BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam Monday tried to allay the concerns of the Kataeb Party over the Cabinet’s ministerial statement, saying the state’s prerogatives were enshrined in the document, and insisted on the need for the government to begin its work.
During a meeting with Kataeb leader Amin Gemayel, Salam said he understood the leader’s concerns regarding the policy statement but defended the document against allegations it contained ambiguities that jeopardized the state’s sovereignty.
“The ministerial statement emphasized commitment to the sovereignty and authority of the state as well as its monopoly over decision-making,” Salam said.
“In its statement, the Cabinet emphasized the Lebanese state's exclusivity in all issues related to general policy and the state's responsibility and role in preserving sovereignty, independence and the safety of its citizens,” he added.
On Saturday, the Kataeb Party threatened to withdraw its three ministers from Salam’s government unless the “dangerous ambiguity” over the state’s role and authority in national decision-making was resolved and claimed that the clause pertaining to the resistance “undermined state sovereignty.”
The 24-member government drafted last week its policy statement after four weeks of political deadlock over the resistance clause.
The wording of the resistance clause in previous policy statements effectively granted legitimacy to Hezbollah’s arsenal.
The current policy statement emphasizes the “right of Lebanese citizens to resist Israeli occupation, repulse its attacks and recover occupied territories.” It also stressed “the state’s responsibility in liberating lands still occupied by Israel.”
Parliament is due to convene Wednesday and Thursday to begin deliberations on the policy statement in which lawmakers will cast a vote of confidence.
Salam said reaching an agreement on the draft statement was an achievement for all parties and represented the conclusion to a phase of political bickering.
“[It took] a lot of time and effort for the sake of an acceptable formula with no winners or losers and restored an atmosphere of consensus that would reflect positively on the work of the government,” the prime minister said.
“Lebanese are waiting for their problems to be resolved and hope for a return of constitutional institutions,” he said.
“Therefore, it has become imperative to look forward and win the vote of confidence in order to initiate productive work at the government level and address urgent priorities on the national agenda.”
“We are positive about the Kataeb Party's continued work in shouldering its national responsibility in the Cabinet and look forward to its ministers’ contributions in this government,” he added.
After his meeting with Salam, Gemayel expressed hope his party would get satisfactory answers to the reservations it has voiced.
“The meeting was friendly and everybody knows our stance to the policy statement and the objections we have voiced,” Gemayel told reporters at the Grand Serail.
“We hope to receive some explanations as a result of the [ongoing] contacts and reach a positive [outcome] to reassure the Lebanese public,” he said.