WATCH: TRUMP, HARIRI MEET AT THE WHITE HOUSE
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that supporting Syrian refugees as close to their home as possible is the best way to help them.
Trump commented during an appearance with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whose country is burdened by an influx of refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria and who is counting on continued U.S. assistance to help manage that burden.
During Hariri’s first visit to the Trump White House, the leaders also pledged continued solidary against terrorism from the Islamic State group and other militant groups.
“Our approach supporting the humanitarian needs of displaced Syrian citizens as close to their home country as possible is the best way to help most people,” said Trump, standing alongside Hariri in the Rose Garden after their talks.
The U.S. has provided billions of dollars in humanitarian assistance to help supply displaced and other Syrians with clean water, food, shelter and health care since the civil war broke out in early 2011.
Hariri said Syrian refugees account for about 1.5 million, or one quarter, of Lebanon’s population of about 6 million people. The prime minister was expected to seek additional U.S. assistance to cope with the refugee influx.
In brief remarks to open one of their meetings, Hariri said he hoped the anti-terrorism partnership between the U.S. and Lebanon would continue until all terrorists are defeated.
“We will do that,” replied Trump, who also praised the Lebanese army for keeping IS and other extremist groups from establishing a foothold in the country. “Ultimately you will win … we have great confidence in you.”
Continued U.S. support for the Lebanese military, financial assistance for Syrian refugees and U.S. plans to tighten sanctions on the militant group Hezbollah were the key items on Hariri’s agenda going into the meeting with Trump.
The Lebanese army in recent years has been battling Islamic extremists near its border with Syria and the country has suffered recurrent bouts of insecurity and spillover from the civil war raging next door.
U.S. security assistance for the Lebanese army has exceeded $1 billion in the past decade, but concern is mounting that the aid could be cut under Trump’s plan to slash the State Department budget.
But Hariri has a tough balancing act. Potentially embarrassing for him is the current offensive to clear Sunni militants along the Lebanon-Syria border, which is being spearheaded by Hezbollah and the Syrian army, with the Lebanese military serving largely as a bystander.
Trump has slammed the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which the U.S. considers a terrorist group, and Congress recently introduced legislation to impose stiffer sanctions on the powerful group. Hariri, whose fragile governing coalition includes members of Hezbollah, is worried that U.S. efforts to widen sanctions on Hezbollah could negatively impact the banking industry in Lebanon.
At the same time, he has warned that Lebanon is close to a breaking point due to the strain of hosting more than 1 million Syrian refugees.
When asked, Trump declined to offer a position on possible tighter sanctions against Hezbollah.
WATCH: TRUMP, HARIRI MEET IN THE OVAL OFFICE
A Beirut-based fashion studio is catching eyes worldwide after its launch of a glitzy new ‘angelic’ collection of designer dresses.
Lebanese designer Mohammed Ashi is the brains behind the ice-white patterns and intricate embroidery. He has dressed A-list celebrities on the red carpet, including singers Celine Dion and Janelle Monae.
Ashi’s latest design is described on Instagram as “The Girl on the Moon.” The launch comes months before Paris Fashion Week, which is set to begin on February 27, 2018.
The Ashi brand was launched in 2007 to “tell fairy tales through every meticulously hand crafted design,” according to its website.
Ashi’s biography says he is “attached to his Arab roots yet inspired by diverse cultures.”
For more information on the Ashi brand, click here.
Lebanese superstar Elissa is breaking new records after the music video of her new song “Aaks Elli Shayfenha” hit more than 3 million views in its first week.
The song was posted on July 19 by Rotana Records, the Arab World’s largest record label, which has 4.5 million subscribers.
WATCH: “AAKS ELLI SHAYFENHA”
The hit music video is directed by Lebanese director Angy Jammal, who collaborated with Elissa for the fourth time after music videos for “Ya Merayti,” “Hob Kol Hayaty,” and “Saharna Ya Leil,” according to a press release.
“Aaks Elli Shayfenha” is composed by Amir Teima and with lyrics by Walid Saad. The song comes from Elissa’s album, “Saharna Ya Leil.”
