BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Cabinet postponed a lengthy deliberation Thursday on its policy statement after ministers failed once again to reach an agreement on the disputed resistance clause.
The failure to make a breakthrough in the declaration prompted Prime Minister Tammam Salam to schedule another Cabinet session on Friday to resume discussions.
The government has until March 17 to finalize the draft statement or the president would be obligated under the law to begin a new round of parliamentary consultations to name a new prime minister.
During the six-hour session at Baabda Palace, Salam said he considered resigning in light of the existing deadlock over the policy statement.
“Given that the Cabinet did not reach an agreement on the policy statement, the prime minister expressed his desire to resign but the president and a number of ministers asked him to remain patient,” Information Minister Ramzi Joreige told reporters after the session.
“The prime minister responded to their request and said he would give ongoing contacts more time [to break the deadlock],” he added.
Joreige also quoted Salam as saying that the ministerial committee tasked with drafting the policy statement resolved “major obstacles” but was unable to come to an understanding on the resistance clause.
Both the March 8 and the March 14 groups presented formulas that could put an end to the impasse, but none of the proposals were unanimously agreed upon.
With no end to the meeting in sight, ministers were seen stepping out of the session to make phone calls while others chatted with each other in the Baabda hallways. .
At the beginning of the session, Sleiman expressed hope that ministers would finalize the policy statement "today," adding that it was unacceptable "for one sentence to scupper the statement."
While the March 14 coalition insists on putting the resistance under the authority of the state, the March 8 group demands that the policy statement affirms the right of resistance in a formula that would effectively legitimize Hezbollah’s arsenal.
Prior to the Cabinet session, Sleiman and Salam held talks at Baabda.
Sleiman discussed the 30-day constitutional deadline for submitting the policy statement with former Speaker Hussein Husseini and legal experts.
Maronite Cardinal Beshara Rai discussed the policy statement deadlock in separate telephone calls with Berri and Prime Minister Tammam Salam.
Rai urged both leaders to increase efforts to resolve the standoff over the policy statement “and save the state.”