law being passed. Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu party's five seats will be crucial to Netanyahu's majority.

New Palestinian PM Says Deal of Century ‘Born Dead’
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 17 April, 2019/New Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh accused on Tuesday the United States of declaring "financial war" on his people and said the yet-undisclosed American “deal of the century” peace plan will be "born dead."In his first interview with international media since taking office over the weekend, he laid out to the Associated Press out plans to get through the financial crisis he has inherited and predicted that the international community and Arab world would join the Palestinians in rejecting President Donald Trump's expected peace plan. "There are no partners in Palestine for Trump. There are no Arab partners for Trump and there are no European partners for Trump," Shtayyeh said during a wide-ranging hour-long interview. Shtayyeh, a British-educated economist, takes office as the Palestinian Authority, which administers autonomous zones in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is mired in a financial crisis. The Trump administration has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars of aid, including all of its support for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. Israel has meanwhile withheld tens of millions of dollars of tax transfers to “punish” the Palestinians for their "martyrs' fund," a program that provides stipends to the families of Palestinians imprisoned or killed as a result of fighting with Israel. The Israelis say the fund rewards violence, while the Palestinians say the payments are a national duty to families affected by decades of violence. Furious about the withholding, the Palestinians have in turn refused to accept partial tax transfers from Israel. Without its key sources of revenue, the PA has begun paying only half salaries to tens of thousands of civil servants, reduced services and increased borrowing. In a new report released Wednesday, the World Bank said the Palestinian deficit will grow from $400 million last year to over $1 billion this year. "Israel is part of the financial war that has been declared upon us by the United States. The whole system is to try to push us to surrender" and agree to an unacceptable peace proposal, Shtayyeh said. "This a financial blackmail, which we reject."Shtayyeh outlined a number of proposals for weathering the storm. He said he has imposed spending cuts by reducing perks for his Cabinet ministers.
He revealed to the AP that he would seek to develop the Palestinian agricultural, economic and education sectors and seek ways to reduce the Palestinian economy's dependence on Israel. For example, he proposed importing fuel from neighboring Jordan, instead of from Israel, and even floating a Palestinian currency. He also said the Palestinians would seek financial backing from Arab and European donors. Despite the tensions with Israel and the US, Shtayyeh said the Palestinians remain committed to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on areas captured by Israel in the 1967 war. That includes establishing a capital in east Jerusalem, which Israel has annexed and claims as part of its eternal capital. The two-state solution has enjoyed overwhelming international support for the past two decades. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his hardline political allies reject Palestinian independence, said the AP. Netanyahu secured another term in office in elections last week and is expected to form a new coalition with religious and nationalist parties that oppose the two-state solution. On the campaign trail, Netanyahu even raised the possibility of annexing Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a step that has drawn international condemnation. Netanyahu has received a boost from Trump, who has given Netanyahu a number of diplomatic gifts since taking office. Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moved the US Embassy to the holy city, slashed aid to the Palestinians and shuttered the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington. In a departure from Republican and Democratic predecessors, Trump also has notably refused to endorse the two-state solution. His peace team, led by son-in-law Jared Kushner, has repeatedly pushed back the release of a peace plan it says it is preparing, and it remains unclear if or when it will be released. Kushner's team has said little about their proposal. But their limited public statements have indicated it will call for large amounts of economic investment for the Palestinians, but given no sign that it will include their demand for independence. Shtayyeh said that after all of the US moves in favor of Israel, particularly the recognition of Jerusalem, there is nothing left to negotiate. He said any proposal that ignores key Palestinian demands will be rejected by the international community. The European Union this week reiterated its call for peace talks aimed at establishing a Palestinian state.
"Where are we going to have the Palestinian state?" he asked. "We are not looking for an entity. We are looking for a sovereign state.""Palestinians are not interested in economic peace. We are interested in ending occupation," he said. "Life cannot be enjoyed under occupation."

Israel Demolishes Home of Palestinian Shooting Suspect
Jerusalem- Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 17 April, 2019/Israeli forces have razed the home of a Palestinian who was killed during his attempted arrest on suspicion of carrying out a drive-by shooting against Israelis in the occupied West Bank. Seven people were wounded in the December 9 attack near the Israeli settlement of Ofra in the occupied West Bank. The suspected gunman, Salah Barghouti was killed as security forces attempted to arrest him in a December 12 raid in which Israel arrested more than 100 Palestinians. On Wednesday, border police and defense ministry officials "demolished the apartment in which Salah Barghouti lived" in the village of Kobar, north of the West Bank city of Ramallah, the army said. Border police already razed the home of Barghouti's brother, Assam, in the same village on March 7. Assam Barghouti faces trial in the December 13 killing of two soldiers in a separate shooting nearby.
He is also accused of helping his brother carry out the Ofra attack. The armed wing of Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip and has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, claimed Salah Barghouti as one of its "fighters." Israel routinely demolishes the homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out attacks against its citizens. It says the measure acts as a deterrent to future attacks but human rights groups condemn the practice as collective punishment since family members suffer from the actions of relatives.

Kuwait, UK Welcome New Palestinian Government
Ramallah- Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 17 April, 2019/Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas received Tuesday a letter from Kuwait's Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah in which he congratulated him on forming the new government. “I am pleased to express my sincere congratulations to you on forming the new government. We wish its members success in achieving the best interests of the brotherly Palestinian people and meeting their aspirations for further progress and prosperity,” the letter said. The Emir wished Palestinians achieve all their rights, including the establishment of their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. Acting Minister for the Middle East Mark Field also welcomed the new Palestinian government on Tuesday. “I welcome the formation of the new Palestinian government led by Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh,” Field said in a statement to the consulate in Jerusalem. “The United Kingdom remains committed to supporting the Palestinian people and in cooperation between the Palestinian and British governments.”In a statement, British Consul General to Jerusalem Philip Hall also congratulated the new Palestinian government. “I congratulate Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh and the whole cabinet on the formation of the new Palestinian government and wish them every success in their new roles,” his statement read. “The UK looks forward to continuing its close partnership with the Palestinian Authority in a range of issues among them are the new government's priorities to reunite the West Bank and Gaza Strip, strengthen democracy and build a strong economy for the Palestinian people,” he added. Hall stressed that the UK would remain committed to a two-state solution through negotiations, with Jerusalem as a joint capital.

