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Lebanon election uncertainty no risk to oil, gas tenders

by Reuters. Lebanese authorities said on Tuesday they will press ahead with the
country’s first oil and gas licensing round regardless of uncertainty
over a twice-postponed general election. “I am sure
and certain that all the political parties are determined and are
committed to make this licensing round succeed,” Minister of Energy and
Water Cesar Abou Khalil told Reuters. “We have a
government that is fully functional and homogenous … We are pretty
sure that the agenda and roadmap for the licensing round will be
respected.”

Lebanon’s tender process for offshore
exploration and production stalled in 2013 because political deadlock
left the country with no president for 2-1/2 years and squabbling
between parties prevented the passage of necessary laws. But
late last year, a president and prime minister were chosen. A newly
formed government restarted the tender process in January by passing two
important hydrocarbon decrees and holding a pre-qualification round in
April.

Uncertainty reared its head again when
President Michel Aoun suspended parliament for a month in mid-April,
temporarily blocking plans to extend the assembly’s term with no popular
vote for a third time since 2013 to try to push for electoral law
reforms and to hold a parliamentary election.
  But
oil and gas will no longer be subject to political deadlock, the
chairman of the board of directors of the Lebanese Petroleum
Administration, Wissam Chbat, told the third Lebanon International Oil
and Gas Summit in Beirut. “We are decoupled from
the political track, there has been a lot of consensus from all
political parties towards achieving a successful bid round. Everyone is
putting his effort towards achieving that,” Chbat said.

The
delay in development has come at a cost, Chbat told Reuters, as oil and
gas prices have fallen significantly and east Mediterranean neighbors
such as Egypt, Cyprus and Israel have been developing their sectors. “In 2013 we had better dynamics for the industry, better prices for oil and gas and better conditions,” Chbat said. The
Lebanese government has estimated with a probability of 50 percent it
has 96 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves and 865 million
barrels of oil offshore, but the true size of the reserves cannot be
known until exploration begins. “There is much more than the local market needs and a big portion of it would be for export,” Chbat said. Chbat said 60 targets had been identified as potential reservoirs.

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How to Party in Beirut Like It’s Your Last Night on Earth

When you’re American and you tell
people you’re heading to Beirut on vacation, nobody will believe you.
“Sure,” they will crack, “Beirut makes a lot more financial sense than
North Korea.” Perhaps after a quick Google Maps search to remind
themselves where Lebanon actually is, they will inform you that it shares a border with Syria, and that Beirut is but 70 short miles from Damascus.

Here’s
the thing: People in the rest of the world have been partying here for
ages. In the Middle East, Lebanon is considered a beacon of peace and
progressivism. It’s where rich kids from Europe, Asia, Africa, and the
Gulf buy their luxury goods and blow off steam.

I
spent three nights in Beirut this spring, and the only time I ever felt
unsafe was when my Uber driver couldn’t figure out his GPS. Yes, the
city was once wracked by civil war, but that war ended 27 years ago.
Beirut today is a gorgeous place, a picture of cosmopolitanism, with a
promenade along the Mediterranean Sea and maybe the best nightlife I’ve
ever witnessed. The weather’s balmy. The food’s incredible. You should
go. Here’s how to do it.

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Guest houses offer a welcoming way of discovering Lebanon

By Samar Kadi –Middle-East Online-  BEIRUT

“Feeling
at home” is the idea behind L’Hôte Li­banais — the Lebanese Host — 15
guesthouses and boutique hotels carefully selected to give guests
genuine insight into traditional Lebanese living.

Nestled
in quiet village quarters, centuries-old buildings hidden in the
mountains or artsy apartments tucked in the heart of Beirut, the
guesthouses are scattered across Lebanon, with each having its own
cachet and characteristics. L’Hôte Libanais introduced
guesthouses to Lebanon 15 years ago, guided by a belief that “the best
way to experience a country is to share its food and to mingle with the
local people,” said group founder Orphée Haddad.

“Although
the Lebanese people are very hospitable, the tourism industry in
Lebanon for years was mainly based on hotels in Beirut, from where
tourists would go on day trips to visit historical sites,” Haddad said.
“Those who did not know anyone in Lebanon were stuck in places mainly
dedicated to tourists and did not have a chance to experience what real
Lebanese life is.” The gist of the endeavour is to have
the Lebanese people open their houses to foreigners looking to better
understand Lebanon and gain first-hand experience of Leba­nese
hospitality.

“This is how L’Hôte Libanais started. I
went from neighbour­hood to neighbourhood and from village to village
knocking on doors and sharing my idea,” Haddad said. The
first guest houses of L’Hôte Libanais started operating in 2005- 06,
receiving both foreign guests and the Lebanese who wanted to explore
their country. “This is how global travelling is moving
now,” Haddad said. “Today people are looking for something more
genuine. The old tourism with impersonal large hotels has probably
changed into something that is more focused on the expe­rience. It is an
experience with the food and the area itself.” L’Hôte
Libanais members are carefully selected through strict criteria that
combine the physi­cal with the flavour and feel of the place.

