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Lebanon PM could quit over policy statement: source

  • Prime Minister Tammam Salam heads the ministerial committee meeting at the Grand Serail in Beirut, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam could step down in the next few days if the committee drafting the government’s ministerial statement fails to complete its mission on time, a source close to Salam said Wednesday.

“If the dispute over the resistance clause is not resolved in the next two days, Salam might submit his resignation,” the source told The Daily Star.

Salam called for a Cabinet meeting at Baabda Palace Thursday after the committee tasked with drafting the ministerial policy statement failed to find a solution to the thorny resistance clause, which is threatening to collapse the new government before it can seek a vote of confidence from Parliament.

The March 8 coalition has insisted the resistance remain enshrined in the policy statement, as it has with past governments, while the March 14 alliance wants to base the policy statement on the Baabda Declaration, emphasizing Lebanon's neutrality.

“Thursday’s Cabinet session on the policy statement is crucial because it will subsequently decide its fate if no agreement is reached over the resistance issue,” a political source told The Daily Star Tuesday.

Hanna Gharib, the head of the Union Coordination Committee who met with the prime minister Wednesday, quoted Salam as saying that he regrets “the way things turned out.”

“We came to work and to form a government that removes the country from the [power] vacuum, but things turned out differently from what I wanted and what the Lebanese people want,” Salam was quoted as saying.

Gharib said the mood towards the Cabinet was “bad” but voiced hope the coming hours would witness a breakthrough “or else we will head towards a vacuum that can negatively affect the political and security conditions.”

Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas told Future TV he wasn’t sure if Salam would resign, but that he felt Salam "doesn’t want to get trapped in legal bickering."

Derbas urged the Lebanese not to lose hope, adding that Thursday’s meeting would aim to untangle the knot over the resistance clause and so that everyone shares responsibility.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri was adamant on the inclusion of the resistance clause, calling on the March 14 coalition to make concessions.

“The Cabinet has until midnight Monday [March 17] to finalize its policy statement. We should exert all efforts to finalize the statement within this timeframe,” Berri told As-Safir newspaper in remarks published Wednesday. “If this deadline passes without the policy statement having been finalized, I will inform the president Tuesday morning that as far as I am concerned the Cabinet has become a resigned one."

"We will not let go of any letter of this golden word [resistance],” Berri added.

 
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Summary

Prime Minister Tammam Salam could step down in the next few days if the committee drafting the government's ministerial statement fails to complete its mission on time, a source close to Salam said Wednesday.

Salam called for a Cabinet meeting at Baabda Palace Thursday after the committee tasked with drafting the ministerial policy statement failed to find a solution to the thorny resistance clause, which is threatening to collapse the new government before it can seek a vote of confidence from Parliament.

The March 8 coalition has insisted the resistance remain enshrined in the policy statement, as it has with past governments, while the March 14 alliance wants to base the policy statement on the Baabda Declaration, emphasizing Lebanon's neutrality.


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