Senior US Official Warns Against Operations in Response to Deal of Century
Tel Aviv - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 17 April, 2019/The State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, Nathan Sales, arrived in Tel Aviv on Tuesday for “security consultations over border difficulties.”Sales met with a number of military and intelligence officials and toured the northern border with Lebanon and Syria, and the southern border with the Egyptian Sinai and the Gaza Strip. He was briefed by Israeli officers about Iranian militias in Syria and Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula. “We know what the Iranians are capable of,” Sales said, as quoted by Israeli Ynetnews. He expressed hope that countries considering conducting business with Tehran, would decide against it. In the South, the US counterterrorism coordinator said he was “amazed at the resources Hamas is investing in terror activity against Israel.”He stressed that those were at the expense of investments in health, education and housing. According to Sales, the United States was aware of Hamas’ priorities based on the movement’s spending. “It is not about improving the standard of living of citizens, nor housing, nor education, but terrorism against Israel, the same principle that we see in the north by Hezbollah and Iran,” he said. He also stressed that ISIS’ terrorist activities in the Sinai were a common concern for the United States, Egypt and Israel. Regarding the so-called “deal of the century”, which will be announced by US President Donald Trump, Sales said Washington was taking protective measures in case of active opposition to the deal. He said he hoped the deal would be acceptable to both sides. “At the same time, it is difficult to predict the reactions, but Washington is taking preventive measures, whether for its soldiers or diplomats,” he added.

Iranian woman cancels return home after arrest warrant issued
Reuters, Paris/Wednesday, 17 April 2019/Sadaf Khadem, who last Saturday became the first Iranian woman to contest an official boxing fight, has canceled her return to Tehran after an arrest warrant was issued for her in her home country, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said. An arrest warrant was also issued against Mahyar Monshipour, the Iranian-born former boxing world champion who set up the bout in western France and was planning to travel back to Iran with Khadem this week, the same source told Reuters on Wednesday. The French foreign ministry had no immediate comment. On Saturday, Khadem beat local boxer Anne Chauvin in a 3x2 amateur bout, becoming the first Iranian woman to take part in a boxing fight. The 24-year-old, who was in Paris on Monday, is returning to Monshipour’s home town of Poitiers.

Iran Closes Oil Wells in Flood-hit Khuzestan amid Drop in Output
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 17 April, 2019/Iran has shut around a dozen oil wells in the southwestern Khuzestan province because of massive floods, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported on Wednesday, leading to a drop of up to 20,000 barrels per day in crude production. Iran's worst flooding in 70 years, which started on March 19, has killed at least 76 people, forced more than 220,000 into emergency shelters and caused an estimated $2.5 billion in damage to roads, bridges, homes and farmland, Reuters reported. "There are no oil leaks at the Hoor al-Azim wetland area. We have closed 10 to 12 oil wells there as a precautionary measure to prevent any environmental damages," Reuters quoted Touraj Dehghani, the head of Iran's Petroleum Engineering and Development Company (PEDEC), as telling the media. "The oil production of the field has dropped between 15,000 to 20,000 barrels per day." Iranian media on Friday reported oil output had been reduced in Khuzestan, home to the Azadegan and Yadavaran oilfields. Iranian authorities have said the floods have not affected crude exports. The United States reimposed sanctions on Iran in November after pulling out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and six world powers. The sanctions have already halved Iranian oil exports. US President Donald Trump eventually aims to halt Iranian oil exports, choking off Tehran's main source of revenue. Washington is pressuring Iran to curtail its nuclear program and stop backing militant groups across the Middle East.

Assad, Zarif Discuss Boosting Coordination after Trump’s Move to Blacklist IRGC
Damascus - London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 17 April, 2019/Head of the Syrian regime has discussed with the Iranian Foreign Minister boosting coordination after Washington’s decision to classify the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization. This came during a meeting on Tuesday between Bashar al-Assad and Mohammed Javad Zarif in Damascus, from which the Iranian FM will next travel to Turkey. Assad stressed Syria’s denouncement of the “irresponsible US action against the IRGC,” saying it is part of “erroneous US policies that constitute a main factor in regional instability,” according to Syria’s official news agency, SANA. Zarif, for his part, condemned the US administration’s decision regarding the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, noting that it doesn’t differ from those on Jerusalem and the IRGC.These decisions indicate the failure of Washington's policies in the region and the weakness of the US administration, Zarif said. The FM reiterated that developments necessitate coordination between Syria and Iran at all levels to enhance regional security and stability and serve both countries’ interests, according to SANA. Tuesday’s bilateral talks focused on developments in the region, the next round of Astana talks on Syria and agreements signed between the two sides. Assad and Zarif also discussed joint projects, stages of their implementation and the difficulties encountering the process. Zarif had earlier met with his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Muallem during which they discussed enhancing strategic relations between the two countries, according to a briefed statement by the Syrian foreign ministry’s official website. Over the years of conflict, Iranian officials have repeatedly visited Syria, the last of which was a visit by Chief of Staff of the Iranian armed forces Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri in March. Syrian officials have also visited Tehran, most notably Assad, who made in February his first visit to the Iranian capital since 2010. In August 2018, the two counties signed a military cooperation agreement, which stipulates that Tehran provide Syria with the support to rebuild its army and defense industries. They also signed a “long-term” economic cooperation agreement covering several sectors, most notably oil, electric power, agriculture and banking.Tehran opened in 2011 a $5.5 billion worth line of credit, most of which were allocated for supplying Syria with oil derivatives.