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Macron to become next French president after beating back Le Pen and her populist tide

Brigitte Trogneux et Emmanuel Macron à l'Elysée, le 2 juin 2015.
Emmanuel Macron and Brigitte his Wife
France on Sunday shrugged off the siren call of right-wing populism that enchanted voters in the United States and United Kingdom, rejecting anti-E.U. firebrand Marine Le Pen and choosing as its next president Emmanuel Macron, a centrist political neophyte who has pledged to revive both his struggling country and the flailing continent. The result brought to a close a tumultuous and polarized campaign that defied prediction at nearly every turn, though not at the end. Pre-election polls had forecast a sizable Macron victory, and he appeared to have delivered, with projections issued after polls closed showing him with around 65 percent of the vote. A downcast Le Pen conceded defeat, telling her demoralized supporters in Paris that the country had “chosen continuty.” Meanwhile, a raucous celebration of Macron backers was getting underway outside Paris’s Louvre Museum.  The outcome will come as a major relief to Europe’s political establishment, which had feared a Le Pen victory would throw in reverse decades of efforts to forge continental integration. But it instantly puts pressure on Macron to deliver on promises made to an unhappy French electorate, including reform of two institutions notoriously resistant to change: the European Union and the French bureaucracy.

At 39, the trim, blue-eyed and square-jawed Macron will become France’s youngest leader since Napoleon when he is inaugurated this weekend, and his election caps an astonishing rise. 

With a background in investment banking and a turn as economy minister under a historically unpopular president, he may have seemed an ill fit for the anti-establishment anger coursing through Western politics. 

But by bucking France’s traditional parties and launching his own movement – En Marche, or Onward — Macron managed to cast himself as the outsider the country needs. And by unapologetically embracing the European Union, immigration and the multicultural tableau of modern France, he positioned himself as the optimistic and progressive antidote to the dark and reactionary vision of Le Pen’s National Front.

Le Pen, 48, has long sought to become the first far-right leader elected in Western Europe’s post-war history. Sunday’s vote frustrated those ambitions, but is unlikely to end them. 

By winning around 35 percent of the vote, she nearly doubled the share won by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in the 2002 election, the only other time the National Front’s candidate has made it to the second round. The result seemed to cement the party’s long march from the political fringe to the center of the nation’s unhappy political discourse, if not the pinnacle of its power.

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US delivers additional arms to Lebanon

Image used for illustrative purpose. Weapons that were confiscated in past raids conducted by the Iraqi army are displayed for the media during a showcase of their achievements at an Iraqi military base south of Baghdad August 30, 2010. The Iraqi soldiers burst through the door of the mock-up of a suspected insurgent's house and open fire. U.S. soldiers, meanwhile, shelter under a tarpaulin to avoid the scorching summer sun and look on. A year or so ago the U.S. soldiers might have been the first to barge through the door in the training exercise while Iraqis lounged in the shade, but the U.S. military mission in Iraq is changing as combat operations formally end on Tuesday. Picture taken August 30, 2010.  REUTERS/Saad Shalash

Daily Star Lebanon – BEIRUT: The United States delivered over 1,000 new machine guns to
the Lebanese Army Friday, as part of an effort to bolster security along
Lebanon’s border. During the handover ceremony, held at the Army’s
Logistic Brigade headquarters in Kfar Shima, U.S. Ambassador Elizabeth Richard highlighted “the important role the Lebanese Armed Forces play in addressing the serious challenges Lebanon faces.”

The equipment included 800 heavy machine guns and 320 other crew-served weapons. A
statement released by the embassy said that the weapons would be used
to increase the Army’s defensive capabilities along the Syrian border,
and to improve the Land Border Regiments’ ability to effectively defend
their positions. “We are confident [that the weapons] will be directly employed to
protect and defend Lebanon’s borders, and by the very nature of that
act, Lebanon’s most valuable asset: its people,” Richard said. She
also noted that the shipment was part of an ongoing U.S. program to
improve the capabilities of Lebanese security forces, and to increase
the Army’s ability to “carry out its mission as the sole defender of
Lebanon.” “We recognize that the challenges facing Lebanon are
serious,” she said. “Many of them emanate from outside your borders. But
the Lebanese are strong, as you have proven over and over through
history.”

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Economy minister calls for more support from Lebanese expats

Lebanon's fans celebrate after they won the 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against South Korea in Beirut November 15, 2011. REUTERS/Sharif Karim

The daily Star Lebanon – BEIRUT: Economy Minister Raed Khoury called upon Lebanese expatriates Friday to grab the historical opportunity of investing in Lebanon. “Lebanon is witnessing today a positive turning point in economy
reflected in the great political consensus among the different political
parties and the great will to work on developing the economy and
creating job opportunities,” he said at a session held within the
framework of the fourth annual “Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference” at
BIEL. Khoury encouraged expatriates to invest in Lebanon by
saying that the country’s current economic slowdown is only temporary
and it does not reflect the real capacity of the Lebanese economy. “For
instance, Lebanon was capable, five years ago, to register a growth rate
of 9 percent in addition to achieving record surplus in the balance of
payments while the rest of the world was suffering from the worst
financial crises,” he said.

