Lebanon ‘sliding into the abyss’ as politicians fail to break impasse

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https://morningstaronline.co.uk-Boys search garbage containers for valuables and for metal cans that can be resold, in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, June 17, 2021

CRIPPLING United States sanctions, bringing shortages of fuel and medicine across Lebanon, are killing its people, with one citizen telling the Morning Star that they are “not human beings any more.”

As the deepening economic crisis pushes people into poverty, with the currency losing 90 per cent of its value in just 18 months, the hotel worker said that the people of Lebanon “can’t take much more.

“We have no electricity, no benzine [fuel], no medicine; pharmacies are closed, hospitals will close, the cost of basic food is rising.

“We are dying. We are not human beings any more. Animals live better than people in this country. They [politicians] are killing us,” she said.

Leading Lebanese newspaper the Daily Star reported that the country was “sliding into the abyss” today as influential MP Gebran Bassil rebuffed a proposal by parliament speaker Nabih Berri to form a 24-member non-partisan cabinet.

With President Michel Aoun and prime minister-designate Saad Hariri also at loggerheads, efforts to break the deadlock over the formation of a new government appear to be at an impasse.

Mr Bassil, the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, said that Mr Berri’s proposal, which was tabled last week, “exposed a more dangerous and deeper crisis,” insisting it posed a threat to Christian rights in the Lebanese government.

He accused political leaders of betraying the 1989 Taif Accord, which ended the country’s devastating civil war and ensured equal power sharing between Christians and Muslims.

On Sunday Mr Bassil reiterated his support for Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, a key ally of Mr Aoun, and sought his help as an “arbitrator” regarding the formation of a new cabinet.

‘I trust him, his honesty, and I entrust him with the issue of [Christian] rights,” he said in a televised speech, describing the Shia leader as “a friend.”

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who held a series of meetings in Lebanon on Sunday, warned that the economic bloc was considering imposing sanctions on politicians responsible for the crisis.

He called on politicians to break the deadlock and form a government which he urged to reach a deal with the International Monetary Fund, a move that previous governments have been reluctant to make.

Many Lebanese people blame the US’s Caesar Act for their predicament. Introduced last year, its sanctions were supposed to put “maximum pressure” on the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and also target Hezbollah.

Mr Nasrallah insists that the measures are aimed at “starving the Lebanese and Syrian people,” claiming it is an act of desperation after Washington failed to win the military war in Syria.

 

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