Iraqi Arrest of Iranian Cleric on Suspicion of Drug Trafficking Stirs Controversy
Baghdad - Fadhel al-Nashmi//Asharq Al-Awsat/April 17/19
The Iraqi security forces’ arrest of an Iranian cleric on suspicion of drug trafficking at the Basra al-Shalamjah border crossing has sparked controversy on official, popular and religious levels. The debate raged even further after a video of the arrest was circulated on social media. In it, security forces were seen insulting a Shiite cleric and accusing him of trafficking “red mercury”. Deputy parliament Speaker Hassan al-Kaabi denounced the security forces’ “irresponsible behavior”. He said the video showed border security members arresting the cleric without completing preliminary procedures, which is a violation of human rights. He added that they defamed a person who has not yet been found guilty. The popular reaction to the arrest varied between disdain and support, with requests for treating clerics like ordinary people should they break the law.It is unclear whether the cleric belongs to a gang that regularly smuggles prohibited goods or if the security forces had violated their duties. This ambiguity prompted the Interior Ministry to announced the detention of all the security members who apprehended the cleric. In a statement, it said that inspector general Jamal al-Assadi called for an investigation into the incident and that a committee summoned the commander of the force which carried out the arrest. The ministry said the commander and security forces reported that the arrest was carried out legally following intelligence and confessions of detained gang members. In a dramatic development, another cleric, Wathiq al-Battat, of the so-called al-Mukhtar Army, published a video threatening the commander and the security forces. Battat, who is known for his open loyalty to Iran, deemed the arrest an insult to every cleric in the world, claiming that “red mercury trafficking is a mythical charge.”The Interior Ministry has since filed a lawsuit against Battat over his “barbaric” rhetoric and threats, comparing them to ISIS’ mentality. It instructed that all legal measures be taken against him ahead of bringing him to justice for his threats to the rule of law in Iraq. It called on “the religious institution to continue to support the security establishment”.
Sairoon alliance MP Sabah al-Uqaili called on the government to take strict measures against Battat, while religious studies students at the Hawza of al-Najaf seminary disavowed the cleric over his remarks. In a statement, they first condemned the unprofessional behavior of the border security forces towards the religious cleric and the video which slandered him. They also rejected Battat’s statements, deeming them “unacceptable” and a threat to public security. They pointed out that Battat is known for his “disorderly behavior”, saying he had previously been arrested by the security services for making such statements against the state’s sovereignty and people’s security.

Haftar Refuses to Halt Tripoli Operation as Sarraj Warns Europe of Refugee Wave
Cairo, Brussels – Khaled Mahmoud and Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 17 April, 2019/Despite mounting western and international pressure, Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar refused to halt his operation against Tripoli. Officials close to Haftar told Asharq Al-Awsat that he rejected offers from Italy and France to reach a ceasefire. No details of the truce were revealed. Some United Nations Security Council members have been pressing for a ceasefire in Libya and Britain submitted a draft resolution for an immediate halt in hostilities. The draft resolution, seen by Reuters, expresses “grave concern at military activity in Libya near Tripoli, which began following the launching of a military offensive by the LNA ... and threatens the stability of Libya.” It also demands that all parties in Libya immediately de-escalate the situation, commit to a ceasefire, and engage with the United Nations to end hostilities. Haftar launched an operation to rid Tripoli from terrorists and criminal gangs on April 4. On the ground, fierce clashes were reported on Tuesday afternoon between the LNA and forces loyal to Fayez al-Sarraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) in the western military region in al-Aziziya in southern Tripoli. The LNA has been battling to capture the al-Zahraa district in the area. The LNA stressed that it will press on with its offensive. Commander of western region operations Abdulsalam al-Hassi told Asharq Al-Awsat that “morale was high and everything was progressing in the right direction on all fronts.” Meanwhile, Sarraj warned during an interview with Italian media that the conflict in Libya could lead to a wave of more than 800,000 refugees towards Europe. He told La Republica daily: “We are confronted with a hostile war that could have repercussions on the entire Mediterranean. Italy and Europe must be united and firm in confronting the war waged by Khalifa Haftar.”He also accused the LNA commander of betraying Libya and the international community, warning that the destruction in his country could reach its neighbors.
Sarraj’s deputy, Ahmed Maiteeq, was in Italy this week where he met with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Monday. La Republica also reported Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani as saying that an arms embargo must be imposed on the LNA. Meanwhile, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bon Bensouda, called on all warring parties in Libya to respect international laws. “I am deeply concerned about the escalation of violence in Libya in the context of the resurging conflict arising from the advance of the LNA towards Tripoli, and related fighting with forces aligned with the GNA,” she said. “As Prosecutor of the ICC, I call on all parties and armed groups involved in the fighting to fully respect the rules of international humanitarian law. This includes taking all necessary measures to protect civilians, and civilian infrastructures, including schools, hospitals and detention centers. I urge all parties to the conflict not to commit any crimes within the Court’s jurisdiction, and in particular, for commanders to ensure that their subordinates do not do so.”“I also remind all commanders, military or civilian, who have effective control, authority and command over their forces that they themselves may be held criminally responsible for crimes committed by their subordinates. The law is clear: where commanders knew or should have known that crimes are being committed, and they failed and/or neglected to take all necessary and reasonable measures to prevent or repress their commission, they may be held individually criminally accountable.”She revealed that her office was currently investigating several cases in the Libya situation and continues to actively monitor the developing situation in the country. “I will not hesitate to expand my investigations and potential prosecutions to cover any new instances of crimes falling within the Court’s jurisdiction, with full respect for the principle of complementarity. No one should doubt my determination in this regard,” she added.

Protests Loosen Stranglehold on Algerian Media

Algiers - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 17 April, 2019/Weeks of anti-government protests have helped Algerian journalists shake off the chokehold of state-imposed censorship but their work remains complicated and is often contested by demonstrators. After the first protests erupted in February, journalists working for state media complained that their bosses had imposed a news blackout on the rallies against Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid to seek a fifth presidential term. The protests have since become headline news on both private and public television channels, with live footage of nationwide demonstrations.
On a recent Friday, the main day of protests, however, television crews were shouted down and cursed by demonstrators. "It reflects the hatred" protesters feel for the main private television channels because they totally ignored the first rallies, Khaled Drareni of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) told Agence France Presse. The lack of coverage triggered shock in Algeria where private channels are usually quick off the mark and often run live reports. But they are mostly owned by businessmen close to Bouteflika. These media outlets "have tried to redeem themselves" by zooming in on the protests, said Drareni, who himself is a journalist, but they also report on alleged "manipulation" of the protest movement. Over the past week, dozens of journalists employed by state radio and television have staged their own sit-in demanding more freedom. "There has been change, there are small windows that have opened," said Imene Khemici of EPTV at a protest. "We now have two specialized programs where we can invite people from different political persuasions, people from the opposition who can speak openly."Opposition figures and former officials who had been banned for the past quarter of a century are back on the airwaves.
"The most striking thing is how the public media have evolved, especially radio," said Omar Belhouchet, director of the private newspaper El Watan. As an example, the French-language radio station Chaine 3 now broadcasts live debates several times a week, a feature that was previously banned. In the late 1980s, Algeria saw the emergence of dozens of privately-owned media outlets but their freedoms were quickly stifled by the outbreak of the country's bloody civil war in 1992. Several journalists were killed by Islamist groups during the decade of conflict, and the army imposed strict censorship on the media. Newspapers in Algeria largely depend for their survival on revenues from state-funded advertising. Private advertising comes mostly from businesses linked to stalwarts of the regime, said media sociologist Redouane Boudjemaa. The media "reflect the diversity of the clans within the political system rather than the diversity of the Algerian population", said Boudjemaa. He cautioned that the changes in Algeria will not necessarily pave the way for greater media independence. "In some ways we've moved from censorship to disinformation, especially on private channels," he said.

