De­cem­ber’s es­sen­tial head­lines

Executive Magazine - - Contents -

> Ola Mithqal alOqaily, the wife of Is­lamist com­man­der Anas Sharkas, was de­tained along­side ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi’s ex wife Saja Du­laimi. The lat­ter has been for­mally ar­rested over ter­ror­ism charges, while Oqaily is in the cus­tody of Gen­eral Se­cu­rity. The gov­ern­ment has an­nounced that it is pre­pared to ar­range a swap deal to se­cure the re­lease of dozens of ser­vice­mem­bers cap­tured by ji­hadist mil­i­tants in Ar­sal in Au­gust 2014.

> Af­ter news of Oqaily and Du­laimi’s ar­rest broke, Jab­hat al-Nusra an­nounced that it had killed Le­banese po­lice of­fi­cer Ali Baz­zal, cap­tured dur­ing clashes be­tween the se­cu­rity forces and Is­lamist mil­i­tants in Ar­sal ear­lier last year. The an­nounce­ment height­ened ten­sions be­tween lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and Syr­ian refugees, with as­sailants set­ting fire to a refugee camp in north­ern Le­banon and shoot­ing a child refugee dead.

> Mil­i­tants am­bushed a Le­banese Army pa­trol on the out­skirts of Ras Baal­bek in early De­cem­ber, killing six sol­diers and leav­ing one in­jured. The attack comes amid on­go­ing clashes be­tween the army and mil­i­tants from ISIS and Jab­hat al-Nusra in the coun­try’s north­east.

> Speak­ing dur­ing a four day of­fi­cial visit to Paris, Le­banese Prime Min­is­ter Tammam Salam urged France to ex­pe­dite the de­liv­ery of weapons funded by a $3 bil­lion Saudi grant. The grant, an­nounced in De­cem­ber 2013 by then Pres­i­dent Michel Sleiman, is aimed at help­ing the coun­try’s armed forces face Is­lamist mil­i­tants.

> Banque du Liban Gover­nor Riad Salameh re­leased state­ments not­ing that the de­crease in global oil prices is the largest ob­sta­cle fac­ing Le­banon’s econ­omy, as it re­duces remit­tances from the Gulf states. This comes fol­low­ing a $1 bil­lion stim­u­lus pack­age for 2015 aimed at stim­u­lat­ing loans, an­nounced by Salameh in Oc­to­ber 2014.

> A sev­eral months long strike by Élec­tric­ité du Liban (EDL) work­ers came to an end af­ter En­ergy Min­is­ter Arthur Nazar­ian and Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Akram Che­hayeb an­nounced that a deal had been reached be­tween work­ers and the EDL ad­min­is­tra­tion. The agree­ment, bro­kered by Druze leader Walid Jum­blatt, sought to rec­on­cile dif­fer­ences over how many con­tract work­ers would be of­fered full time jobs.

> The UN World Food Pro­gram an­nounced that it had stopped pro­vid­ing food vouch­ers to nearly 1.7 mil­lion Syr­ian refugees in Le­banon, Jor­dan, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq due to a de­ple­tion of funds. The agency said the as­sis­tance could be restarted shortly if a re­cently launched fund­ing cam­paign suc­ceeds in rais­ing the nec­es­sary money. So­cial Af­fairs Min­is­ter Rashid Der­bas warned that the cut could re­sult in a “real catas­tro­phe” for Le­banon, which cur­rently hosts about 1.2 mil­lion Syr­ian refugees.

> UNHCR head An­to­nio Guter­res said that 28 coun­tries have agreed to re­set­tle more than 100,000 Syr­ian refugees, speak­ing af­ter a con­fer­ence in Geneva aimed at garner­ing pledges to as­sist in the dis­place­ment cri­sis. Re­gional coun­tries wel­comed the an­nounce­ment, with Le­banese So­cial Af­fairs Min­is­ter Rashid Der­bas point­ing to the “ter­ri­ble plight” the cri­sis had re­sulted in for Le­banese and Syr­i­ans alike.

> The UN has an­nounced that Dutch diplo­mat Si­grid Kaag will re­place Derek Plumbly as the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s Spe­cial Co­or­di­na­tor for Le­banon. Kaag had pre­vi­ously served as head of the OPCW– UN Joint Mission to dis­man­tle Syria’s chem­i­cal weapons pro­gram.

