Lebanon's pro-Syrian president refused to endorse a draft accord sent to him by the Cabinet to create an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of a former prime minister.
President Emile Lahoud said on Saturday that the Cabinet of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and his anti-Syria allies had lost its constitutional legitimacy.
The president's action was certain to intensify political and sectarian tensions that have worsened since mass protests over last year's slaying of former prime minister Rafik Hariri forced Syria to end a nearly three-decade military occupation of Lebanon.
The Syrian-backed Hezbollah and its allies were in the ninth day of street protests launched after talks with Siniora's government failed to produce a national unity government. The groups called for a huge demonstration yesterday, saying it would mark an escalation in their attempt to oust the US-backed government.
The president had been expected to reject the tribunal agreement sent to him on Nov. 27. The accord calls for a UN-organized court to try the suspected assassins of Hariri, an opponent of Syrian influence who was killed by a truck bomb last year.
A UN investigation has said the attack's complexity suggested the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services played a role in the assassination. Syria denies involvement.
The move caused Lahoud, a Christian, to say the government should step down because the Constitution requires all of Lebanon's sects to be represented in the Cabinet under the sectarian power-sharing political system.
The Hariri tribunal has become the latest weapon in the battle between pro- and anti-Syria factions over the demand by Hezbollah for a third of the Cabinet's seats, which would give the group and its allies veto power over key decisions, including the accord for the UN tribunal.
The accord not only requires the Cabinet's approval but also the endorsement of Lahoud and parliament, where anti-Syria forces hold a majority. But the UN Security Council could bypass Lebanon and set up the tribunal on its own. The tribunal is envisioned to include a majority of foreign judges and a minority of Lebanese judges.
Siniora's Cabinet is expected to refer the accord to parliament for approval even without Lahoud's signature. Parliament speaker Nabih Berri has signaled he will not convene the assembly.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable
SURGE CONTINUES: India recorded its steepest spike of more than 57,000 new virus cases in 24 hours, as Vietnam went from no virus deaths to reporting three South Korean prosecutors yesterday arrested the elderly leader of a secretive religious sect as part of an investigation into allegations that the church hampered the government’s COVID-19 response after thousands of worshipers were infected in February and March. Prosecutors in the central city of Suwon have been questioning 88-year-old Lee Man-hee, chairman of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, over charges that the church hid some members and underreported gatherings to avoid broader quarantines. The Suwon District Court granted prosecutors’ request to arrest Lee over concerns that he could temper with evidence. Lee and his church have steadfastly denied the accusations, saying they are