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DAILY SCOPE: 800 Water Companies Shut Down, Dialogue Efforts Ongoing

DAILY SCOPE: 800 Water Companies Shut Down, Dialogue Efforts Ongoing
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The food security file rises again in Lebanese media, where this time, investigations expanded to include water pollution, beauty centers and hospitals. Papers also tackled the expected new dialogue between Hizbullah and the Future party. Meanwhile, the Iranian-West talks that were extended also made headlines, trying to anticipate what will happen next.

As-Safir newspaper, reporting on the food security file wrote "it seems that the campaign launched by Health Minister Wael Abu Faour concerning food contamination is becoming only wider, as a few ministers have joined the campaign, including some who were not very enthusiastic at the beginning." The paper noted that after the first finding proof against the first breach to food security, a domino effect took place and much corruption in the vital sectors in Lebanon was revealed.

According to the paper, economy minister Alan Hakim declared that a number of ‘labneh' factories will be shut down such as Laklouk, Ceasar, Center Jdita, and Chtoura products.
Hakim told As-Safir that factories have done serious breaches that directly affect the health of the citizens, as was revealed in the conducted tests.

"[Upon investigations] I was obliged to name these companies and shut them, by virtue of Lebanese law especially that these factories had ignored notices issued to them in this regard," said Hakim.

On the same note, Health Minister Wael Abu Faour told As-Safir newspaper that ‘the snowball is only growing bigger, and no one can stand in its face.' He noted that campaign on food safety has taken a path through the governmental institutions. Moreover, Abu Faour, commenting on his colleagues efforts noted that, "I am happy that my colleagues, the ministers, are convinced that the campaign is important and effective and have started applying it, as they were assured that the safety of civilians does not contradict with the wellbeing of the economy and tourism."

The Lebanese government has taken the decision to establish a new committee to coordinate between the Prime Ministry and the different ministries concerned with the food safety file.

In addition, water contamination had a big share of the discussions, as it turned out that unlicensed water companies distribute polluted water, which led Abu Faour to take a decision to shut down more than 800 water companies that are unlicensed. According to tests, the drinking water is 90% contaminated.

As-Safir also tackled the nuclear talks, noting that the Russian stance, if what was reported on Russian contact of Iran is true, might be a first major change. The newspaper said that it was leaked that Russian President Vladimir Putin has contacted his Iranian counterpart Rouhani, telling him that Russia for its part will lift the sanctions on Iran and will not allow any procrastination in the negotiations.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani had said Monday night that the Iranian nation will never bow to sanctions and pressures and will keep its nuclear facilities under any agreement.

"Today, the opposite negotiating sides have reached the conclusion that pressure and sanctions on Iran will not bear fruit," Rouhani said in a live television interview on Monday after Iran and the six countries agreed to extend the nuclear talks for seven months.

He added that the Islamic Republic would never give up its nuclear rights, saying that the country's nuclear facilities would certainly remain operational and Iran would never stop its centrifuges.

He noted that Iran pursues two main objectives in its talks with the P5+1 group, which include keeping its nuclear technology and lifting sanctions on Tehran.
"At present, no one in the world has any doubt that Iran must have nuclear technology, including enrichment on its soil, and no one has any doubt that sanctions must be lifted," Rouhani added.

The Iranian president also pointed out that the Iranian nation will be the final winner in the negotiations with the P5+1 countries over Tehran's nuclear program.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Iran has lived up to its commitments based on the Geneva nuclear deal with the six world powers, but noted that the anti-Tehran sanctions will remain in place.

Speaking at a Monday press conference in Vienna after the last round of nuclear negotiations, Kerry pointed to criticism of the Joint Plan of Action [JPOA], signed between Iran and the P5+1 last November, noting that, "The interim agreement wasn't violated. Iran has held up its end of the bargain, and the sanctions regime has remained intact."

"We want the people of Iran to get the economic relief that they seek and to be able to rejoin the international community. We want to terminate the sanctions. Yes, we want to terminate the sanctions," the secretary of state said.

Under the Joint Plan of Action reached between the two sides in November 2013, a final comprehensive deal aims to give assurances that Tehran's nuclear program is exclusively peaceful and, at the same time, lift all sanctions imposed against the Iranian nation over the country's nuclear energy program.

Iran has repeatedly said its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, including generating electricity and making radioisotopes for its cancer patients.

In their last round of talks before a November 24 deadline for reaching a comprehensive nuclear deal, Iran and the P5+1 countries -- the United States, Russia, China, Germany, France and Britain -- held nearly a week of intense negotiations in Vienna on how to tackle the remaining obstacles that exist in the way of reaching an agreement.

At the end of the talks, the two sides agreed to extend the Joint Plan of Action to July 1, 2015.
As for An-Nahar newspaper, it wrote on Tuesday that the efforts of House Speaker Nabih Berri on dual talks between Hizbullah and the Future party have started to surface, especially as important files like the food safety file bring together the different powers in the country to tackle the problem.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese are awaiting the televised speech to be delivered by Saad Hariri on Thursday, through which a clear stance should be given on the dialogue with Hizbullah. On this note as well, Minister Mohammad Fneish, from the Loyalty to the Resistance bloc, told An-Nahar newspaper that, "Dialogue is important, and we are open to it. Some friends and allies are putting effort to create a positive atmosphere but so far we have not agreed on a date."

Al-Binaa, for its part, highlighted that there has been a ‘Russian Diplomatic' move towards Lebanon, amid talks about launching a conference in Moscow to tackle the Syrian crisis.

Well-informed sources told Al-Binaa newspaper, following the visit of a Russian diplomatic delegation to Lebanon on Monday, that ‘this visit comes in the context of scrutinizing the situation', not to mention that it is also not far from discussing Russia equipping the Lebanese army. 

The sources noted that the Russian visit was a ‘surprise' to everyone, adding that another aim of the visit is to observe any reaction towards the Russian initiative, especially that Lebanon is considered as a platform to observing reactions on the international level. Yet, the Russians, according to the source, did not disclose any details, awaiting the visit of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem to Russia, where he would meet the Russian president Vladimir Putin. 

On the sensitive file of the abducted soldiers, sources told the paper that efforts are still ongoing, and that negotiations have not stopped with the terrorist groups. Head of the General Security Abbas Ibrahim assured that negotiations on the file are ongoing, and that the Qatari mediator has not withdrawn, but he awaits clear answers from the abductors.