Lebanon News

Minister: Berri, Future talks ongoing and fruitful

Abu Faour: “Any attempt to sideline Taif could lead the country into huge constitutional, political and security shafts.” (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Health Minister Wael Abu Faour Friday said talks between Speaker Nabih Berri and the Future Movement had so far been successful in resolving a series of disputes, including over extra-budgetary spending, and could possibly end the presidential paralysis.

"Dialogue between MP Fouad Siniora of the Future Movement and Speaker Berri is very fruitful and what MP Walid Jumblatt is doing to facilitate this dialogue has started bearing fruit with the recent agreement in Cabinet over the spending issue,” Abu Faour told reporters in Rashaya.

“Work is ongoing to resolve the issue of the salary scale.”

The Cabinet agreed Thursday to pay the salaries of public sector employees by allocating funds from the Treasury via a government law allowing extra-budgetary spending.

The decision came weeks after Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil refused to authorize extra-budgetary spending for civil servants unless the draft state budget for 2014 he had prepared was approved.

He has argued that he could only finance ministries in need of loans within a legal framework, and that the only way to resolve the issue was if Parliament passed a special law or if the Cabinet approved the 2014 draft state budget.

Due to the fact that no state budget has been approved since 2005, Cabinets are obligated by law to adhere to the financial ceiling of the last approved budget. Previous governments issued extra-budgetary spending, which Khalil said should be retroactively legalized via a Parliament law.

“Despite rumors that dialogue failed, the talks are bearing fruit and we hope we will develop it so it will cover more topics and include more partners, because it is the only means to resolve disputed issues, particularly the president [file],” Abu Faour, a member of Jumblatt’s party, said.

Abu Faour also sounded confident that the Parliamentary election would not take place in November as scheduled.

“We do not think that the parliamentary election will be held. Publicly, politicians want the election to be held on time while they discuss means of extending Parliament's mandate behind closed doors,” he said.





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