Egypt Refers Cases of 2 Defendants in Killing of Christians to Grand Mufti
Cairo - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 17 April, 2019/A court in Egypt has sentenced two defendants to death over a 2017 terrorist attack against the Saint Menas and Pope Cyril IV Church in Helwan district on the outskirts of Cairo. The Cairo criminal court referred on Tuesday the sentence to the country’s Grand Mufti for his non-binding opinion, as required by Egyptian law, pending a final verdict. It set May 12 to issue sentences on all 11 defendants in the case. They are accused of establishing, leading and joining a takfiri group, financing its elements, killing nine Christian civilians and one police officer, attempting to murder others and resisting police by force and violence. The prosecutor also charged the defendants with manufacturing and possessing a bomb and attempting to use it to endanger people’s lives and property. The group also sought to recruit ISIS militants abroad to prepare for carrying out terrorist crimes in Egypt. They were accused of using social media platforms to send and receive messages from ISIS and assign its members terrorist missions, in addition to possessing firearms and ammunition for use in terrorist crimes. According to the public prosecution’s probe, confessions of the arrested suspects, examination of the surveillance cameras at the site of attacks and reports of the General Administration of Criminal Evidence Verification indicated that some of the accused had adopted ISIS’s takfiri ideology. Also Tuesday, the Zagazig criminal court in al-Sharqia Governorate in Egypt's Delta region sentenced three people to five years imprisonment. They were accused of conspiring with Palestinian terrorist leaders to purchase materials used for making explosives to target police in North Sinai. The Alexandria criminal court also sentenced 36 people convicted of joining the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood organization to five years in prison. They were arrested in Alexandria in 2017.

Egypt Seeks 6% Economic Growth, 27% Increase in Investments

Cairo - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 17 April, 2019/Egypt aims to achieve a steady economic growth rate of 6 percent during the fiscal year 2019-2020, up from the current 5.6 percent, announced Egyptian Minister of Planning Hala al-Saeed. The aim is to reach 7.2 percent by the end of the fiscal year 2022-2023, she told parliament while presenting a draft of the sustainable development plan for the FY 2019-2020. The statement was referred to parliament’s budget and planning committee for review and discussion. In achieving a high and sustainable growth rate, the plan aims to boost promising economic activities with high productivity and rapid growth, namely those that interrelate and depend on other sectors and activities, said Saeed. She reviewed growth rates of various sectors with 15 percent for communications, 9 percent for construction, followed by three sectors with growth rates of around 5 percent each: manufacturing, the Suez Canal and electricity. Saeed explained that the plan aims to continue the structural transformation of the economic growth sources with increased reliance on investment and net change in exports. She noted that in light of this high economic growth, gross domestic product (gdp) is expected to surge within the plan’s year to about EGP 6.3 trillion with current prices and closing in on EGP 4.1 trillion at constant prices. The plan seeks to increase total investment to 18.6 percent from 17.3 percent in the year 2018-2019, she continued, adding that the 2019-2020 plan is aimed at achieving total investments of EGP 1.17 trillion, with a 27 percent increase. She noted that the plan takes into account balancing between the goals of human building and improving the quality of life when considering the distribution of sectoral investments, so that the commodity sector group is about 40 percent, services sectors about 34 percent and social and human services sectors about 26 percent. In the statement, Saeed pointed to the achievements of the Egyptian economy during the past four years, with the growth rate exceeding the 5 percent mark, unemployment falling below 9 percent and the inflation falling to 13.8 percent in March. Results of the first half of 2018–2019 revealed the completion of 1,133 projects in 20 sectors at a total cost of EGP 311 billion.

Turkey: For the First Time in 10 Years, Unemployment Jumps to 14.7%
Ankara- Said Abdel Razek/ Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 17 April, 2019/ The unemployment rate in Turkey stood at its highest rate for ten years at 14.7 percent in January 2019, the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) announced. It increased 3.9 percent on an annual basis. "The number of unemployed over increased by 1,259,000 to 4,668,000 persons in the period of January 2019 in Turkey compared with the same period of the previous year," the statement read. Turkey's unemployment rate stood at 11 percent in 2018, rising 0.1 percent year-on-year, TurkStat announced. The number of unemployed persons increased by 83,000 last year, reaching nearly 3.537 million people. Last year, the lira lost nearly 30 percent against the dollar leading inflation to increase more than 25 percent before it improved to the level of 20 percent. The World Bank forecast inflation to reach around 12.7 percent during the current year and 11.4 percent in 2020. An international report on bankruptcy by Euler Hermes, a commercial credit insurer, revealed that the number of bankrupt companies in Turkey reached 15,400 companies in 2018 and that the number would rise by 1,000 in 2019. On another level, the figures provided by e-commerce platform Turkeyol indicate that the volume of trade between the Middle Eastern countries and Turkey grew by 25 percent in the last decade to USD42.9 million. The largest growth of trade volume was recorded with Iraq with 141 percent, followed by Yemen with 105 percent, Jordan with 97 percent and Saudi Arabia with 59 percent. 75 percent of the trade between Turkey and the Middle Eastern countries was with Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. The volume of trade between the Middle Eastern countries and Turkey is expected to reach USD50 billion by the end of 2019.
Yusuf Yenitürkoğulları, the founder of Turkeyol, said: “E-export is of critical importance for the region," noting that the volume of trade between Turkey and the Middle Eastern countries would increase through e-export. “At Turkeyol, we have set up an online platform for wholesale purchases and sales and eliminated all barriers that might be faced within the course of commercial activities,” he added.

