Lebanon News

Cabinet set to tackle security situation

Prime Minister Tammam Salam casts his ballot during the elections of the board of trustees of the Charitable Makassed Foundation in Beirut, Sunday, March 23, 2014. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)

BEIRUT: The Cabinet is slated to meet Thursday in the first session since it was formed on Feb. 15 to tackle a range of issue including the deteriorating security situation in the country, namely in the northern city of Tripoli.

Some 76 items are on the agenda of the Cabinet meeting to be chaired by President Michel Sleiman at Baabda Palace, a source close to Prime Minister Tammam Salam told The Daily Star.

The issue of appointing four deputies to Central Bank’s Governor Riad Salameh will also be addressed, though it is not on the agenda, the source said.

The mandate of the four deputies expires on March 31.

In order to avoid vacancies in the Central Bank’s top posts, the Cabinet is expected to either renew the mandate of the four deputies or appoint new figures.

The session comes a week after Salam’s 24-member coalition government easily won a vote of confidence in Parliament, ending almost a year of political deadlock. The vote gave Lebanon a fully functioning government for the first time since Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Cabinet resigned in March last year.

The Cabinet session also comes against the backdrop of President Michel Sleiman’s invitation to rival March 8 and March 14 leaders for a new round of National Dialogue on the divisive issues of Hezbollah’s arsenal and a national defense strategy.

Salam called for national unity to meet security challenges and protect the future of the Lebanese as they reel under the adverse repercussions of the war in Syria.

Speaking after the election of a new board of trustees of the Makassed Philanthropic Islamic Association of Beirut, Salam lamented “long months of [government] paralysis, a weakness of the Lebanese structure, deepening of political conflicts and violent clashes, which took the form of killings and criminality outside the state.”

Salam, an honorary president of the Makassed foundation, denounced Sunday’s clashes between gunmen loyal to the Syrian regime and their rivals near the Cité Sportive Stadium. The fighting left one man dead and at least 13 others wounded. He blamed the violence on the proliferation of arms in Lebanon.

“All of us have to work and unite and put aside our differences and struggles in order to be able to protect the security and future of Lebanese citizens,” Salam said.

In a TV interview, Salam said extending Sleiman’s term, which expires on May 25, remained an option, adding that Hezbollah’s withdrawal from Syria could only be achieved through the National Dialogue.

“From a political perspective, extending [Sleiman’s mandate] is possible, but it requires amending the Constitution, which would present a major crisis. This is up to the political parties,” Salam told Ash-Sharq Radio station Saturday.

“But the direction today is to hold the presidential election,” he added, voicing hope that the election would be held on time to prevent a “vacuum” in the presidency.

Salam said the formation of the government and the approval of its policy statement had eased tensions in the country.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 24, 2014, on page 3.




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