BEIRUT: The Highest Islamic Council, Lebanon’s highest Sunni religious body, has warned against attempts to undercut the premiership’s prerogatives, a day after ministers from Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement strongly objected to the exception of the prime minister from a draft law to ban MPs from serving in the Cabinet.In the meantime, former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora rejected Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah’s linking the payment of Lebanon’s share to a U.N.-backed court to the funding of UNESCO.
The Council’s warning came in a statement issued after a meeting chaired by the Mufti of the Republic, Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, at Dar al-Fatwa (the seat of the Sunni mufti) Saturday. The meeting was attended by Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Siniora, former ministers and Sunni religious leaders.
The council warned against attempts to “touch or weaken the premiership’s position or any other national position or to deal with revenge with any official in the public departments and institutions.”
The council also urged the government to honor Lebanon’s commitments to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and its funding, which is currently a major bone of contention within Mikati’s Cabinet itself and also between the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance and the opposition March 14 coalition.
The council underlined the need for all the Lebanese to be “wary of the dangers of the [current] stage, fortify our internal arena, stay away from any struggles or shirk the Lebanese government’s commitments toward the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in order to avoid exposing Lebanon to a confrontation with international legitimacy and the international community.”
The council’s warning came a day after the Cabinet approved a draft law to ban MPs from serving in the Cabinet, excluding the prime minister. Political sources said that ministers from Aoun’s FPM strongly objected to the exception of the prime minister and engaged in a heated argument with Mikati about the provision.
Responding to Aoun’s ministers, Mikati was reported to have defended the premiership’s position, stressing that this position was not different from the positions of the presidency and the speakership.
Apparently referring to Syria’s brutal crackdown on an eight-month-long popular uprising demanding a regime change, the Council expressed its “deep concern and pain over the scenes of systemic killings and violations of sanctities and man’s dignity which accompany a popular upheaval demanding freedom, dignity and an honorable life in some Arab states.”
Before the council’s meeting, a meeting was held behind closed doors between Qabbani, Mikati and Siniora.
Emerging from the meeting, Siniora commented on Nasrallah’s call for the Arab League and friendly states to pay Lebanon’s more than $30 million share to the STL. Siniora had called on Arab and friendly states to finance UNESCO after the U.S. decided to cut off its aid to the U.N. agency after its members voted to admit Palestine as a full member.