Turkey’s opposition takes office in Istanbul, appeal still pending
ReutersظWednesday, 17 April 2019/Turkey’s main opposition candidate was declared Istanbul’s mayor on Wednesday after election recounts were finally completed, despite an appeal still pending by President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party to rerun the vote in the country’s largest city. The final result of the March 31 local elections showed a narrow victory for the secularist opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in Turkey’s commercial hub, ending 25 years of control by the AK Party (AKP) and its Islamist predecessors. The loss is especially hard for Erdogan, who launched his political career in Istanbul as mayor in the 1990s and has triumphed in more than a dozen elections since his Islamist-rooted AKP came to power in 2002. The Turkish lira, which has dipped since the election, firmed on Wednesday. As he formally took office after a campaign which featured months of harsh rhetoric from Erdogan’s AK Party and more than two weeks of challenges and recounts, Ekrem Imamoglu promised to work for all 16 million residents of the city. “We never gave up, we never gave up on our battle for democracy and rights,” he told supporters at Istanbul’s municipality building. “We are aware of our responsibilities and the needs of this city. We will start to serve immediately.” Imamoglu’s margin of victory - the final count put him some 13,000 votes, or less than 0.2 percentage points, ahead of the AK Party candidate and former prime minister Binali Yildirim - prompted several AKP challenges. On Tuesday, after 16 days of appeals and recounts, the AKP asked the High Election Board (YSK) to annul and rerun the election in Istanbul over what it said were irregularities. Its nationalist MHP allies made a similar request on Wednesday. “We are aware there are ongoing processes... We hope the relevant authorities will complete these processes in the most sensitive and just way,” Imamoglu said.

US Investor Sees Promising Opportunities in Egypt, Kuwait
Cairo - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 17 April, 2019/Investing in the Middle East has never been for the faint-hearted. Marshall Stocker should know. Drawn by Egypt’s economic promise, he moved to the country from Boston in 2010, Bloomberg reported. He had a plan to buy and redevelop historic buildings in downtown Cairo on behalf of Emergent Property Advisors, a company he co-founded, it said. But revolution ended President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule a year later, and the economy sputtered amid the political conflict. Stocker decided to leave in 2012 and later published a memoir, Don’t Stand Under a Tree When It Rains, documenting his experiences as an investor in Egypt during the revolt. “As noted in the ending of the book,” he says, “there is an Egyptian saying: ‘If you drink from the Nile, you will return.’”According to Bloomberg, that proved prophetic. Stocker, 44, back in Boston and now managing money at Eaton Vance Corp., is once again investing in the most populous Arab nation—this time in publicly traded equities. Egypt’s stock market is one of the world’s best performers this year through mid-March as the nation pushes ahead with tough measures to revive the economy. The Eaton Vance Emerging and Frontier Countries Equity Fund, which Stocker helps manage, outperformed 93 percent of its peers over the previous three months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg on March 21. Stocker spoke with Bloomberg News’s Netty Ismail about his approach to investing in Egypt and other parts of the region. Asked what looks attractive in the Middle East, Stocker said: “The opportunities that we see exist in countries where there’s some type of development that’s going to improve earnings and cash flows or reduce the discount rate on those cash flows. What causes companies to earn more money or have lower discount rates are increases in economic freedom: Where the rule of law is improving, the size of the government is shrinking in the economy, and where there’s trade liberalization or simplification of regulatory policy.”“We’re looking to make broad equity investments in countries where we think economic freedom will be increasing” such as Egypt and Kuwait, he said. “In Egypt, you’ve got the size of government shrinking, as evidenced by the contraction in the fiscal deficit, and the more effective management of monetary supply to address inflation.”“I don’t want to overlook Abu Dhabi and Dubai. We do consider those very investable markets. The high level of economic freedom and the economic sensitivities of the leadership there are very good,” Stocker told Bloomberg. “It’s just generally kind of reflected in asset prices, whereas I’d much rather buy a turnaround story like Egypt, or perhaps a long-neglected capital market like Kuwait,” he added.

Government of Canada will defend interests of Canadians doing business in Cuba
April 17, 2019 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement regarding Canadian businesses operating in Cuba and the decision by the United States not to suspend Title III of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996, commonly known as the Helms-Burton Act:
“Canada is deeply disappointed with today’s announcement. We will be reviewing all options in response to this U.S. decision.
“Since the U.S. announced in January it would review Title III, the Government of Canada has been regularly engaged with the U.S. government to raise our concerns about the possible negative consequences for Canadians—concerns that are long-standing and well known to our U.S. partners.
“I have met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to register those concerns. Canadian and U.S. officials have had detailed discussions on the Helms-Burton Act and Canada’s Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act. I have also discussed this issue with the EU.
“I have been in contact with Canadian businesses to reaffirm we will fully defend the interests of Canadians conducting legitimate trade and investment with Cuba.”
Quick facts
The Helms-Burton Act came into force in the United States in 1996. The act aims to prevent foreign countries from engaging in international trade with Cuba by subjecting foreign nationals to travel restrictions and financial liabilities in the United States. Since then, successive U.S. administrations have continuously suspended application of Title III (financial liabilities) in the maximum six-month increments. On January 16, 2019, the U.S. Secretary of State notified Congress that he would be suspending Title III for 45 days, instead of the typical six months, in order to conduct a careful review of the right to bring action under the Title. In 1996, the Government of Canada amended its Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act to mitigate the extraterritorial effects of the Helms-Burton Act and to offer explicit legal protections for Canadian businesses.

Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 17-18/19
Coups Claiming to Be Revolutions
Hazem Saghieh/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 17/19
Coups and revolutions are united in that they oust ruling regimes. They differ however, in that the revolution is driven by the people, or they are at least a main part of it, while a coup is usually led by the military or some of its officers. A revolution does not target politics alone, but a culture and society as well. A coup is meanwhile, limited to a change in authority and often seeks to only remove some figures in power. This is why a revolution appears proud. It takes place in squares and before the entire world. A coup, in contrast, is orchestrated in dark rooms behind closed doors. It is ashamed of itself and its name. This is why coupists claim that they are revolutionaries. They seek to steer clear from conspiracies against the people and claim to have noble goals. They also liken themselves to the American and French revolutions.
Revolutions compose songs that celebrate the world, while coups compose anthems that threat it.
Revolutions are not always necessarily noble. They sometimes produce regimes that are similar to the ones yielded by coups. They may encourage conspirators to come out into the open and threaten the people. Revolutions in their new civilian and non-violent forms, which were first launched in Central Europe in the late 1980s, and later adopted by the Arab spring, are noble, especially when compared to what they were rising up against. The truth is that the Arab region was been mired in military coups since the days of their countries’ independence. Today, regardless of their losses and gains, they are embroiled in popular revolutions. The majority of the revolts are today taking place in countries that have witnessed coups. It is as if the people are seeking to cleanse their history from the flaws of the military.
Coups in the Arab world started with Bakr Sidqi in Iraq in 1936. It was followed by a coup by Husni al-Za'im in Syria in 1949. July 23, 1952 was a landmark date in which the Nasserite coup brought in several new figures onto the Arab scene. In Yemen, the military copied the Nasserite example, once with Abdullah al-Sallal in 1962 and Ali Abdullah Saleh in 1978. The Baath party drew from the experiences of Husni al-Za'im, Sami al-Hinnawi and Adib Shishakli to stage a coup in 1963, which later paved the way for others that were crowned with the arrival of Hafez Assad to power in 1970.
In Sudan, coups saw Ibrahim Abboud come to power in 1958, Gaafar Nimeiry in 1969 and Omar al-Bashir in 1989. In Libya, Moammar al-Gaddafi was inspired by developments in the neighboring country to stage a coup in 1969 and added his own exotic twist to it.
The situation in Tunisia and Algeria were more complex. In Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba sought to separate the military from politics, so he did not stage a coup. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali launched a security coup in 1989. In Algeria, the “revolution of a million martyrs” did not lead to a better reality than the one produced by coups. In 1965, Houari Boumédiène rose up against his superior Ahmed Ben Bella. As for Iraq, it is among the countries that has witnessed the most significant upheaval. A local revolution did not rise up against the coup of 1968, but it took place years later from abroad, a move that was supported by the majority of Iraqis at the time.Throughout the decades coupists sought to insult, silence and impoverish the people by claiming that they were championing fateful causes and false victories. They replaced the reality with their lies, eventually sparking revolutions that are driven by the people’s concerns, such as freedom, dignity, peace and earning a living. The developments in Sudan and Algeria have seen the oppressed rise up against the coup.

Opinion/What Will Trump Do First: Make Mideast Peace or Strike Iran?
دانيال شابيرو/الهآرتس: هل ستكون خطوة الرئيس ترامب الأولى العمل على عملية السلام في الشرق الأوسط أم ضرب إيران؟
Daniel B. Shapiro/Haaretz/April 17/19

Fresh off the president's help securing re-election, Trump and Netanyahu appear more closely aligned than ever. But both that alliance, and relations with their Arab allies, is about to face a series of severe reality tests.
President Donald Trump’s strong support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his reelection campaign underscored the close alliance between the two leaders. On numerous issues, they have similar outlooks, have coordinated closely, and have defined their nation’s security, as well as their political fortunes, as being very much intertwined.
While the coalition negotiations are still ahead, it is clear that Netanyahu will continue in office, making continued smooth coordination between the two governments likely. Even so, some challenging decisions still lie ahead for both of them.
No American administration and Israeli government, no matter how close, are always one hundred percent aligned, as demonstrated by Trump’s surprise announcement of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria late last year.
On three major issues, decisions await that could test the close coordination between these two allies.
First, the administration has to decide whether and when to present its plan for "the deal of the century," for Israeli-Palestinian peace, as well as the content of the plan.
Already, the timetable is slipping. After initial indications that the plan would be presented shortly after the Israeli elections, the administration is now signaling that it is more likely to wait until after the Israeli coalition is formed, and the Passover and Ramadan holidays have passed. That takes us to June, at the earliest. At the same time, the substance of the plan is coming into greater focus. In a series of recent statements, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has revealed more and more about the thinking behind the administration’s still-secret plan.
He has signaled clearly that the plan will not be based on the formula of two states for two peoples, can accommodate Israeli moves to annex West Bank settlements, and will seek to substitute economic benefits for Palestinians - funded by the Arab Gulf states - for fulfilling their political aspirations for statehood.
But a question hangs over this decision for both governments. Such a plan is likely to be rejected by the Palestinians (in fairness, they would reject almost any plan proposed by Trump), by Arab states (who continue to back the two-state idea), by Europe and Russia, and by Democratic presidential candidates in the United States. The latter group will likely make clear that they will not feel bound by such a proposal, and will plan to return to the traditional U.S. position in support of two states in 2021.
So can such a plan be viably implemented, or - if it fails - could Israel proceed with unilateral annexation moves, at acceptable costs in such an environment?
One of those costs could be in U.S. and Israeli relations with Arab states, which presents the second issue for decision. Saudi, UAE, and other Gulf state leaders have made clear their appreciation for Trump’s strong stand against Iran. They are also closely aligned with Israel on the issue, have permitted a range of gestures of normalization, and deemphasized the Palestinian issue’s importance.
But they have not yet been asked to lend public support for a U.S. plan that buries any hopes of Palestinian statehood, much less fund it. They have not yet been asked to look the other way at overt Israeli moves, with U.S. backing, to annex portions of the West Bank. They have not yet been asked to accept U.S. and Israeli positions that their key Arab allies - Jordan and Egypt - fear could be destabilizing.
The signs of this tension are growing. King Abdullah of Jordan recently complained to Members of Congress that he is completely in the dark about the political elements of the Trump plan, but worried by what he smells is coming. Egyptian President Abdelfattah al-Sisi followed up last week’s warm Oval Office meeting with Trump with an announcement that Egypt would not participate in the American plan for a unified Arab military force - dubbed the "Arab NATO."
So the question raised here is: can Israel’s warming ties with Arab states, and can those Arab states’ partnerships with the United States, withstand the presentation of a Trump plan that seeks to kill all possibilities for two states? Are the gains in those relationships truly irreversible, or could they be squandered?
Finally, on Iran, the administration faces a critical decision as time in Trump’s first term winds down: will they take some more definitive action to set back the Iranian nuclear program?
The steps so far - withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and increasing sanctions - have won support from Israel and Arab Gulf states, and have imposed considerable economic pain on Iran. But Iran has remained in the nuclear deal, and appears to be trying to wait Trump out.
In the little more than year and a half that Trump can be sure he has left, and barely a year before he will be fully engaged in his reelection campaign, at least some of his advisers will argue that he must do more. The administration this week floated an argument that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks can apply to strikes on Iran nearly two decades later.
With some Democratic presidential candidates voicing support for the United States returning to the Iran nuclear deal if they are victorious, Trump’s Middle East allies may also hope for a more definitive blow to Iran’s nuclear program during his first term.
But that alignment of interests may not extend to who should strike such a blow. And that could flip the decision back on them.
Is Trump, who campaigned fiercely against the U.S. war in Iraq and has been in a hurry to get U.S. troops out of Syria, prepared to start a new war in the region, just as he goes back to the voters? And if not, Israel and its Arab partners may face their own decision when Trump informs them that they have an American green light to act. That is not a decision that Netanyahu or any Arab leader has ever faced, but it is time that they give serious thought to how they would respond.
Daniel B. Shapiro is Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, and Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa in the Obama Administration. Twitter: @DanielBShapiro

