BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted the need to elect a new Lebanese president during a meeting Thursday, when they also discussed means to support Lebanon’s security services.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet approved a mechanism to govern its work during the presidential void.
“The meeting, which lasted for an hour and included breakfast, tackled the latest developments in Lebanon and the region, particularly the need to put an end to presidential vacuum in Lebanon and exert all efforts to elect a president as soon as possible,” said a statement by Hariri’s press office after his meeting with Kerry.
“The meeting also focused on the necessary steps to ensure Lebanon’s stability and boost security and military services.” Lebanon plunged into a presidential vacuum on May 25, when the term of former President Michel Sleiman ended. Parliament has failed in seven attempts to elect a successor.
Hariri and Kerry, who met at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Paris, touched on the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis on Lebanon and efforts needed from the international community to help the country cope with the presence of over a million Syrian refugees.
The meeting was attended by a number of U.S. officials including Vice Admiral Kurt Tidd, the assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
According to Agence France Presse, Hariri and Kerry also discussed an explosion that rocked a Lebanese hotel Wednesday when a suicide bomber blew himself up to avoid arrest during a General Security raid. Twelve people were wounded in the bombing.
There was obviously “concern for spillover from Syria and Iraq,” said a U.S. official who attended Kerry and Hariri’s talks.
Hariri’s meeting with Kerry comes two days after the former prime minister held talks with French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius in Paris.
Visitors of Speaker Nabih Berri quoted him as saying that he was not optimistic that a president would be elected soon.
Berri revealed that he telephoned Hariri after the latter extended his greetings to him for the advent of Ramadan via cable.
The speaker said he discussed developments with Hariri and they both agreed that it was necessary to elect a president as soon as possible.
Berri praised the performance of Prime Minister Tammam Salam and hailed the agreement reached by Cabinet parties on its work mechanism although he said it had some constitutional flaws.
“Energizing the work of the Cabinet should be accompanied by Parliament fulfilling its legislative and monitoring role,” Berri was quoted as saying.
The Cabinet approved a mechanism Thursday to govern its work in light of the presidential void, as Salam stressed that all government decisions would be consensus based.
The agreement on the mechanism came after a month of negotiations.
Speaking after chairing the Cabinet session at the Grand Serail, Salam said that none of the Cabinet’s decisions would be put to vote, but all should win unanimous backing by all government parties.
“We cannot address this difficult phase except through consensus. We will put aside any issue that does not win consensus. Every issue should win the consensus of all Cabinet parties,” Salam said.
“We looked into the agenda today. We put aside items that did not win consensus and passed those that garnered agreement,” the premier continued.
Salam said that the session’s agenda would be distributed to ministers 96 hours ahead of the session’s scheduled time.
“This will give the ministers enough time to study the agenda and discuss it,” he said.
Under normal conditions, ministers used to receive the agenda 48 hours before the session date.
Salam said that if a Cabinet party demanded more time to study a certain item, he would propose the request in the upcoming Cabinet session.
“If all Cabinet members agree on postponing it [the item] to another session, then this will happen,” Salam said, adding that disputed items would be put aside.
The prime minister said that representatives of all blocs in the government would sign Cabinet decrees.
“At least one minister representing each political party in the national unity government will sign the decrees,” Salam said. “Whoever will be attending the session on behalf of a certain political bloc can sign the decrees.”