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Pitch by Berri, Jumblatt raises policy hopes

File - Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri delivers a speech during a dinner held by the Lebanese ambassador in his honor, in Kuwait, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014.

BEIRUT: A joint proposal by Speaker Nabih Berri and MP Walid Jumblatt to end the deadlock over the resistance clause raised hopes that Cabinet policy statement could be finalized Tuesday.

Speaking to The Daily Star, sources close to Berri said that the proposed formula stemmed from the statement made by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil during the meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo Sunday.

Lebanon and the Lebanese have the right to liberate or retrieve the Shebaa Farms, Kfar Shuba Hills and the Lebanese part of the Ghajar village, and to resist any Israeli aggression or occupation with all legitimate and available means,” Bassil said during the meeting.

Bassil made his statement after coordinating with President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Tammam Salam.

The clause was later adopted in the final statement of the meeting which was held to prepare for the Arab League Summit to be held in Kuwait on March 25.

The sources said that Berri and Jumblatt, who heads the Progressive Socialist Party, worked on and expanded Bassil’s clause. The sources expressed hope that the proposed formula would win the support of all members of the committee during its meeting Tuesday.

Political sources said that Salam was involved in drafting the proposal as well, adding that none of the Arab foreign ministers opposed Bassil’s clause, and no major opposition emerged in Beirut either.

A ministerial committee tasked with drafting the policy statement will hold Tuesday its 10th round of deliberations. March 8 and March 14 members of the body have failed to reach an agreement on how to mention the resistance in the statement.

Hezbollah and Berri, its key ally, insist on mentioning that Lebanon and the Lebanese have the right to liberate remaining Lebanese territories occupied by Israel and resist any Israeli aggression. This effectively legitimizes Hezbollah’s arms.March 14 members of the committee argue that they are not against resisting Israel but stress the need to place resistance under the authority of the state.

Future Movement MP Jamal Jarrah denied that an agreement had been reached on adopting Bassil’s statement in the Cabinet’s policy statement.

“There was no agreement on what was mentioned in the final statement of Arab foreign ministers, particularly on resistance, and it is not binding for groups represented in the ministerial committee tasked with drafting the policy statement,” Jarrah told a local radio station.

“Discussion and arguments are ongoing and I don’t think there is a ready formula accepted by all sides yet,” Jarrah added.

MP Kazem Kheir, Jarrah’s colleague in the Future parliamentary bloc, said that the clause adopted in the statement of Arab foreign ministers on the resistance could be a basis for discussion or could be amended in order to reach a formula satisfying all groups.

Speaking to reporters after visiting Salam at the Grand Serail, Kheir said the prime minister informed him that Tuesday’s session would be decisive and would be the last session.

In case an agreement is not reached over the policy statement, the issue will be referred to the Cabinet, Kheir quoted Salam as saying.

For their part, several Hezbollah officials reiterated that the right of the Lebanese to resist Israeli occupation and aggressions should be mentioned in the policy statement.

“If this government adopts a policy statement which renounces resistance, then it can be given any description, except that of a government of national interest,” said Sheikh Nabil Qawouk, the deputy head of Hezbollah’s executive council, during a ceremony in south Lebanon. Salam described his government as a Cabinet of national interest.

“In this case, it will be a government threatening national interest and abandoning it,” Qawouk said. “Is this the way Lebanon should be protected? What has changed so that we do away with the strength of Lebanon? We insist on a policy statement which affirms our right to resist Israeli occupation and protect Lebanon from any Israeli aggression. We also look forward to electing a president who stresses the right of Lebanon and Lebanese to resistance.”

Separately, Bassil concluded his visit to Egypt by meeting Egyptian interim President Adly Mansour, the National News Agency said.

The NNA said that Bassil gave Mansour a letter from Sleiman in which he expressed Lebanon’s satisfaction with Egypt’s success in approving a constitution, a law to govern presidential polls and with drawing a successful political road map.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 11, 2014, on page 1.

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Summary

A joint proposal by Speaker Nabih Berri and MP Walid Jumblatt to end the deadlock over the resistance clause raised hopes that Cabinet policy statement could be finalized Tuesday.

Speaking to The Daily Star, sources close to Berri said that the proposed formula stemmed from the statement made by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil during the meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo Sunday.

Bassil made his statement after coordinating with President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Tammam Salam.

The sources said that Berri and Jumblatt, who heads the Progressive Socialist Party, worked on and expanded Bassil's clause.

Future Movement MP Jamal Jarrah denied that an agreement had been reached on adopting Bassil's statement in the Cabinet's policy statement.

In case an agreement is not reached over the policy statement, the issue will be referred to the Cabinet, Kheir quoted Salam as saying.


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