Iraq's post-war reconstruction has been a real bonanza for Lebanese ports, which have seen activity nearly double, in a reminder of their former commercial glory. \nThe country's harbors on the eastern Mediterranean, mainly at the northern city of Tripoli, have become beehives since the April 9 fall of the Saddam Hussein regime to the US-led coalition now ruling the country. \nThe ports' activities have been on the rise since the beginning of the summer, with a 22 percent increase of activities at the Beirut port last month from a year earlier. \nA record rise of 42 percent was recorded in October in the northern harbor of Tripoli, the closest to Baghdad, a port official told reporters. \nTransit is the main activity at the Tripoli port. To face the growing demand, authorities have allocated about US$25 million to expand the harbor. \nNew cars, trucks, wood and fertilizer crowd the port of Tripoli from where the freight is mainly taken to Baghdad, about 1,000km across the arid Syrian plains and the Iraqi desert. \n"Every month, some 5,000 cars are transported to Iraq," said the port official, who did not wish to be identified. \nThe Lebanese economy, which has been in crisis for years, is benefitting not only from the re-export activities, but from a rising demand for local industrial products, mostly cement. \n"Last year, it used to take me less than one hour to drive to my native village of Baino ... Today, it takes me half an hour more because of the never-ending traffic of lorries carrying all sorts of products, mainly cars, toward the Syrian borders," Tripoli resident Ilham Salem told reporters. \nHundreds of cars are transported by land on double-platform lorries, owned by Lebanese, Syrian, Iraqi and Jordanian companies benefitting from a post-war tax break. \nCranes work non-stop, unloading ships and filling up lorries with. \n"As far as any taxi driver can remember, this is the largest flow of lorries," recalls George Sayegh, who has long been shuttling along the Beirut-Aleppo roadway. \nPort authorities said activities have been on the rise for the past three months and are due to continue their upward trend in the next few years due to the enormous needs of the Iraqi market. \nPreviously, activity at the Tripoli port rarely reached 500,000 tonnes. But it rose by 23.6 percent to 711,900 tonnes in the first 10 months of this year from 575,600 tonnes in the year-earlier period. \nDemand has been on the rise for many products. For example, demand for wood doubled in November to 20,000 tonnes from the months before the US-led invasion of Iraq last spring. \nSuch a rush for quick earnings through re-export activities has also meant a shortage of many products on the Lebanese internal market. \n"Clients are calling us liars, but it is a first: we cannot meet our own needs in wood to satisfy them," explained carpenter Dawud. \nLebanese cement is also heavily in demand because of difficulties suffered by cement factories in Iraq, mainly due to power shortages, said Bashir Ashou, owner a construction firm and one of the leading transportation companies in the country. \nAfter a halt of 15 years, cement exports from Lebanon to Iraq progressively increased to reach 68,000 tonnes over six weeks for the country's two factories. \n"This situation is unprecedented," said Ashou, who said Iraq is also resorting to Syria to meet a gigantic demand of 25 million tonnes of cement per year.
INCREASED RISK: The Omicron BA.2.75 subvariant has higher immune evasive capacity, but the CECC is more concerned about newer subvariants such as XBB and BQ.1 With the peak season for infectious respiratory diseases coming to an end, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday said that details of the next phase of lifting COVID-19 masking rules — removing the mask requirement in most indoor settings — are to be announced this week. Discussions on lifting other COVID-19 restrictions are also being held, including further easing border control measures, home isolation requirements and revising the definition for reporting cases, while also downgrading COVID-19 to a lower category of notifiable communicable disease, said Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Victor Wang (王必勝), who heads the CECC. As the daily
‘UNACCEPTABLE’: The foreign ministry said that China’s behavior broke international law, while Johnny Chiang was worried such balloons could be used against Taiwan A suspected Chinese surveillance balloon flying over the US was yesterday condemned by officials in Taipei and sparked calls for the government to plan countermeasures. The Pentagon on Thursday said it had detected a Chinese surveillance balloon flying over the country. Beijing has said the balloon is a civilian meteorological device that drifted into US territory after being blown off course. The National Security Bureau and Ministry of National Defense should investigate whether surveillance balloons could be used against Taiwan and prepare to respond to such acts, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s postponement
PEACE AND STABILITY: The two nations called for the peaceful resolution of cross-Taiwan Strait issues through dialogue without the threat or use of force or coercion The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday thanked France and Australia for voicing their support for Taiwan, saying that peace across the Taiwan Strait is crucial to the stability and prosperity of international society. France and Australia on Monday pledged to deepen ties with Taiwan and reiterated their support for its participation in international organizations at this year’s Foreign and Defense Ministerial Consultations in Paris. The meeting between French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna, French Minister of the Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong (黃英賢) and Australian Minister for Defence Richard Marles was the second
DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM: Czech president-elect Petr Pavel said his nation stands firmly on the side of democracy and would boost cooperation with Taipei in all aspects Czech president-elect Petr Pavel spoke by telephone with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday, a highly unusual move given the lack of formal ties and a diplomatic coup for Taipei. Tsai spoke with Pavel for 15 minutes in a harmonious atmosphere, Presidential Office spokeswoman Lin Yu-chan (林聿禪) said, adding that Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) was also present during the conversation. Lin quoted Pavel as telling Tsai that Taiwan is a trustworthy partner, adding that the Czech Republic stands firmly on the side of democracy and supports Taiwan in maintaining a lively democratic system free from authoritarian coercion. The Czech Republic would