File - Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan arrives to attend a Cabinet session at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
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A ministerial delegation's forthcoming visit to Damascus, the first since the conflict erupted in Syria in 2011, has not been coordinated with Prime Minister Saad Hariri in order to avert a major split within the Cabinet, ministerial sources said Tuesday. Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan, one of two Hezbollah ministers in the Cabinet, confirmed to The Daily Star that he and Agriculture Minister Ghazi Zeaiter would visit Syria on Aug. 16 at the invitation of the Syrian economy and trade minister. Given the wide schism between rival Lebanese factions over the Syrian regime, with Hezbollah and its allies backing it, and the Future Movement and its Christian allies opposing any dealing with President Bashar Assad's government, it was not immediately clear whether the ministers' visits to Damascus needed to be approved by the Cabinet or Hariri, or whether they would be treated as private visits.However, Labor Minister Mohammad Kabbara, who belongs to the Future parliamentary bloc, blasted any contacts with the Syrian regime and denied that the industry and agriculture ministers' planned visits to Damascus had been coordinated with Hariri.
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