BEIRUT: Lebanon's Cabinet Thursday discussed solid waste treatment for five straight hours without reaching an agreement on how to deal with the pressing issue, instead referring it to a follow-up ministerial committee to propose solutions.
Culture Minister Raymond Areiji said Cabinet had agreed to form a follow-up committee under Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Samir Moqbel, and had decided to continue negotiations on contract extension with Sukleen, the company in charge of garbage collection and street cleaning.
Areiji, who left the meeting before it ended, said Sukleen’s contract would be temporarily extended until new tenders are submitted.
The Cabinet also decided to pay allowances to villages which agreed to set up in-house garbage dumps, the minister said.
Solid waste treatment was the only clause on the Cabinet's agenda Thursday, and earlier ministerial sources had said that the Cabinet had decided to devote time to debating the waste issue, postponing other items on the agenda for another session.
However, the meeting was continuing as ministers tackled other issues, ministerial sources said, and as ministers headed into the Cabinet session, they had pledged to address pressing day-to-day issues.
“It is an important session because it will address the citizen’s day-to-day issues,” Minister of State Mohammad Fneish, from Hezbollah's bloc, told The Daily Star prior to the meeting.
Among the main issues of concern for the Cabinet was that of Lebanese soldiers and policemen captured by Islamist militants during gunbattles in the Bekaa Valley border town of Arsal earlier this month.
Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said the government was handling the hostage issue with “utmost secrecy,” while Health Minister Wael Abu Faour praised Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s role in the hostage crisis.
“The prime minister is earnestly following up on the issue,” Abu Faour told reporters ahead of the Cabinet meeting at the Grand Serail.