Lessons to be learned from the ashes of Notre Dame
Zaid M. Belbagi/Arab News/April 17/19
One of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, the 14th century Notre Dame de Paris is not just a building but a symbol. The history of the cathedral runs parallel to that of the French state. It hosted the coronation of Napoleon I as emperor, was the setting of the funerals of several presidents, and its bells rang to celebrate the liberation of France from the Nazis. This week, the world watched in horror as the cathedral’s iconic spire collapsed, ravaged by flames during a 15-hour blaze that has brought a divided nation together in shock.
Attracting more than 12 million visitors per year, the cathedral is the most-visited monument in one of the world’s most-visited cities. It is therefore of little surprise that the fate of the building was in the hearts and on the minds of many as the embers glowed late into Monday night. In the long history of this great building, this week’s fire is only the latest chapter in a story that has seen desecration and, at times, significant destruction. The spire that was lost was itself a relatively recent addition to the structure, built during a major restoration project in the mid-19th century. A spectacular bout of fundraising, which has already seen more than half a billion euros pledged to the cathedral’s reconstruction, highlights the importance of such monuments to not only national heritage but also to humanity’s common artistic and cultural heritage. The precariousness of such buildings and the importance of their good maintenance and upkeep is the key lesson to be learnt. In London, St Paul’s Cathedral stands on the site of London’s own Gothic cathedral, which was destroyed during the Great Fire of 1666. The vulnerability of such large buildings was raised by the Church of England earlier this year in a major review of the governance of its 42 cathedrals. It warned of the “critical state” of historical buildings owing to aging wiring and lighting.
This week’s events in Paris have served as a harrowing reminder of the need to protect buildings that are part of the fabric of nations. Eerily, as Notre Dame went up in flames, a fire broke out at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. The flames engulfed the Marwani Prayer Room, also known as Solomon’s Stables. The fire at the mosque received minimal attention from the international media, though it served to highlight the vulnerability of historical buildings to damage. To Muslims, the loss of the mosque’s Dome of the Rock — the first dome to ever be used in Islamic architecture — would be devastating. Such occurrences have focused attention once more on historical buildings at risk of irreparable damage. At the center of this has been the UK Houses of Parliament — one of the world’s most famous buildings — which MPs from a joint committee in 2016 warned could be at risk of a “catastrophic event” unless urgent action was taken. Another Gothic structure whose ample timber and crumbling structure put the entire building at great risk, the loss of the Palace of Westminster would not only be a catastrophe for the UK, but for the entire world. To democracies worldwide, seeing the “Mother of Parliaments” go up in smoke would be tragic. The collective response to the blaze at Notre Dame is encouraging at a time when internationalism is struggling to overcome divisive global forces and trends.
Most of the Palace of Westminster was built between 1840 and 1876 after a fire in 1834 destroyed much of the previous building. However, a handful of fires still break out in the old building on a yearly basis. MPs and peers are due to move out in 2025 to allow for a major six-year, £3.5 billion ($4.5 billion) renovation program, but until then the building remains at great risk. It is thought that the fire at Notre Dame was linked to its own extensive renovation, highlighting the need to ensure that such works do not put old buildings at greater risk.
The collective response to the blaze at Notre Dame is encouraging at a time when internationalism is struggling to overcome divisive global forces and trends. The fate of a Catholic building has encouragingly mobilized a gargantuan international response, blind of faith but united in the preservation of cultural heritage. This author wrote of the significance of the loss of Mosul’s 12th century mosque in this paper in 2017, with the destruction of its famous leaning Al-Hadba (or hunchback) minaret a great calamity. It is indeed a great shame that some hunchbacks are more important than others when it comes to the international response to cultural destruction.
*Zaid M. Belbagi is a political commentator, and an adviser to private clients between London and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Twitter: @Moulay_Zaid

