BEIRUT: The Cabinet will win a strong vote of confidence from Parliament Thursday as Prime Minister Tammam Salam pledged to fight terrorism, prevent sectarian strife fueled by the conflict in Syria, and set the stage for holding the presidential election on time.
Lawmakers began Wednesday debating the Cabinet’s policy statement, on whose basis Salam’s 24-member Cabinet would seek of vote of confidence in Parliament.
Speaker Nabih Berri scheduled Wednesday and Thursday for lawmakers to debate the policy statement before a vote of confidence is conducted. Twenty-five MPs, mostly from the March 14 coalition, spoke during Wednesday’s session, while eight other March 8 and March 14 lawmakers have registered their names to speak Thursday.
Despite the Lebanese Forces’ boycott, the Cabinet, which is equally divided by the March 8 and March 14 parties and centrists, is certain to win a sweeping majority of votes of the 128-member legislature. Given the fact that the country’s major parliamentary blocs on both sides of the political divide are represented in it, the Cabinet is assured of an easy confidence vote of about 110 MPs.
The MPs’ speeches were dominated by the deteriorating security situation in Lebanon as a result of the fallout from the 3-year-old war in Syria.
MPs from the Future Movement and the March 14 coalition lashed out at Hezbollah over its military intervention in Syria to support President Bashar Assad’s forces.
Lebanese Forces lawmakers, whose party refused to join the government because of Hezbollah’s participation, said they would vote no-confidence in the Cabinet.
Wednesday’s session was Parliament’s first since its mandate was extended for 17 months last May.
The session was opened with Salam reading the Cabinet’s policy statement, which took the rival factions nearly a month to approve following bickering over how the controversial resistance clause should be addressed in the document.
While stressing the state’s role in liberating Lebanese territory still occupied by Israel in south Lebanon, the policy statement emphasized the right of Lebanese citizens to resist Israeli occupation.
“Based on the state’s responsibility and role in preserving Lebanon’s sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and the safety of its citizens, the Cabinet stresses the state’s duty and efforts to liberate Shebaa Farms, Kfar Shouba hills and the Lebanese part of Al-Ghajar village by all legitimate means,” Salam said, quoting the policy statement.
“It stresses the right of Lebanese citizens to resist Israeli occupation, repulse its attacks and recover occupied territories,” he added.
Salam acknowledged that his Cabinet faced daunting security, political and economic challenges.
He vowed to confront the growing threat of terrorism threatening the country following a spate of deadly car bombings and suicide attacks targeting Beirut’s southern suburbs and the Bekaa region as well as the Army after it had arrested a number of “key figures” in Al-Qaeda-linked groups blamed for these attacks.
Salam said the formation of the “Cabinet of national interest,” after a 10-month deadlock, gave “a glimmer of hope for Lebanese to improve their conditions, bolster their security and their national immunity.”
Although its mandate is short, he said the government was ready to confront “major challenges,” including fighting terrorism.
“At the forefront of the Cabinet’s top priorities is the undisputed issue of security and stability,” Salam said. “Therefore, our Cabinet aspires to serve as a political safety net aimed at protecting the country’s security and plugging the loopholes through which the architects of black schemes penetrate to sow the seeds of strife and undermine stability.”“Our Cabinet is giving extraordinary attention to confront all kinds of terrorist acts and their targets by all means available to the state,” he said.
“Our Cabinet will seek to stress the principle of dialogue, uphold civil peace ... and prevent the country’s slide into strife,” he added.
Referring to Saudi Arabia’s $3 billion grant to equip the Lebanese Army, Salam said the Cabinet would continue efforts to bolster the capabilities of the military and security forces in order to help them confront terrorism, protect the border and consolidate security in the country.
Salam said the government also sought to create an “appropriate atmosphere” to hold the upcoming presidential election on time, seek to approve a new election law and finalize the administrative decentralization project.
Salam said the Cabinet would pay special attention to the oil sector and vowed to swiftly implement the necessary measures including issuing the licenses for gas and oil explorations.
Salam also affirmed his government’s commitment to uncovering the truth behind the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and will follow the course of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon “which was established in principle to achieve justice at a distance from politicization and revenge.”
He also said his Cabinet would uphold the disassociation policy on Syria.