Lebanon News

Arsal overrides Cabinet agenda

From left, Ministers Elias Bou Saab, Alain Hakim and Sejaan Azzi attend a Cabinet session in Beirut, Friday, May 30, 2014. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)

BEIRUT: Renewed fighting in Arsal and the crippling strike at EDL figured prominently in a six hour Cabinet session that convened Thursday morning.

Information Minister Ramzi Joreige said that Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk had offered “a detailed overview of the security situation” and the threat of terrorist groups in Arsal.

Education Minister Elias Bou Saab also spoke on Arsal following the meeting, telling reporters at the Grand Serail that “the situation in Arsal is the most dangerous case and the gunmen, estimated in their thousands, have crossed the border into [Lebanon]. They are well trained and well-armed.”

During the meeting, Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi spoke to Prime Minister Tammam Salam and the rest of the ministers via telephone about the latest clashes in Arsal.

Joreige said the defense minister spoke on the security situation in Arsal and the needs of the Army, and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil spoke on the international assistance needed to protect the country and reinforce the Army’s defense against terrorism.

Prime Minister Tammam Salam reiterated the need for secrecy over negotiations to release 29 abducted security personnel captured by militant groups during clashes in Arsal earlier this month, Joreige told reporters after the session.

Among the 62-item agenda, Cabinet approved the issuance of passing certificates to students who sat for official exams, saying that the Education Ministry would later announce the mechanism by which students could obtain the diploma.

Cabinet also approved the request of the interior minister over the need to pay off charges levied by waste collection in the Jezzine municipality, directly from the Independent Municipal Fund.

Cabinet also discussed the issue of contract workers, condemning their assault on state-affiliated institutions.

Ministers accused EDL protesters of occupying a state-owned institution, saying that the condemnation was made irrespective of the protesters' cause.

The contract workers have been holding protests and preventing EDL employees from entering the firm's headquarters in Beirut, with the state-run company arguing the protests are disrupting much-needed maintenance work.

Several ministers had said that the situation in Arsal would be a focus of the discussion in light of renewed clashes between the Lebanese Army and militants from Syria.

Clashes renewed Thursday between the Lebanese Army and militants from Syria in a remote border village after the gunmen ambushed a military unit. A soldier was taken captive and others were wounded in the clashes that also killed a number of militants.





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