Elissa, whose real name is Elissar Zakaria Khoury, is a popular Lebanese recording artist, and the first Lebanese singer to receive the World Music Award for Best Selling Middle Eastern Artist in 2006.
She has sold over 30 million albums worldwide.
The average starting cost for apartments under construction in Beirut vary from $2,000 to $8,500 per square meter, according to a new study conducted by a Beirut-based real estate advisory firm.
The firm RAMCO studied apartment asking prices in 67 Beirut neighborhoods, including popular downtown districts such as Saifi Village and Manara.
According to the study, between 2016 and 2017, prices have dropped in 34 out of the 67 Beirut neighborhoods, especially in central neighborhoods between Bachoura and Kaskas.
But researchers say there has not been a significant drop in apartment prices in the highest tier of the market. The most expensive neighborhoods, Manara and Saifi Village, have the same asking price as last year.
SEE MAP OF BEIRUT’S MOST EXPENSIVE NEIGHBORHOODS:
Other neighborhoods, classified by the study as “mid-market” areas, have seen their average prices increase. Areas such as Sioufi, Beddawi and Sakiet el Janzir, along with 23 other neighborhoods, posted a price hike over the last year.
Price hikes, the study says, are due to the introduction of new residential projects, which pull prices upward.
- Central neighborhoods between Bachoura and Kaskas
- Most neighborhoods on the eastern edge of Achrafieh
- Mid-market neighborhoods
- Sioufi, Beddawi and Sakiet el Janzir
PRICES REMAIN THE SAME
- Neighborhoods in good demand
- Sursock, Saifi Village, Monnot, Kobayat, Kantari, Manara
Researchers say the study looked specifically at asking prices posted by developers, and excluded any margin of negotiation or potential discounts offered during the purchasing process.
According to its website, RAMCO is a Beirut-based full line real estate advisory company, providing agency, marketing, and consultancy services.
The Trump administration is seeking to slash military aid to Lebanon by 82 percent next year, according to the State Department’s 2018 budget plan.
Last year, the U.S. provided $103 million in military aid – weapons, equipment and training – to Beirut. The 2018 budget projects about $19 million in anticipated aid.
According to the State Department, the cuts would include the cessation of the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program, which amounted to about $86 million in 2016.
The move signals a potentially stronger stance by the Trump administration against Lebanon, and a change of direction in the unofficial U.S-Lebanon partnership against ISIS.
The Lebanese military has been a key force against ISIS in northeastern Lebanon, and an ally to the U.S. in the fight against militants.
Lebanese Army officials are positioned strategically to closely monitor ISIS movements in the remote mountains of Arsal, where an estimated 500 militants are masked between the Lebanon-Syria border.
Much of Lebanon’s ability to confront ISIS, analysts say, is owed to the support of foreign countries, including the United States. Since 2005, the U.S. has provided more than $1.4 billion in military aid to the country.
But the assistance could soon be slashed, according to the Trump administration’s latest budget plan. Some Middle East analysts believe the Lebanese Army’s ties to Hezbollah may have played a role in 2018 funding plans.
President Trump has pledged to get tough on Iran and its proxies throughout the region.
Tony Badran, a researcher at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington, told the Christian Science Monitor that the U.S. has good reason “to worry about the army’s ties to Hezbollah.”
“There are still some people out there who buy the argument of Lebanon as a good partner – especially at [the Pentagon] – and some are still convinced by the obsolete notion of the Lebanese standing up to [Syrian President Bashar] Assad,” he told CS Monitor.
Besides military cuts, the Trump administration is also proposing about 23 percent of cuts to economic and developmental aid to Lebanon.
Last year, Lebanon received $110 million in economic assistance. The 2018 budget projects about $85 million.
The budget cuts would also hit several other vulnerable countries, including Tunisia, Iraq, Morocco and Yemen.
President Trump and Prime Minister Saad Hariri are expected to discuss these proposed cuts during a meeting at the White House on Tuesday.
President Donald Trump will host Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Washington on Tuesday, the White House announced.
The leaders are expected to discuss the fight against terrorism, Lebanon’s national economy and the refugee crisis, according to a White House statement.
Analysts also believe the pair will discuss U.S. aid to the Lebanese military, which is expected to be slashed by more than 80 percent in the State Department’s 2018 fiscal budget.
