Archive for the ‘ Lebanon ’ Category

Lebanon bans vegetable imports from Europe

June 04, 2011

BEIRUT: Lebanon ceased vegetable imports from all European countries Friday, following a recent outbreak of the deadly E. coli virus, which has led to the death of at least 19 people so far.

“I’m announcing the halt of vegetable imports from Europe temporarily until the picture is clearer, and I have signed the decree this morning,” said caretaker Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan Friday.

The new strain of E. coli virus, mainly found in cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce has been linked with kidney failures.

Hamburg, Germany is said to be the place where the virus first broke out.

The European Union Friday slammed the Minister’s decision.

“Any total embargo on European vegetables is disproportionate,” Frederic Vincent, the spokesman for health at the European Commission, told AFP.

Hajj Hasan said the ban posed “no risk of shortages on the local market,” as Lebanon could count on its own production and that of neighboring Jordan and Syria. He added that Lebanon actually imports very little vegetable produce from Europe.

An adviser to the minister, Salah Hajj Hassan, told The Daily Star that European vegetable imports made up only one or two percent of the local vegetable market.

European vegetables are usually found in high-end supermarkets and restaurants, Salah Hajj Hasan said.

Lebanon is considered to be a net-exporter of fruits and vegetables, only importing the produce during times of unseasonably dry weather.

“Each shipment that arrives to Lebanon after this decision will not be allowed to enter because we still do not know the severity of the disease or how much it has spread,” said Hussein Hajj Hasan. The minister said that despite Europe’s high level of inspection, the source of the virus remains unclear.

Salah explained that after some painstaking deliberations yesterday about the issue, ministry members decided that the best way to clamp down the still unknown sources of the virus would be to impose a total embargo.

Zuheir Berro of the consumer watchdog group, Consumers Lebanon, lauded the ministry decision, endorsing the ministry’s choice to take “pre-emptive action” against a possible outbreak.

Europe repeatedly stops Lebanese produce from entering its ports, he points out, so Lebanon should be allowed to do the same.

Regarding a vegetable shipment which arrived yesterday, Hussein Hajj Hasan said that the ministry has taken samples to be tested for any bacteria.

In an interview with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, he called on citizens to make sure that vegetables are thoroughly cleaned with fresh water.

Source: The Daily Star.
Link: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Politics/2011/Jun-04/Lebanon-bans-all-vegetable-imports-from-Europe.ashx.

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Lebanon security hit by political vacuum, Syria crisis

By Dominic Evans
Wed Jun 1, 2011

(Reuters) – Months of political paralysis and a crisis in neighboring Syria have harmed Lebanon’s security, a senior U.N. official said on Wednesday, days after a bomb attack wounded six U.N. peacekeepers.

Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams said the attack, which followed the kidnapping of seven Estonians and a deadly incident last month on the Israeli border, was part of an “eroding and deteriorating” security situation.

Lebanon has been without a proper functioning government since January when the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its political allies brought down the government of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who has Western and Saudi support.

Efforts to form a government have made little progress and the 10-week unrest in Syria has escalated tensions. Damascus ended a prolonged military presence in 2005, but remains a powerful player in a country still defined by the political and religious faultlines which fueled its 1975-1990 civil war.

“We see signs of the security situation deteriorating in general, and disturbingly that the institutions of the state are not responding in the way that they should,” Williams told Reuters at his U.N. office in the hills above Beirut.

He said the main concern was a political vacuum caused by the lack of government. Although Lebanese are accustomed to protracted wrangling over new cabinets, the current impasse was unusually fraught and likely to drag on for months, he said.

“The risk is greater now. One, because of the absence of a government. Two, because of the crisis in Syria. And three, because there is some fragility now along the Blue Line (U.N.-mapped frontier with Israel).”

The Israeli army fired on a demonstration at the Lebanese border village of Maroun al-Ras two weeks ago, killing 11 Palestinians marking the “catastrophe” 63 years ago of the founding of Israel, security sources said.

