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Hezbollah is not just Lebanon problem: Prime Minister Hariri



Lebanon and its government are not to blame for Hezbollah and its recent attacks on Israeli territory, Lebanon’s prime minister said Tuesday.

Tensions between Lebanon and Israel spiked over the weekend after Shiite militant group Hezbollah fired rockets into Israel from southern Lebanon, an attack the group claims was in retaliation for an Israeli drone strike.

“Look, Hezbollah is not a Lebanese problem — only — it is a regional problem,” Prime Minister Saad Hariri said in a wide-ranging interview with CNBC’s Hadley Gamble. “Israel wants to have … this scenario that Lebanon is responsible, with what Netanyahu says, and if you want to buy it, buy it. But he knows and the international community knows that this is not true.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a speech last week warned Hezbollah — and Lebanon — to “be careful what you say and more careful what you do.”

I am a pragmatic person, and I know my limits, and I know the limits of this region.

Saad Hariri

Prime Minister, Lebanon

Hezbollah, which operates as both a political party and paramilitary group and is designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, made record gains during Lebanon’s elections in May 2018. It’s widely regarded as the most powerful political group in Lebanon

The United States sanctioned Lebanon’s Jammal Trust Bank last week, saying the bank facilitates Hezbollah’s financial activities and funnels money to the families of suicide bombers. The bank denies those allegations.

Hariri expressed no sympathy for any financial institutions that run afoul of American or European rules, saying such banks “should expect the consequences” of running Hezbollah money.

Israeli soldiers stand guard in the northern Israeli town of Avivim, close to the border with Lebanon, on September 2, 2019. -Israel and Hezbollah exchanged fire along the Lebanese border after a week of rising tensions, sparking fears of an escalation and prompting concern from world powers.

Jack Guez | AFP | Getty Images

“If a bank misuses this trust, we don’t like it, definitely. We try to stop it, I try to stop it,” he said, adding that the U.S. “had to take this action, and I don’t like it and I wish this bank didn’t go through (with) what they did.”

At the same time, Hariri on Tuesday acknowledged limitations in his ability to rein in Hezbollah. The group ignores the official Lebanese policy of staying out of regional conflicts and has been active most notably in Syria in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“I am a pragmatic person, and I know my limits, and I know the limits of this region. If people were serious about this issue, they would have done things 10, 15, 20, 30 years” ago, Hariri told CNBC.

His main focus, he said, is strengthening Lebanon’s institutions such as its central bank and its security forces.

Fighting over the weekend

Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on Sunday reported that missiles from Hezbollah, which is funded by Iran, hit an IDF military outpost and an ambulance in northern Israel. The Israeli army had braced for an attack after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned the group would make Israel “pay a price” for its alleged drone strike.

The IDF said it responded by shelling Hezbollah positions with artillery and helicopter fire, afterward calling the operation a success.

Despite the cross-border fire, analysts watching the region say there’s little desire for further conflict ⁠— for now.

“Hezbollah has not ruled out further retaliation over Israel’s drone strikes, but [its] appetite for escalation appears limited,” Agathe Demarais, a senior analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, told CNBC.

Demarais said Hezbollah has political backing from within senior levels of Lebanon’s government, and therefore “is wary of compromising its recent increase in political popularity by dragging Lebanon into a new war with Israel.”

Netanyahu is unlikely to want escalation ahead of the country’s elections — which he hopes will keep him in office — later this month, Demarais said.

Netanyahu appeared to play down the seriousness of the weekend fighting in brief comments to reporters on Monday, according to Reuters.

The tensions also make things more complex for Hariri, already under strain amid competing political factions and a looming economic crisis.

‘Able to say no one was killed’

Faysal Itani, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, sees the latest fighting as more of a face-saving exercise than a genuine provocation.

“For now, everyone is happy. Nasrallah had his party and the Israelis were able to say no one was killed,” he said.

But there is a fundamentally unstable situation at hand when it comes to the broader context, Itani said. That context is increasing joint US-Israeli pressure on both Iran and Hezbollah, imposing mounting costs, like sanctions, unless certain conditions are met — conditions by which neither Iran nor Hezbollah are willing to abide.

“As these costs rise, Hezbollah has to figure out ways to look like it is responding without inviting a war that could devastate it,” Itani said. “Hence attacks like the border operation.”

The last all-out war between the Israel and Hezbollah was in 2006. It left more than 1,200 people dead in the span of a month, the overwhelming majority of whom were Lebanese.

—CNBC’s Emma Graham contributed to this report. Reuters contributed to this report.

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Saudi Aramco will not market IPO in the United States, report says



An employee rides a bicycle next to oil tanks at Saudi Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia October 12, 2019.

Maxim Shemetov | Reuters

Saudi Aramco does not plan to market its domestic initial public offering (IPO) in the United States, two sources familiar with the matter said.

Aramco had said in its IPO prospectus earlier this month that the offering of shares would rely on the 144A rule of the U.S. Securities Act, which allows a non-U.S. issuer to tap the U.S. market.

The sources said Aramco will no longer rely on that rule, meaning it will not market the shares in the United States.

Aramco did not immediately respond to a comment request.

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Democrats hold on to Louisiana governor’s seat despite Trump



Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has stunned Republicans again, narrowly winning a second term Saturday as the Deep South’s only Democratic governor and handing Donald Trump another gubernatorial loss this year.

In the heart of Trump country, the moderate Edwards cobbled together enough cross-party support with his focus on bipartisan, state-specific issues to defeat Republican businessman Eddie Rispone, getting about 51% of the vote.

Coming after a defeat in the Kentucky governor’s race and sizable losses in Virginia’s legislative races, the Louisiana result seems certain to rattle Republicans as they head into the 2020 presidential election. Trump fought to return the seat to the GOP, making three trips to Louisiana to rally against Edwards.

