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Mikati approves STL payment, undecided on Cabinet session
File - Prime Minister Najib Mikati speaks as he receives officials at the Grand Serail in Beirut, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)
File - Prime Minister Najib Mikati speaks as he receives officials at the Grand Serail in Beirut, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)
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BEIRUT: Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati approved the payment of Lebanon’s annual contribution to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, sources told The Daily Star Thursday.

The ministerial sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Cabinet Secretary-General Suheil Bouji gave caretaker Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi a letter stating that Mikati and President Michel Sleiman had approved the payment of the funds.

Safadi had earlier sent Mikati a letter stating the funds were available but that payment required Mikati’s approval.

The sources said that Safadi had yet to send the payment decree to Mikati, who must then sign it and send it over to Sleiman to do the same. Sources expect this process of approval to take place in the coming days.

The decree is meant to approve the transfer of funds from the budget reserves to the Finance Ministry.

This method of special payment approval was adopted after Miktai’s March resignation. The caretaker government has only met once since then.

Caretaker Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi and caretaker Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour must sign the decree as well.

Qortbawi’s ministry can then channel the funds to the STL account. Lebanon owes nearly $38 million to The Hague-based court.

Under Mikati’s government, Lebanon paid its 49 percent annual contribution to the STL budget in 2011 and 2012. The STL was formed in May 2007 to try the assassins of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, killed in a blast in 2005.

Separately, ministerial sources said that Mikati was still mulling over whether to convene sessions for the caretaker Cabinet and had yet to make a final decision. According to the Constitution, a caretaker government can only carry out a narrow scope of activities. Last month, Mikati called on Speaker Nabih Berri to convene a Parliament session in order to clearly specify what tasks a caretaker Cabinet could carry out.

Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah and Amal have called on Mikati to chair a Cabinet session to approve two decrees to designate Lebanon’s 10 offshore blocks for oil exploration and to determine a model for revenue sharing.

But the caretaker prime minister said that, according to the Shura Council, the Cabinet could not convene to address the matter.

Mikati also cited the opposition of the March 14 coalition, particularly the Future Movement, to holding a session as another reason for his stance.

But the sources said that Mikati was now considering convening sessions as it was taking longer than he had expected to form a new Cabinet and there were pressing needs that required immediate action.

The sources said that if the caretaker Cabinet convened it would only take limited actions in light of its status, adding that this shouldn’t be seen as a political move. The caretaker Cabinet is dominated by Hezbollah and its March 8 allies.

Caretaker Sports and Youth Minister Faisal Karami Wednesday said after meeting Mikati that the premier had promised to convene the caretaker Cabinet to address pressing issues, mainly the deteriorating security situation in Tripoli.

Political sources said that Mikati’s remarks to Karami over the possibility of chairing Cabinet sessions were a move against March 14 parties.

The sources said that although Mikati was not convening Cabinet sessions, taking the opposition of the Future Movement into account, the latter had continuously criticized the prime minister and accused him of failing to restore security in Tripoli.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Mikati would take into consideration local, regional and international factors before calling for a Cabinet session, unless the country witnessed further dramatic developments.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 06, 2013, on page 4.
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