BEIRUT: Lebanon’s trash crisis dominated a national dialogue session Wednesday, one day after fresh allegations of corruption and fraud surfaced.
The 15th session, which was expected to tackle the 21-month-long presidential void, instead focused mainly on the ensuing garbage problem.
Head of the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment press office Nikolay Gudkov had told the Russian TASS news agency Tuesday that the paperwork presented to the ministry by Lebanon's embassy regarding the exportation of trash was forged, denying that his country had given the green light to receive Lebanon's garbage.
The claims sent shockwaves across the country, which has been suffering from a garbage build-up on the streets of Beirut's suburbs and Mount Lebanon since mid-July 2015, when the country's largest landfill was shutdown.
Kataeb leader Sami Gemayel condemned the government for failing to manage the trash collection crisis, calling on the Council of Development and Reconstruction to be held accountable.
“The Council of Development and Reconstruction is the one responsible for the corruption in the trash file and the government must hold it responsible failing to manage tenders and resolve the crisis,” Gemayel told reporters as he was leaving the session.
Gemayel said he previously opposed the decision to export trash due to “a lack of knowledge” in the nature of the agreement, adding that today it was clear they were right.
Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon told reporters that an emergency Cabinet session will be held to solve the trash crisis.
Lebanese Democratic Party leader Talal Arslan said that the garbage issue will be resolved within the coming days.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam later in the day said that there was no dispute over any subject, adding that the Cabinet session set for Thursday will continue the talks concerning the trash crisis.
Speaker Nabih Berri, who chaired the dialogue session at his residence in Beirut's Ain el-Tineh neighborhood, opened the session by calling on rival politicians to reactivate the role of Parliament.
Most party leaders, such as Gemayel, Marada Movement head Sleiman Frangieh and several others attended the meeting.
Future Movement leader Saad Hariri refrained from going to the talks, as head of his parliamentary bloc leader, MP Fouad Siniora, represented the movement.
The presidential frontrunner, Frangieh, was one of the first to arrive and the first to leave the session.
The founder of the Free Patriotic Movement Michel Aoun, who is also a presidential candidate and Frangieh’s March 8 ally, was also absent from Wednesday’s dialogue session, along with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt.
They were respectively represented by FPM leader and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and MP Ghazi Aridi.
The next session is scheduled for March 9.