Lebanon parliament approves loan laws in first session in 2015

GMT 13:07 2015 Friday ,13 November

Arab Today, arab today Lebanon parliament approves loan laws in first session in 2015

MPs talk to speaker Nabih Berri (3rd right)
Beirut - AFP

Lebanon's parliament on Thursday met for the first time in a year in a bid to avoid losing millions of dollars in international aid and loans.

The session, called by speaker Nabih Berri, was convened despite a boycott by one of Lebanon's Christian parties over an ongoing dispute about the need for a new president.

Lebanon's National News Agency said parliament approved a raft of legislation, including several bills to secure millions of dollars in funding from the World Bank.

The lending institution and other international donors have been warning for months that Lebanon's political gridlock risked costing the country more than half a billion dollars in loans and aid.

France has already cancelled more than 100 million euros in aid for several projects because parliament failed to ratify legislation on which the funding was contingent.

The money on the line includes a loan of around half a billion dollars, the World Bank's largest ever to Lebanon, for a dam project intended to provide 1.6 million people with water for drinking and irrigation.

Lebanon is facing a chronic political deadlock in large part because of existing tensions exacerbated by the conflict in neighbouring Syria.

The country's two main political blocs -- the Western- and Gulf-backed group led by former prime minister Saad Hariri and the bloc led by Hezbollah and allied with Iran and Syria -- disagree over the conflict that erupted next door in March 2011.

That disagreement has spilled into most parts of the political process in Lebanon, leaving the country without a president since May 2014 because parliament cannot agree on a successor.

There have been no legislative elections since 2009 and the parliament last met in November 2014 to extend its own mandate, for the second time.

The session Thursday, which is set to continue into the evening and on Friday, was held despite the boycott of the Christian Kataeb party.

Others had threatened to boycott, but in the end attended.

The Lebanese presidency is by tradition reserved for a Maronite Christian and the lengthy presidential void has exacerbated fears among some in the community that their political power is being diminished.


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