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Policy panel reached 'satisfactory' formula: Abu Faour

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, center, meets with lawmakers at his residence in Beirut, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. (The Daily Star/Lebanese Parliament Website, HO)

BEIRUT: The ministerial committee tasked with drafting the Cabinet’s policy statement reached a “satisfactory” formula with respect to the disputed Baabda Declaration, Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said Wednesday.

His comments came hours after Speaker Nabih Berri signaled a potential compromise over the divisive issue, voicing optimism that ministers would soon finalize a draft.

“The committee has agreed on a satisfactory formula with regards to the Baabda Declaration that takes into account all of the parties’ political convictions,” Abu Faour told reporters after the committee meeting, the fifth since its establishment.

“Most disputed issues were resolved but there are some issues that still require some work,” he said.

The committee is expected to reconvene Friday in what Abu Faour hoped would be its final meeting.

He also commended what he described as the ongoing “calm” discussion during the committee meetings, saying such an approach should be adopted during National Dialogue sessions.

During his weekly meeting with MPs, Berri showed lawmakers statements by several Arab summits emphasizing "the right of the resistance and Lebanon in resisting occupation [and] Israeli aggression with all legitimate means," when asked whether the Cabinet’s policy statement would include a clause legitimating the role of the resistance, referring to Hezbollah.

The speaker’s move demonstrated the March 8 coalition’s readiness to drop their demand to keep the controversial tripartite formula of the “Army, the people and the resistance,” as a clause in the policy statement.

The formula, which was adopted by previous governments, legitimized Hezbollah’s right to bear arms against Israel.

The March 14 coalition has insisted the formula of previous policy statement be removed and replaced with the Baabda Declaration, which calls for distancing Lebanon from regional and international conflicts, particularly the war in Syria. Hezbollah so thus far insisted on keeping the tripartite formula.

Berri’s remarks were seen as a compromise intended to facilitate the work of the ministerial committee tasked with drafting the government’s policy statement.

The committee, chaired by Prime Minister Tammam Salam, has held five meetings at the Grand Serail with no tangible results.

But a source close to Salam told The Daily Star Tuesday that the committee was working to reach a compromise on the thorny issue of Hezbollah's armed resistance against Israel.

Lawmakers who visited Berri said the speaker voiced optimism that the committee would finalize the draft policy.

“We have been flexible in discussing the statement and we are ready to continue as such until we reach a consensus regarding disputed items,” the MPs quoted Berri as saying.

 

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Summary

The ministerial committee tasked with drafting the Cabinet's policy statement reached a "satisfactory" formula with respect to the disputed Baabda Declaration, Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said Wednesday.

The committee is expected to reconvene Friday in what Abu Faour hoped would be its final meeting.

The March 14 coalition has insisted the formula of previous policy statement be removed and replaced with the Baabda Declaration, which calls for distancing Lebanon from regional and international conflicts, particularly the war in Syria.

Berri's remarks were seen as a compromise intended to facilitate the work of the ministerial committee tasked with drafting the government's policy statement.


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