BEIRUT: Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and his deputy, Issam Abu Jamra, agreed Friday on a mechanism to define the authorities and powers of the deputy premier. Abu Jamra visited President Michel Sleiman at the Presidential Palace later on Friday to brief him on the agreement, which was reached during a meeting between Siniora and the deputy prime minister at the Grand Serail in the presence of Minister of State for Administrative Development Ibrahim Shamseddine.

Abu Jamra said after meeting Siniora that he has agreed with the prime minister on a "mechanism to define" his powers.

He added that the mechanism would be discussed during next week's Cabinet session.

"The Cabinet will have the final say on this issue and I will respect its decision," he said.

Siniora, however, said raising the issue during the next Cabinet meeting was still under study. "In the meantime, we should focus on calming the situation and reducing tension," he added.

Shamseddine described the Siniora-Abu Jamra meeting as positive, adding that relations between the two men were no longer tense.

Abu Jamra, who withdrew from Tuesday's Cabinet session to protest a failure to discuss his  proposal to define the powers of the deputy premier, threatened late on Thursday to boycott Cabinet sessions at the Grand Serail if Siniora continued to ignore his request.

Abu Jamra told LBC television that he was still demanding to have an office of his own at the government headquarters.

Also Friday, Marada Movement leader Suleiman Franjieh escalated his attacks on Lebanese Forces (LF) chief Samir Geagea, accusing him of not having the "spirit and taste" needed for reconciliation.

"Reconciliation requires a certain spirit and taste ... When he who is demanding reconciliation has no spirit or taste, he is likely to get the same answer that we gave," Franjieh said.

The Marada leader was quoted as saying earlier that Geagea should quit politics after reconciling with his rivals.

High hopes of a reconciliation meeting between Geagea and Franjieh were dealt a big blow earlier this week as the Marada chief declared he was not "in a hurry to clear Geagea's slate."

He was referring to Geagea's role in the Ehden massacre of 1978, in which Franjieh's family was murdered.

Geagea has admitted that he was among the "military squad" that was in charge of the Ehden "operation," but he denies taking part in the massacre, arguing that he was shot before making it to the family's residence.

Also on Friday, LF MP Antoine Zahra said that his party was not willing to respond to Franjieh's accusations.

"Franjieh's words are the result of his bad temper ... We will not respond to his accusations ... We will wait for the Maronite League to brief us on his demands and conditions," Zahra told Orange television.

He added that Geagea's recent apology was directed to all who suffered from "unintentional mistakes" committed by the LF during the Civil War.

"The families of Franjieh and Karami were not addressed by Geagea's apology ... We never admitted our responsibility for former Prime Minister Rashid Karami's death ... and everybody knows that Geagea never made it to Franjieh's residence in Ehden," Zahra said.

"However, we are ready to apologize to the families of Franjieh and Karami if they believe that the LF inflicted harm on them," he added.

Karami was assassinated in 1987 when a bomb was placed under seat when he was en route to Beirut by helicopter.

The murder was widely blamed on the Lebanese Forces.

Omar Karami, the brother of the slain former premier, said earlier this week that Geagea's apology was rejected because it would not bring his brother back to life.

The setback of intra-Christian reconciliation efforts coincided with a meeting between Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and a delegation from the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) at the speaker's residence in Beirut.

Berri reportedly told the delegation that relations between the PSP and Amal Movement should serve as a role model for reconciliations in the country.

PSP secretary Sharif Fayyad said after the meeting that both his party and Amal were determined to cooperate on "spreading reconciliation."

Fayyad added that a meeting between PSP leader Walid Jumblatt and Hizbullah "will take place at the right time."

"In the meantime, a meeting between Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Future Movement leader Saad Hariri is extremely important," Fayyad said.

The Nasrallah-Hariri meeting is still being delayed by security arrangements.

In a separate development, US Ambassador to Lebanon Michel Sison said after meeting Geagea at his residence in Maarab that efforts were still under way to secure an Israeli withdrawal from the Lebanese section of the Israeli-occupied border village of Ghajar.

The status of Ghajar, as well as that of the occupied Shebaa Farms, was also discussed on Thursday between Geagea and United Nations special envoy Michael Williams.

William also met on Thursday with former President Amin Gemayel, who said that his Phalange Party had some fresh ideas to resolve the Shebaa Farms issue.

Copyrights 2021, The Daily Star - All Rights Reserved
25/10/2008