BEIRUT: Police chief Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi said Thursday a controversial decree promoting 25 colonels to brigadier generals had been signed.
“The decree has become a reality after it gained the signatures of the interior minister, the prime minister and the finance minister and endorsed by President Michel Sleiman,” Rifi told The Daily Star.
Rifi said that in line with the norms the decree promoting 25 officers serving with the Internal Security Forces should be in his possession by early next week at the latest.
Rifi’s announcement came after Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said he would sign the decree Thursday.
Charbel said that Col. Wissam al-Hasan, at the root of the problem over the officers’ promotions, is not among the batch of officers to be promoted.
However, he said Hasan, who heads the ISF Information Branch, would be promoted to brigadier general as of Jan. 1, 2012 after having completed six years in service.
In October, Sleiman signed a decree approving promotions of police officers ranked lieutenant colonel and below, in a move seen as sidestepping the sensitive issue of brigadier general promotions and a possible political clash with the opposition March 14 coalition.
Political sources at the time said Sleiman was withholding his signature from a draft decree to promote around 400 ISF officers because of reservations over some officers, including Hasan, who is closely linked to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
The Information Branch has been at the center of a controversy between rival political factions. While March 14 parties have hailed the branch’s role in busting Israeli spy networks, some March 8 politicians, namely Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, have lashed out at the branch, dismissing it as an “illegitimate” body and demanded it be dissolved.
Aoun has also called on Mikati to dismiss Rifi and Hasan.
Hasan had served as chief of the security team with slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
He heads the Information Branch, which has uncovered Israeli spy networks in the past two years, resulting in the arrest of scores of people charged with collaborating with Israel.