BEIRUT: The Lebanese government agreed to hold further talks with French officials to follow up on the case of George Abdallah while tasking the ministerial committee following up on the issue of kidnapped pilgrims in Syria with the prisoner’s case Tuesday.
“Protesters will end their sit-in outside the French Embassy Wednesday as a result of the Cabinet’s decision to task a ministerial committee on the issue,” Michel Karam, an adviser to Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, told The Daily Star.
“A number of telephone calls were made following the Cabinet session and Interior Minister Marwan Charbel received assurances that activists will remove the tent they had set up in front of the embassy Wednesday,” he said.
Speaking after the Cabinet session in Baabda Tuesday, Information Minister Walid Daouk announced the government’s agreement to task the existing ministerial committee with Abdallah’s case: “The government asked the ministerial committee that is working on the kidnapped Lebanese pilgrims [case] in Syria to coordinate with French officials and resolve the case of George Abdallah.”
Established last year and headed by Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, the committee that held meetings with Qatari and Turkish officials over the fate of the remaining Lebanese hostages in Syria will also travel to France to seek Abdallah’s release. The Cabinet’s decision was made days after Abdallah’s supporters and relatives held protests across the country, calling on Lebanese officials to pressure France and help release Abdallah.
Abdallah has been imprisoned for 28 years for killing two diplomats, one Israeli and one American. His supporters say that he is being kept in jail due to pressure from the United States and Israel.
Earlier this week, a French court postponed a hearing scheduled in Paris to rule on the prosecutor’s appeal against Abdallah’s release to Feb. 28. The decision sparked outrage among his supporters, who have staged an open-ended sit-in outside the French Embassy in Beirut.
Also during Tuesday’s session, the Cabinet failed to reach an agreement on the establishment of an independent commission to supervise elections.
“We discuss this issue and a number of ministers commented on it ... Some ministers asked about the means by which the members of the commission would be appointed,” Daouk said. “We agreed to have further consultations on this subject and postponed it to another session,” he added.
Among the items that were approved by the Cabinet was the Telecoms Ministry’s purchase of shares from the Alexandros cable in the Mediterranean that connects Egypt, Cyprus and France. The Telecoms Ministry also received approval for installing a maritime cable to Cyprus.
The Cabinet approved the Council of Development and Reconstruction’s request to receive loans from the European Development Bank to rehabilitate a number of highways in the country
The information minister also said the Cabinet approved an investment of $500,000 from the Council of Arab Social Affairs Ministries.
The Cabinet renewed the contract for the Vehicle Inspection Center by six months. The center shut down for weeks between December and January due to the government’s failure to renew the center’s administration contract before its expiration.
“The government agreed to renew its contract with Controle Technique Automobile Hallinvest Companies for an additional six months to carry out vehicle inspection in Lebanon,” Douk said.
Pending a detailed report between Lebanon and the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Cabinet approved the transfer of an additional LL133,263,000 to the Interior Ministry for biometric passports.