Good behavior in public, and why it matters
Dimah Talal Alsharif/Arab News/April 17/19
Respect for public decency is one of the most important characteristics of a civilized society. Some confuse the right to enjoy their own privacy with the right of society as a whole to benefit from the rules of public decency, which vary according to each society and culture.
Moreover, Islam requires us to respect the basic ethics of each society, and to show due respect for the diversity of their cultures and traditions, whether in our own conduct or in how we relate to our environment and the other members of society.
Last week the Saudi Cabinet approved regulations aimed at maintaining public decency, with 10 main provisions. These include prohibitions on any form of abuse in public places, on insulting or disrespecting Saudi culture and traditions, wearing indecent clothing, writing or painting on walls without official authorization, making distasteful statements, and any public act that may harm, intimidate or endanger people.
Offenders may be fined up to SR5,000 ($1,333), and double that amount if the offense is repeated.
The Ministry of the Interior and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage will work together to determine how the new laws will be implemented. A clear schedule of detailed offenses and corresponding fines is expected in due course. Obviously, there are many important elements to enforcing such laws. For example, monitoring people’s behavior on the street will surely require dedicated teams of people, and cannot be left to existing security and traffic officers.
My suggestion would be the establishment of a steering team by the Ministry of the Interior and the tourism commission to monitor public decency offenses, and link them in the same way as traffic offenses to each person’s Absher account; this would ensure that individuals treat the issue of public decency seriously and responsibly. In addition, the activation of the new laws should be accompanied by an adequate period of guidance before the imposition of fines, in order to familiarize society with the nature of potential offenses and to educate them about their consequences.
Finally, the aim of such laws is to encourage and promote among individuals the principles of respect for public decency. Imposing fines and penalties is certainly an effective way of doing so, but not as effective as raising awareness and providing appropriate guidance; this would definitely have a beneficial effect on how people behave, even when they are outside the geographical area covered by the law itself.
*Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif

Our zero-emission future is in sight
Jeffrey D. Sachs/Arab News/April 17/19
The solution to human-induced climate change is finally in clear view. Thanks to rapid advances in zero-carbon energy technologies, and in sustainable food systems, the world can realistically end greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century at little or no incremental cost, and with decisive benefits for safety and health. The main obstacle is inertia: Politicians continue to favor the fossil fuel industry and traditional agriculture mainly because they don’t know better or are on the take.
Most global warming, and a huge burden of air pollution, results from burning fossil fuels: Coal, oil and gas. The other main source of environmental destruction is agriculture, including deforestation, excessive fertilizer use, and methane emissions from livestock. The energy system should shift from heavily polluting fossil fuels to clean, zero-carbon energy sources such as wind and solar power, and the food system should shift from feed grains and livestock to healthier and more nutritious products. This combined transformation would cause net greenhouse gas emissions to fall to zero by mid-century and then become net negative, as atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by forests and soils.
Reaching net zero emissions by mid-century, followed by negative emissions, would likely secure the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Crelative to Earth’s pre-industrial temperature. Alarmingly, warming has already reached 1.1 C, and the global temperature is rising by about 0.2 C each decade. That’s why the world must reach net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. The shift toward clean energy would prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths each year from air pollution, and the shift to healthy, environmentally sustainable diets could prevent around 10 million deaths per year.
A low-cost shift to clean energy is now feasible for every region of the world, owing to the plummeting costs of solar and wind power, and breakthroughs in energy storage. The total system costs of renewable energy, including transmission and storage, are now roughly on par with fossil fuels. Yet fossil fuels still get government preferences through subsidies, as a result of incessant lobbying by Big Coal and Big Oil, and the lack of planning for renewable alternatives.
The key step is a massive increase in power generation from renewables, mainly wind and solar. Some downstream energy uses, such as automobile transport and home heating, will be directly electrified. Other downstream users — in industry, shipping, aviation and trucking — will rely on clean fuels produced by renewable electricity. Clean (zero-emission) fuels include hydrogen, synthetic liquids and synthetic methane. At the same time, farms should shift toward plant-based foods.
By transforming our energy and food systems, we can enjoy low-cost power and healthy, satisfying diets without ruining the environment.
Asia’s continued construction of coal plants, together with ongoing deforestation in Southeast Asia, Africa and Brazil, is putting our climate, air and nutrition at huge and wholly unnecessary risk. In the US, the Trump administration’s promotion of fossil fuels, despite American’s vast renewable energy potential, adds to the absurdity. So does the renewed call by Brazil’s new populist president, Jair Bolsonaro, to develop — that is, to deforest — the Amazon.
So, what to do?
The most urgent step now is to educate governments and businesses. National governments should prepare technical engineering assessments of their countries’ potential to end greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century. And businesses and banks should urgently examine the technologically compelling case for clean, safe energy and food systems. An important studyshows that every world region has the wind, solar and hydropower potential to decarbonize the energy system. Countries at higher latitudes, such as the US, Canada, northern European countries and Russia, can tap relatively more wind than tropical countries. All countries can shift to electric cars, and power trucks, ships, planes and factories on new zero-carbon fuels.
This energy transition will create millions more jobs than will be cut in the fossil fuel industries. Shareholders in companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron that refuse to acknowledge the coming energy transition will end up paying a heavy price. Their ongoing fossil fuel investments will be stranded assets in future years. Governments and utility commissions should require that all new power-generating capacity is zero carbon. As old fossil fuel plants age and are shut down, they should be replaced by clean power generation on a competitive basis, for example through renewable energy auctions. China and India, in particular, should stop building new coal-fired power plants at home, and capital-exporting countries like China and Japan should stop financing new coal-fired plants in the rest of Asia, such as Pakistan and the Philippines.
Private sector firms will compete intensively to lower still further the costs of renewable energy systems, including power generation, energy storage, and downstream uses such as electric vehicles, electric heating and cooking, and the new hydrogen economy. Governments should set limits on emissions, and the private sector should compete to deliver low-cost solutions. Government and business together should finance new research and development to drive costs even lower.
The story with land use is the same. If Bolsonaro really thinks he’s going to bring about a Brazilian economic boom by opening the Amazon to further deforestation for soybeans and cattle ranches, he should think again. Such an effort would isolate Brazil and force the major downstream food companies, facing the threat of a massive global consumer backlash, to stop buying Brazilian products. Consumer foods are going another way. The big news is that Burger King, in a new venture with Impossible Foods, is moving toward plant-based burgers. The "Impossible Whopper" tastes just like its beef counterpart, but smart chemistry using plant-based ingredients allows burger lovers to savor their meal while saving the planet. By transforming our energy and food systems, we can enjoy low-cost power and healthy, satisfying diets without ruining the environment. The high-school kids striking for climate safetyhave done their homework. Politicians like Donald Trump and Bolsonaro need to do theirs or get out of the way.
Jeffrey D. Sachs, Professor of Sustainable Development and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University, is Director of Columbia’s Center for Sustainable Development and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2019.