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Iran wants US to lift sanctions against Lebanon

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Protesters took to the streets of Beirut to vent their fury at their government, which they accuse of negligence following evidence that authorities knew about the ammonium nitrate and did nothing for seven years. [ Pic courtesy Anadolu Agency]

Iran wants the United States to lift sanctions against Lebanon and wants other countries to refrain from politicising last week’s Beirut explosion that killed at least 158 people and left more than 6,000 wounded.

Iran’s comments on Monday come a day after international leaders pledged $300m in humanitarian assistance to Lebanon following the devastating explosion that also left more than 300,000 people homeless in the capital city.

“The blast should not be used as an excuse for political aims … the cause of the blast should be investigated carefully,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told a televised news conference on Monday.

“If America is honest about its assistance offer to Lebanon, they should lift sanctions.”

The international aid announced on Sunday would be “directly delivered to the Lebanese population” and offered support for an “impartial, credible and independent inquiry”.

“Lebanese authorities must now implement political and economic reforms demanded by the Lebanese people and which alone will enable the international community to act effectively alongside Lebanon for reconstruction,” said French President Emmanuel Macron, who chaired the virtual donor conference.

Macron visited Beirut’s shattered streets on Thursday, two days after the chemical explosion in the dock area. Asked about the visit, Mousavi said: “Some countries have been trying to politicise this blast for their own interests.”

The explosion, whose mushroom cloud reminded many of an atomic bomb, left a 43-metre-deep (141-foot) crater at Beirut’s port, said a security official, citing French experts working in the disaster area.

It was triggered by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, which had been stored at a port warehouse since 2013.

Protesters have taken to the streets of Beirut to vent their fury at their government, which they accuse of negligence following evidence that authorities knew about the ammonium nitrate and did nothing for six years.

Police and the army responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, resulting in hundreds of protesters being wounded. At least one policeman has been killed, security forces said.

“Those who died paid the price of a state that doesn’t care about anything except power and money,” said protester Tamara, 23, whose friend Rawan, 20, was killed in the blast.

“It’s not enough that ministers resign,” said her friend Michel. “Those who put the explosives there must be held accountable. We want an international tribunal to tell us who killed [Rawan].”

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Beirut, said people are “disillusioned” because they are up against a “militarised state”.

“Protesters are not under any illusion that changing or getting rid of the political and security establishment that has been in place for decades is going to be easy,” she said, speaking from the capital Beirut.

The protesters demand the wholesale removal of Lebanon’s ruling class, which they see living in luxury while millions endure job losses, deepening poverty, power blackouts and mountains of rubbish piling up in the streets.

Two ministers, Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad and Environment Minister Damianos Kattar, resigned from their posts over the weekend, leading embattled Prime Minister Hassan Diab to propose early elections in order to break the impasse that is plunging Lebanon ever deeper into political and economic crisis.

Nine other members of parliament have also stepped down, but according to Khodr, those in power are adamant about keeping the government in place.

“There were reports that other ministers wanted to tender their resignation, but after intense negotiations behind closed doors, a minister belonging to the Hezbollah camp emerged and said: ‘We are not resigning, the government is still standing, and we will continue to carry out our duties and responsibilities towards our people’,” she said.

 

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Foreign qualified medical students protest

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A group of foreign medical degree holders protested opposite the Presidential Secretariat yesterday (23) requesting that tangible measures be taken to conduct the Examination for Registration to Practice Medicine (ERPM) without further delay.

They alleged that over 1,500 students had been deprived of the opportunity to sit the examination due to the fault of the Sri Lanka Medical Council, which is now under investigation by a committee, appointed by Health Minister Pavitra Wanniarachchi.

Photo: A section of the protesting students (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

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SJB insists referendum necessary besides 2/3 majority in Parliament

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Supreme Court moved against 20A

By Chitra Weerarathne

General Secretary of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya Ranjith Madduma Bandara, MP, yesterday (23) filed a petition in the Supreme Court stating that the proposed 20th Amendment (20A) to the Constitution was inconsistent with the Constitution. It requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament and approval by people at a referendum for passage, the SJV has argued.

The SJB says 20A violates people’s sovereignty and franchise enshrined in Article (3) and (4) of the Constitution.

The petitioner has argued that the provisions in clause 55 of the Bill are inconsistent with the public trust doctrine and the principle of checks and balances and would prejudicially affect public finance.

 The clause 54 of the Bill seeks to repeal Article 156 A of the Constitution, which provides constitutional recognition to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or corruption, the petition says.

 The petition says 20A seeks to repeal the prohibition on dual citizens being elected to Parliament and to the post of President.

The power of the Auditor General to audit the state institutions has been curtailed, the petition says, arguing that it could be detrimental to the economy.

It will be detrimental to the country if the Constitutional Council is replaced by a Parliamentary Council, the SJB General Secretary’s has contended in his petition.

Clause 20 (2) of the proposed 20A has restricted the powers of the Election Commission as regards the conduct of elections, the petitioner has argued.

The 20A states that an omission by the President could no longer be challenged through a fundamental rights violation petitions in the Supreme Court, the petitioner has said, adding that the Bill seeks to further enhance the powers of the President by allowing him to unilaterally remove the Prime Minister. The President would not be accountable to Parliament, the petition says.

The 20A would repeal Article 70/ (1) of the Constitution and enable the President to dissolve Parliament even immediately after a general election, the SJB General Secretary argues.

The respondent to the petition is the Attorney General.

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Lawyer Hijaz’s foundation received funds from banned foreign outfit – CID tells court

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By A.J.A.A beynayake and Kasuni Rebecca

The CID yesterday informed the Colombo Fort Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage that Save the Pearls Trust run by lawyer Hijaz Hisbullah, now in custody for allegedly aiding and abetting one of the Easter Sunday bombers, had received Rs.13 million from a banned organisation named the Caliphate of Qatar.

The CID told court that according to the bank accounts of the trust the money had been received by it during the last few years and the police had launched an investigation to ascertain whether the funds had been used for terrorist activities.

The CID told court the investigation had been launched under the Money Laundering Act and a psychologist’s opinion had been sought on the book titled “Navarasam” found in a madrasa (school teaching Islam) run by Save the Pearls Trust in Puttalam.

The Magistrate order the CID to submit to court a Sinhala translation of the book and examine whether the contents of the book promoted terrorism.

The case will be taken up again on October 7.

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