Similar protests may take place on Sunday’s anniversary of the 1967 war when Israel seized the Golan Heights and West Bank.

FRAYING AUTHORITY

Seven Estonians are still missing after being seized in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley after crossing the border from Syria in March, in a kidnapping which Williams and EU envoy Angelina Eichorst described as a dark reminder of Lebanon’s civil war.

In another sign of fraying authority, rival security forces came close to confrontation last week in a standoff at a state-owned telecoms firm when caretaker Telecommunications Minister Charbel Nahhas was denied access to the building.

“It is another indication of the deterioration in the security situation and the inability of state institutions to manage,” Williams said.

The political standoff and security fears also threaten Lebanon’s economy, with growth projections trimmed, tourism revenues expected to fall, and no progress on Lebanon’s plans to explore for oil and gas in the Mediterranean.

“I frankly find it distressing and troubling that the country is losing opportunities now. It’s obvious that the economic situation is deteriorating,” Williams said.

Friday’s bombing of the Italian peacekeepers, one of whom remains “in a very grave condition,” was the first such attack in three years on UNIFIL.

“We don’t see the attack in isolation,” Williams said. “Although it is the first on UNIFIL in a very long time we see the attack in the present security context.”

Expressing concern and surprise at Saturday’s announcement that Italy — which has the largest UNIFIL troop contingent — will cut its peacekeeping force to 1,100 from 1,780, Williams said he would travel to Rome next week for talks.

UNIFIL was expanded to about 12,000 troops and naval personnel under a U.N. Security Council resolution which halted the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in south Lebanon.

It operates alongside 15,000 Lebanese army troops who are deployed to keep the peace and prevent weapons transfers in an area which is a stronghold of Hezbollah guerrillas.

Despite a deadly border clash last August, Williams said the cessation of hostilities since 2006 had held “remarkably well.”

“What’s been achieved is stability on the Blue Line and in southern Lebanon for the first time in decades. In a way that is why I am most worried now.”

Source: Reuters.
Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/01/us-lebanon-un-idUSTRE7505O420110601.

Hezbollah Chief Says Hariri Court Has Ties with Western Intelligence Agencies

2011-07-03

The leader of Lebanese Shiite armed group Hezbollah on Saturday described as “unjust” accusations traded against four members of his party of involvement in the assassination on Lebanese Sunni former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, adding that a prominent CIA agent was part of the team of investigators looking into the 2005 killing.

In his first reaction to the indictment, Hassan Nasrallah said the accusations will not stir Sunni-Shiite tension or another civil war in Lebanon.

“I tell the Lebanese…there is nothing to worry about,” he said in a televised speech.

Nasrallah said it would be impossible to arrest the alleged suspects, “not in 30 days nor in 30 years.”

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which is probing the Hariri assassination, submitted to the Lebanese authorities this week a sealed indictment. Judicial leaks said the indictment named four Hezbollah members, confirming earlier reports that the U.N.- backed court was bracing to point the finger at members of the powerful Lebanese group.

“This court is politicized and serves a specific purpose, which is to deal a blow to resistance movements against Israel,” said the Hezbollah secretary general, reiterating that the STL was an American-Israeli project.

“We are not concerned with this court or anything that comes out from it,” said Nasrallah, “We will not allow this court to drag Lebanon into civil strife.”

Nasrallah revealed that one of the advisers to STL Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare was a top CIA agent that was tasked with tracking Hezbollah’s slain top military commander Imad Mughniyeh.

Nasrallah also described investigators looking into the Hariri assassination and some of the STL staff as “biased and corrupted.”

Nasrallah also showed footage of Gerhard Lehmann, top investigator in the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) to inspect the Hariri assassination, receiving a sum of money for information on the investigation he divulged.

The black-turbaned cleric questioned the reason why the UNIIIC shipped 97 computers to The Hague from Israel rather than regular routes such as the Lebanese port and airport. He also showed a voucher issued from the Israeli Customs to that effect.

Source: CRIEnglish.
Link: http://english.cri.cn/6966/2011/07/03/2724s646004.htm.

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