Khoury attributed the economic slowdown to the political bickering
that took place in the past few years in addition to the negative impact
of the Syrian crisis and the flow of the hundreds of thousands of
refugees to Lebanon. Spillover from the regional turmoil in
combination with a deteriorating domestic political process, have led to
sluggish, below potential real GDP growth since 2011. According to the
World Bank’s latest Lebanon Economic Monitor, real GDP growth in 2016
underwent a slight acceleration to reach an estimated 1.8 percent,
compared to 1.3 percent in 2015. The report estimated real GDP
growth for 2017 to pick up somewhat to 2.5 percent as a result of
progress made in the domestic political process, continued revival of
the tourism sector and a slight improvement in real estate and
construction.

Khoury said that despite the several crises that
the country has been through it was able to maintain its position as a
safe haven for deposits and a pioneer in preserving the freedom of money
and capital transfers due to its sound financial and banking systems. The
minister said investment in the infrastructure, industry and trade
sectors remains of utmost importance for economic development.

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‘This gets to the fabric of the nation’: Inside the dark conspiracy that made its way from the fringe to the White House

donald TRUMP

by Sonam Sheth business insider

The modern history of the “deep state” in American politics —
real or imagined — starts with real leaks of classified
information and ends as a conspiracy theory on popular yet
dubious websites. And how it got there raises serious questions about whether the
intelligence community is trying to subvert a new president or
whether it’s a convenient scapegoat for an administration that’s
had its share of early foibles.

A deep state is a network of influential members of a
government’s agencies or military who operate against a
democratically elected government. It might work to undermine an
elected president’s authority or legitimacy and has been common
in countries such as Egypt and Turkey. The concern in the US started shortly after Donald Trump took
office. In early February, The New York Times and The Washington
Post published a series of explosive
reports about the intelligence community’s investigations

into the Trump campaign’s communications with Russian officials
during the 2016 election.

The reports, citing anonymous officials, revealed that then
national-security adviser Michael Flynn had discussed US
sanctions on Russia with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak before
Trump took office, despite Flynn’s claims that he and Kislyak had
not discussed anything sensitive during their phone calls. The next day, The Times
broke a story
on what it said were “repeated contacts” that
Trump associates had with Russian officials during the campaign.
CNN
published another report
that night in which sources said
communication between Trump associates and Russian officials
during the campaign was “constant.” Flynn resigned a short time later.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions later had to recuse himself from
any Department of Justice investigations into the Trump
campaign’s ties to Russia after additional leaks revealed that he
had also had contact with Russian officials during the campaign.

An American deep state?

The steady drip of classified leaks about President Trump’s young
administration has led some to speculate about the
beginnings of an American deep state
. The term is derived from the Turkish “derin devlet,” which refers
to an intricate network made up of government officials, often
including those from the military and intelligence communities,
whose primary goal is to subvert a democratically elected
leader’s agenda and ultimately remove that leader from power.

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Will Lebanon’s president keep parliament from ‘re-electing’ itself?

by Josephine Deeb – Al Monitor

To some legislators’ consternation but to no one’s real surprise, Lebanon’s parliamentary elections have been delayed yet again for at least three months. On April 12, the day before parliament was scheduled to meet, President Michel Aoun
invoked Article 59 of the Lebanese Constitution, which allows him to
postpone a parliamentary session for one month. He may do so once during
the legislative term. Speaker Nabih Berri had called for the session to discuss extending parliament’s term, as members failed to agree on a new electoral law before a constitutional deadline expired.
Aoun wants a new law implemented before elections are held for
parliament, whose term ends June 21. He doesn’t want the legislature to extend its own term
without elections, which he considers illegal, but he also doesn’t want
a legislative vacuum. However, the constitution requires that voters be
given 90 days to prepare for an election, so — because of repeated
delays — one now can’t be scheduled before August at the earliest. In a televised speech, Aoun addressed the Lebanese people, saying, “I
have warned repeatedly against the extension since it is
unconstitutional and will definitely not be the path toward the recovery
of the government and its authorities and institutions on a sound
constitutional basis.”

Minutes after Aoun announced his decision, Berri set another session for May
15. In the meantime, Lebanese political forces continue their quest to
agree on an electoral law by then. Simon Abi Ramia, a member of
parliament’s Change and Reform bloc, told Al-Monitor that despite
differences between the parties, political forces seek to agree on a new
electoral law and his political bloc will strive to prevent a
parliamentary extension by all means. Aoun wants to replace the contested 1960 Electoral Law,
which is based on a majoritarian (winner-take-all) district electoral
system with limited exceptions. That law allows Muslim leaders to select
Christian parliament members in some constituencies. Aoun, a Maronite
Christian, along with Hezbollah
and the Amal Movement, are insisting on a “total proportionality”
system, while others want either a hybrid law or the majoritarian
system.

On the eve of April 13, the date set for the session to discuss the
extension, the specter of civil war came back to haunt the Lebanese amid
a sharp division of political forces and a serious threat by Christian political forces to take to the streets to prevent the session. They threatened to block the roads to prevent legislators from even reaching parliament.

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