Lebanon News

Lebanon offers formal recognition to state of Palestine

BEIRUT: Lebanon has decided for the first time to establish diplomatic relations with the state of Palestine, and has approved the opening of an embassy in Beirut. "The cabinet has approved the establishment of diplomatic relations with the state of Palestine," Information Minister Tarek Mitri said following a Cabinet meeting late on Thursday.

A Palestinian embassy would replace an office in Beirut representing the Palestine Liberation Organization, but Mitri said no date had yet been fixed to implement the move.

The PLO, which is headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and groups the main Palestinian political movements, is recognized by most countries as representing the Palestinian people. Abbas' predecessor the late Yasser Arafat symbolically proclaimed the state of Palestine in 1988 but the Palestinians have yet to win formal independence.

Separately, the Cabinet approved a plan to reduce both mobile and land line fees.

According to the plan, the price of mobile phone calls would be reduced by no less than 10 percent per minute.

Mitri told reporters that the plan would start by expanding the mobile phone network and improving its services.

The plan would also extend the duration of prepaid mobile phone cards from one month at maximum to three months.

The Cabinet also approved the appointment of Defense Minister Elias Murr as head of a ministerial committee in charge of discussing mechanisms to appoint senior state officials, often referred to as administrative appointments.

Deputy Prime Minister Issam Abu Jamra was supposed to head the committee, but he refused to do so, linking his refusal to the Cabinet's reluctance to issue a decree recognizing and defining the powers of the deputy premier.

The government also decided to form a ministerial committee with the task of demarcating borders with Syria.

Commander of Lebanese Armed Forces General Jean Kahwaji will be visiting Damascus next week to discuss security cooperation.

Commenting on Thursday's Cabinet session, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told reporters after the Friday prayer at the Grand Serail that administrative appointments should be made "as soon as possible."

He added that the Cabinet was determined to protect the rights of all employees, without ignoring the need to maintain financial stability in the country.

The premier defended during a Parliament session on Wednesday his government's financial policies, stressing that there were no sufficient funds to give public sector employees all their deserved wage increases. - AFP with The Daily Star





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