BEIRUT: Ministers reached out Monday to soothe Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s anger over disputes within the Cabinet, saying they were willing to facilitate the government’s work.
Education Minister Elias Bou Saab, Economy Minister Alain Hakim and Minister of State Nabil de Freij held separate talks with the Salam at the Grand Serail, days after reports said the premier was aggravated over disputes within his Cabinet.
Salam had said he would refrain from calling for a Cabinet session due to lingering differences among ministers over key issues, such as extra-budgetary spending and the Lebanese University’s contract professors
“We have confidence in Salam's way in administering files in this difficult time, and we also have confidence that his wisdom that preserves stability. We have no intention to disrupt the Cabinet,” Bou Saab told reporters after meeting the prime minister.
“What happened in last week’s session ... was that the prime minister had received assurances from the various groups that the Lebanese University decree will be passed. He discussed the item based on such assurances,” said the minister, who is a member of the Free Patriotic Movement.
The Cabinet postponed discussion on the long-awaited LU decree, which includes two vital items – employing contract professors as full-timers and appointing deans to the university council.
The Cabinet had initially approved giving full-time status to the LU contract professors. But several ministers refused to finalize the professors’ status without approving the appointment of new deans at the university, saying it was a package deal.
The government has agreed on a governing mechanism in light of the presidential that requires the approval of all 24 ministers to pass decrees.
Some ministers traded blame, accusing each other of disrupting the work of the Cabinet and focusing on party interests rather than the fate of the university and its lecturers.
De Freij, a Future lawmaker, said his party was “behind the prime minister all the way if no agreement was reached among the ministers.”
“We need to remain in solidarity with one another and everyone should shoulder their own responsibility,” he told reporters.
Meanwhile, the economy minister defended his party against claims that the Kataeb Party was behind the delay in passing the LU decree.
“Kataeb does not want to disrupt the government's work. We had a candidate for the medical college dean and presented the name to the education minister and another name for the commissioner in the Lebanese University council. We insist on having a presence in the council just like everyone else,” Hakim said. “What I told the prime minister is that we are not against the government's work and we have no intention to paralyze it.”