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Lebanon News

Berri calls for sessions to debate Cabinet policy

Speaker Nabih Berri, left, chats with Prime Minister Tammam Salam prior to the Cabinet session at Baabda Palace on Thursday, March 13, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri Saturday called for two legislative sessions this coming week to debate the Cabinet’s policy statement ahead of a vote of confidence as President Michel Sleiman stated his intention to resume National Dialogue sessions.

Berri will convene Parliament on Wednesday and Thursday at 10:30 a.m. to begin discussions before MPs cast their vote of confidence for the 24-member Cabinet to effectively begin its work.

Meanwhile, the Kataeb party is scheduled to meet Saturday to decide whether its ministers should resign from the Cabinet after the party voiced opposition to the compromise policy statement drafted and approved early Saturday morning.

Kataeb Information Minister Ramzi Goreij said he had hoped the policy statement would have been "better," but remained coy regarding his own possible resignation.

“We will discuss the decision [during the meeting] and I will support having reservations on the policy statement but I will make a decision according to my conscience,” Goreij told Voice of Lebanon Radio Station.

"I will allow myself some freedom in making the decision in line with the Kataeb Party,” he said.

Three Kataeb ministers and Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi voiced reservations on the clause which “stressed the right of Lebanese citizens to resist Israeli occupation, repulse its attacks and recover occupied territories.”

The statement also emphasized the state’s responsibility in liberating lands still occupied by Israel in south Lebanon.

Rifi and other March 14 ministers have demanded that Hezbollah’s arms be put under state control.

The justice minister said Friday night that he disapproved of the statement because it did not include a demand for Hezbollah’s withdrawal from Syria and an end to self-security measures taken by the resistance group in northeast Lebanon.

The agreement on the policy statement ended a four-week deadlock over the resistance clause as the March 8 stood firm on their demand to include Lebanon's right to resistance against Israel.

It also averted the resignation of Prime Minister Tammam Salam, who had warned he would quit if rival groups remained at an impasse.

Sleiman said he understood the Kataeb Party's reservations "because it stemmed from the group’s keenness on the role of the state and its authority."

Speaking with a Kataeb student delegation at Baabda Palace, Sleiman emphasized the historic role of the party in Lebanon, from independence until today.

He urged its members to "continue shouldering the national responsibility in the Cabinet and National Dialogue sessions, working to strengthen the state's authority, and continuing deliberation on a national defense strategy."

Sleiman added that the strategy would allow the Army to benefit from the capabilities of the resistance under the control of the state.

The president also voiced relief over the agreement on the policy statement, saying he would call for a National Dialogue session after the government was granted the vote of confidence.

Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas said Saturday that the policy statement limited the role of the resistance to liberating occupied Lebanese territory.

"The statement emphasized that the issue of the resistance is no longer obsolete but that it is now limited to liberating occupied land,” he said.

He also said rival ministers reached an agreement only when they felt that that the Cabinet had reached "a point of no return," referring to Salam's resignation.

 

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Summary

Speaker Nabih Berri Saturday called for two legislative sessions this coming week to debate the Cabinet's policy statement ahead of a vote of confidence as President Michel Sleiman stated his intention to resume National Dialogue sessions.

The Kataeb party is scheduled to meet Saturday to decide whether its ministers should resign from the Cabinet after the party voiced opposition to the compromise policy statement drafted and approved early Saturday morning.

Kataeb Information Minister Ramzi Goreij said he had hoped the policy statement would have been "better," but remained coy regarding his own possible resignation.

Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas said Saturday that the policy statement limited the role of the resistance to liberating occupied Lebanese territory.


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