“We shouldn’t forget that since 1992 in Beirut, people had one name on their lips – Hariri.
Francis, who has received Lebanon’s president and prime minister in the Vatican in recent months, had previously promised to visit the country and repeatedly expressed concern over its worsening crises.
In March 1978, Israel launched “Operation Litani” in south Lebanon, which it said was to protect the north of its territory from fighters from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
It withdrew partially in June that year.
Counting was ongoing and official results were only available for 99 of the 128 seats up for grabs a little before midnight (2100 GMT), fuelling opposition fears of foul play in some of the closest races.
The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections watchdog said this week it had already noted candidates or affiliates distributing food coupons in Beirut, offering health services further east and donating power generators to schools in the south.
Hezbollah has said it expects few changes from the make-up of the current parliament, though its opponents – including the Saudi-aligned Lebanese Forces, another Christian group – say they are hoping to scoop up seats from the FPM.
Central Bank Chief Riad Salameh is facing judicial probes in Lebanon and at least five European nations into the alleged embezzlement of at least $330 million in public funds by him and his younger brother, Raja.
The country is also facing climate-linked disasters, from heavy coastal floods that destroyed crops last year to forest fires that razed homes, which Ayat said required policies to reduce the risks and keep people safe.
Its work is quickly derailed by tensions over the investigation into the Beirut port explosion.
“Lebanon received a letter from the Vatican officially informing it of the decision to postpone the scheduled visit of the Pope to Lebanon,” Nassar said in a statement published by the official National News Agency.
Nassar did not elaborate on the “health reasons” behind the postponement, but the pope who has suffered from pain in his knee was seen using a wheelchair for the first time at a public event Thursday.
The vote is seen as a major test for opposition groups bent on ousting the ruling elite.
But few observers expected a seismic shift, with all levers of political power firmly in the hands of traditional sectarian parties and an electoral system seen as rigged in their favour.
In line with Lebanon’s “national pact” dating back to independence from France in 1943, the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shiite.
Abdelmalak’s own office rarely gets public power and relies on a private generator that operates from 8 am until 6 pm.
He and other employees try to leave work by then to avoid getting stuck in the elevator.
Governor for nearly three decades, Riad Salameh, 71, has previously attributed his wealth to the investment of money made while he was a banker at Merrill Lynch before he became governor in 1993.
An IMF programme is seen as crucial for Lebanon to begin emerging from a devastating financial crisis that has left most people poor, due to the deep reforms it would entail and the international funding it could unlock.
Whether Rafik or Saad, it was Hariri,” said Fouad Makhzoumi, a Sunni businessman and member of parliament who is running again.
Former prime minister Fouad Siniora, a fierce Hezbollah critic who is backing like-minded Sunnis in the election, has sought to counter a Sunni boycott, calling on voters to “preserve Lebanon’s Arabness”, a push against Iranian sway.
President Michel Aoun, the world’s third oldest head of state, had long planned for his son-in-law Gebran Bassil to take over but the Lebanese Forces’ surge in the polls could disrupt that scenario.
Mohanad Hage Ali of the Carnegie Middle East Center said a quarter or more of the new parliament is strongly anti-Hezbollah and allied to Riyadh.
“The large minority within a hung parliament will definitely be impactful,” he said.
Following months of uncertainty over whether the election would go ahead, polls will open at 7:00 a.m.
(0400 GMT) across 15 electoral districts.
Nationals over the age of 21 vote in their ancestral towns and villages, sometimes far from home.
BEIRUT, May 12 (Reuters) – The Lebanese government issued licences to eleven companies to begin producing 15 megawatts (MW) of solar power each, energy minister Walid Fayyad said on Thursday during a press conference.
The 35-year-old lawyer and another independent, Elias Jarade, both snatched seats from allies of the powerful Iran-backed Shiite group Hezbollah in one of its south Somfy Awnings Lebanon strongholds — a first in three decades.
Hezbollah and its ally Amal demand the removal of investigating judge Tarek Bitar after he charges some of their allies.
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