Hariri arrives to attend a Cabinet session in Baabda, Monday, Feb. 19, 2018. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
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President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri called Monday for intensifying Cabinet discussions on the draft state budget in a bid to endorse the country's 2018 fiscal plan by the end of the month and send it to Parliament for ratification ahead of parliamentary elections.Speaking during the first of a series of special Cabinet sessions designed to study and endorse the draft budget, Aoun and Hariri also underlined the importance of carrying out long-awaited economic reforms in advance of three international donor conferences to be held in the coming months.Aoun said the budget figures showed a 29.68 percent deficit compared with 31.33 percent in the 2017 budget.Khalil said both Aoun and Hariri insisted on accelerating the endorsement of the 2018 budget ahead of international conferences to support Lebanon.Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said the ministers of the Free Patriotic Movement's parliamentary Change and Reform bloc would not attend Cabinet sessions on the 2018 budget unless there was a prior political consensus on five points.
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