In a victory rally of his own late Saturday, Edwards thanked supporters who danced, sang and cheered in celebration, while he declared, “How sweet it is!”

He added, “And as for the president, God bless his heart” — a phrase often used by genteel Southerners to politely deprecate someone.

“Tonight the people of Louisiana have chosen to chart their own path,” Edwards said.

Trump had made the runoff election between Edwards and Rispone a test of his own popularity and political prowess heading into the 2020 presidential race. On Saturday, Trump went on Twitter in a vigorous plug for Rispone.

The president’s intense attention motivated not only conservative Republicans, but also powered a surge in anti-Trump and black voter turnout that helped Edwards.

As he conceded the race, Rispone called on supporters to give a round of applause for Trump, saying: “That man loves America and he loves Louisiana.”

Democrats who argue that nominating a moderate presidential candidate is the best approach to beat Trump are certain to say Louisiana’s race bolsters their case. Edwards, a West Point graduate, opposes gun restrictions, signed one of the nation’s strictest abortion bans and dismissed the impeachment effort as a distraction.

Still, while Rispone’s loss raises questions about the strength of Trump’s coattails, its relevance to his reelection chances are less clear. Louisiana is expected to easily back Trump next year, and Edwards’ views in many ways are out of step with his own party.

In the final days as polls showed Edwards with momentum, national Republicans beefed up assistance for Rispone. That wasn’t enough to boost the GOP contender, who wasn’t among the top-tier candidates Republican leaders hoped would challenge Edwards as they sought to prove that the Democrat’s longshot victory in 2015 was a fluke.

He had ties to unpopular former Gov. Bobby Jindal and offered few details about his agenda. Edwards also proved to be a formidable candidate, with a record of achievements.

Working with the majority-Republican Legislature, Edwards stabilized state finances with a package of tax increases, ending the deficit-riddled years of Jindal. New money paid for investments in public colleges and the first statewide teacher raise in a decade.

Edwards expanded Louisiana’s Medicaid program, lowering the state’s uninsured rate below the national average. A bipartisan criminal sentencing law rewrite he championed ended Louisiana’s tenure as the nation’s top jailer.

Rispone, the 70-year-old owner of a Baton Rouge industrial contracting company, hitched his entire candidacy to Trump, introducing himself to voters in ads that focused on support for the president in a state Trump won by 20 percentage points.

But the 53-year-old Edwards, a former state lawmaker and former Army Ranger from rural Tangipahoa Parish, reminded voters that he’s a Louisiana Democrat, with political views that sometimes don’t match his party’s leaders.

“They talk about I’m some sort of a radical liberal. The people of Louisiana know better than that. I am squarely in the middle of the political spectrum,” Edwards said. “That hasn’t changed, and that’s the way we’ve been governing.”

Rispone said he was like Trump, describing himself as a “conservative outsider” whose business acumen would help solve the state’s problems.

“We want Louisiana to be No. 1 in the South when it comes to jobs and opportunity. We have to do something different,” Rispone said. “We can do for Louisiana what President Trump has done for the nation.”

The president’s repeated visits appeared to drive turnout for both candidates.

Tour guide Andrea Hartman, 40, cast her ballot for Edwards in New Orleans.

“I do not agree with what Rispone advocates,” she said. “I also don’t want Trump coming here and telling me who to vote for.”

Rispone poured more than $12 million of his own money into the race. But he had trouble drawing some of the primary vote that went to Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, after harshly attacking Abraham in ads as he sought to reach the runoff.

“We have nothing to be ashamed of. We had over 700,000 people in Louisiana who really want something better, something different,” Rispone said.

Rispone also avoided many traditional public events attended by Louisiana gubernatorial candidates and sidestepped questions about his plans. He promised tax cuts, without saying where he’d shrink spending, and he pledged a constitutional convention, without detailing what he wanted to rewrite.

Both parties spent millions on attack ads and get-out-the-vote work, on top of at least $36 million spent by candidates.

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We expect a big expansion in trade from China, CEO says



Parking berth for airplanes at Dubai International Airport, UAE.

SM Rafiq | Moment | Getty Images

DUBAI — Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths isn’t worried about the growth in the Chinese economy — yet. The chief of the United Arab Emirates government-owned airport operator is still seeing positive trajectory in Chinese air travel to and from the major hub of Dubai, he told CNBC at the Dubai Airshow on Sunday.

Asked by CNBC’s Hadley Gamble about slowing traffic from China, Griffiths replied, “I’m not sure that’s the case.”

“We’re still seeing very positive growth on the Chinese routes, so much so that we’ve now introduced specific features throughout the airports — hot water dispensers, Mandarin menus at some of the restaurants, the ability to use Chinese payment services throughout the airport. So we are getting ready for a big expansion in trade from China. And I think as with a lot of markets in the past, we’ve been able to demonstrate we can buck the overall trends and still see growth where the others are not experiencing the same level of growth.”

China’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth was hit by a slowdown to 6% in the third quarter of this year from 6% in the previous quarter, its lowest in three decades. Growth trajectory remains highly uncertain as the trade war between China and the U.S. stretches into its 16th month, with high-stakes negotiations underway.

Dubai International Airport (DXB) posted a 2.4% decline in passenger traffic for this year’s third quarter, handling 23.2 million passengers between July and the end of September.

The first nine months of 2019 saw 4.5% fewer passengers than the same time period a year ago at 64.5 million. Griffiths attributed the declines to a 45-day long closure of a runway at DXB in the spring, and the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX jet since March, the liquidation of major Indian carrier Jet Airways in April, which he said caused a “hiatus in Indian traffic.”

DXB is the world’s busiest airport for international travelers, CNBC reported last year, handling 89.1 million passengers in 2018.


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