“President Donald J. Trump will host Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri at the White House on July 25. The two leaders will discuss issues of mutual concern, including the fight against terrorism, the economy, and refugees. This meeting will serve as an important opportunity to strengthen the bilateral relationship and will encourage other international and regional partners to support Lebanon as it faces a wide range of challenges.”
Road trips are probably a blast with Egyptian duo Adel Nabil and Peter Gabra.
The friends posted a Facebook video of themselves rocking out to the Puerto Rican single “Despacito,” and the Internet is loving it!
The video has nearly 2 million views and counting.
Nabil posted the video with caption, “Because we have a different Flavor! 😎 #Despacito.”
“Despacito,” which means slowly in Spanish, has already broke records as the most streamed track of all time with more than 4.6 billion streams, according to Universal Music Latin Entertainment.
WATCH: Egyptian friends add oriental beats to ‘Despacito’
Rare footage from British Pathé, a producer of newsreels and documentaries, shows Lebanon in 1969.
British Pathé was at the forefront of cinematic journalism, blending information with entertainment to popular effect.
Over the course of a century, it documented everything from major armed conflicts and seismic political crises to the curious hobbies and eccentric lives of ordinary people. If it happened, British Pathé filmed it.
Beirut, the thriving beautiful capital city of Lebanon.
But even here, in the biblical land of milk and honey, the honey is not so sweet.
These are refugees — some of the many who have lost their homes in Middle East strife.
Lebanon has seen its share of troubles through the centuries. Romans, Arabs, the Crusaders, Turks, the French, and the allied forces all have passed this way.
But Lebanon has survived, and has merged as a prosperous and democratic state, composed equally of Christians and Muslims.
The president, Charles Helou, is a Christian. The prime minister, by agreement, is always a Muslim. The set up appears to work well.
In spite of its geographic position of strategy in the current Middle East situation, the financial comparison of Lebanon to Switzerland and its role as the trading house of the Middle East is a fair one.
Free enterprise flourishes. Modern roads cover the country. Luxury buildings and hotels have sprung up.
One of the main objects of both is tourism. About 30 percent of the national income is derived from visitors, including Jewish people. Even now Lebanon is still a tourist attraction.
This is traditional and universal in appeal.
So is this…
In this small land, bordered by Israel and Syria, the east and the west fuse smoothly. Ancient and modern, Christian and Muslim.
It’s a land of contrast. Sunny lowlands, snowy mountains.
An engineering professor at the American University of Beirut says he was wrongfully denied entry into the U.S. because of new “extreme vetting” measures.
George Saad, 35, an associate professor at the Beirut campus, was traveling to the U.S. for the Engineering Mechanics Institute Conference in San Diego.
He says the Department of Homeland Security turned him away at Los Angeles International Airport without explanation, and he missed his conference as a result.
According to The New York Post, Homeland Security officials detained him and interrogated him for four hours. He says his phone was confiscated, his laptop was seized and officials photographed him and took fingerprints.
“I belong to the American University of Beirut — the leading academic institution in Lebanon and the Middle East, chartered in New York and considered an American territory in Lebanon,” Saad told The Post. “I felt so small, so unappreciated and consider being treated in demeaning and humiliating ways.”
Saad says his visa was revoked and he was sent back to Beirut without an opportunity to contact an attorney or his family.
According to The Post, Saad has traveled to the U.S. about 15 times without any issue. In 2015 and 2015, he attended similar engineering conferences in California.
Saad graduated from John Hopkins University, and holds his doctorate from the University of Southern California. He says his family is Christian, and he has no criminal record.
The alleged incident happened amid President Trump’s push to enhance screening measures at American points of entry. Although the courts have blocked the president’s travel ban, his administration has been pushing for stepped up questioning of visa applicants and more intense vetting.
Saad says he already filed a complaint with Homeland Security’s Traveler Redress Inquiry Program, but he still lost about $2,500 in travel costs.
Officials at the American University of Beirut say they stand by their professor.
“While we understand and respect security measures, we are surprised and concerned at the treatment our faculty member received, including his long interrogation followed by denial of his entry into the US,” the university said in a statement to The Post.
Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not respond to requests for comment.