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Breakthrough in Beirut municipal row possible within days
File - The building housing the Municipality of Beirut, Monday, June 25, 2012. (The Daily Star/Stringer)
File - The building housing the Municipality of Beirut, Monday, June 25, 2012. (The Daily Star/Stringer)
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BEIRUT: A dispute between the Beirut municipal council and the mayor that has paralyzed the body could be resolved in the coming days following mediation efforts by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, municipal sources, including a council member, told The Daily Wednesday. Several council members close to the Future Movement returned to Lebanon from Riyadh where they discussed the impasse with Hariri.

Speaking to The Daily Star, a source from the municipality, who requested anonymity, said the aim of the meeting was to come up with a solution to the dispute that has prevented council from convening in weeks.

The Beirut municipal council had failed to hold a session due to disagreements between some members and Mayor Bilal Hamad.

At least 16 of the 24 council members have boycotted the sessions in protest over Hamad illegally heading the Works Committee and the Property Appraisal Committee since he was elected as mayor in 2010. Hamad declined to comment on the details of the row when reached by The Daily Star.

The dissenting members want an election to be held to select the council’s representatives as well as the heads of all of its committees.

The Property Appraisal Committee sets the land’s value, based on which the municipality decides how much investors have to pay for a construction permit. The Works Committee lays down plans for future projects in Beirut.

Fadi Shahrour, a member of the council, was optimistic. While Shahrour said he had no information about the Riyadh meeting, he explained that the dispute has been “80 percent” resolved.

Shahrour said an unofficial meeting among council members was scheduled to be held Thursday, but would likely be postponed until Saturday due to the death of Hamad’s uncle.

Last week, Issam Barghout, who has been a member of the council for three consecutive terms, submitted his resignation to Nassif Qaloush, Beirut’s acting governor.

Barghout insisted he resigned over health reasons, although he acknowledged that there were “minor disputes” within the council and he would consider returning if they were resolved.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 19, 2013, on page 3.
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