> Judges from the Spe­cial Tri­bunal for Le­banon (STL) an­nounced that the pros­e­cu­tion would be al­lowed to sum­mon Druze leader Walid Jum­blatt to tes­tify. The

STL, es­tab­lished in 2007, is tasked with pros­e­cut­ing those re­spon­si­ble for the 2005 as­sas­si­na­tion of for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Rafik Hariri and 21 oth­ers.

> For­mer Econ­omy Min­is­ter MP Mar­wan Ha­made tes­ti­fied be­fore the STL, telling the court that Syria’s for­mer in­tel­li­gence chief Mar­wan al-Zein had or­dered Le­banese au­thor­i­ties to close an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into an Oc­to­ber 2004 car bomb­ing tar­get­ing Ha­made’s mo­tor­cade.

> Speak­ing dur­ing an In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court ses­sion in the Moroc­can cap­i­tal of Rabat, Le­banese MP Ghassan Moukheiber urged the Le­banese gov­ern­ment to adopt the Rome Statute, the ICC’s found­ing treaty and called on the ICC to pros­e­cute those re­spon­si­ble for war crimes in the coun­try.

> Le­banese MPs failed to elect a pres­i­dent for the 16th time, af­ter Par­lia­ment failed to achieve a two thirds quo­rum in a ses­sion held in early De­cem­ber. The post has been va­cant since for­mer Pres­i­dent Michel Sleiman’s man­date ended in May 2014.

> Health Min­is­ter Wael Abu Faour called for the clo­sure of a dairy fac­tory and a num­ber of restau­rants and su­per­mar­kets through­out the coun­try, amid a food sec­tor scan­dal that erupted in Novem­ber 2014 when Abu Faour pub­licly named and shamed mul­ti­ple es­tab­lish­ments that the Min­istry of Public Health claims are not ad­her­ing to proper safety stan­dards.

> Ac­cord­ing to a By­b­los Bank re­port, con­sol­i­dated bal­ance sheets of com­mer­cial banks in the coun­try showed to­tal as­sets reach­ing $171.3 bil­lion at the end of Oc­to­ber 2014, a 6.6 per­cent rise from a year ear­lier. > Par­lia­ment Speaker

Nabih Berri vowed to take se­ri­ous steps to de­fend the coun­try’s petroleum re­sources, af­ter he claimed to have re­ceived cred­i­ble in­for­ma­tion that Is­rael was si­phon­ing gas from a Le­banese mar­itime re­serve near the coun­try’s south­ern bor­der. The gov­ern­ment has re­peat­edly post­poned li­cens­ing rounds for off­shore ex­plo­ration as a re­sult of po­lit­i­cal dis­agree­ments, spark­ing fears that in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies would re­assess their in­ter­est in in­vest­ment.

> Fig­ures from Le­banese Cus­toms show a rise in the trade deficit over the first 10 months of 2014, reach­ing $14.66 bil­lion. The steady flow of im­ports is nec­es­sary to off­set weak­ened pro­duc­tion and re­spond to in­creased de­mand re­sult­ing from the high num­ber of Syr­ian refugees in the coun­try.

> Le­banon ranked 136th out of 175 coun­tries in Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional’s 2014 Cor­rup­tion Per­cep­tions In­dex, re­gress­ing nine places from last year’s re­port. The coun­try came in 13th place out of 19 MENA re­gion coun­tries, re­ceiv­ing a score of 27 out of 100, sig­nif­i­cantly be­low the global av­er­age of 43.2.

> Le­banon’s gross public debt amounted to $66.2 bil­lion at the end of Oc­to­ber 2014, con­sti­tut­ing a 4.3 per­cent rise year-onyear, ac­cord­ing to a By­b­los Bank re­port.

> Thou­sands of Le­banese cit­i­zens took part in gath­er­ings to bid farewell to mu­si­cal leg­end Sabah, who died in late Novem­ber at the age of 87. Just two days af­ter her death, Le­banon lost renowned poet, writer and play­wright Said Akl.

The ex wife of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi (pic­tured) was de­tained by Le­banese au­thor­i­ties

Walid Jum­blatt will be sum­moned to tes­tify at the STL

Prime Min­is­ter Tammam Salam

Thou­sands at­tended the fu­neral of Le­banese singer Sabah

Wael Abou Faour kept up the of­fen­sive over food safety stan­dards

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