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Berri has no plans to call for session on Gaza: source

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri heads a legislative session at the Parliament in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: House Speaker Nabih Berri has no intentions to call for a Parliament session over the crisis in Gaza, a source in the Amal Movement told The Daily Star Monday, adding that the March 14 coalition had read too much into the speaker’s remarks on the matter.

“The March 14 coalition’s accusations that Berri was setting them a trap to attend a Parliament session in solidarity with Gaza are unfounded,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“The speaker has no intentions to call for a Parliament session concerning the situation in Gaza,” he added.

An-Nahar newspaper reporter over the weekend that Berri was thinking of calling for a Parliament session to voice solidarity with the Gaza Strip, which has been pounded for a sixth straight day by the Jewish state in an assault unseen since the Israeli invasion of the Palestinian territory in 2008.

Other media reports over the weekend quoted March 14 figures as saying they were holding intense consultations to avoid “falling into the trap” set by the speaker regarding the purported Parliament session on Gaza.

The opposition lawmakers said the speaker was trying to corner them into attending the session and thus breaking their avowed decision to boycott legislative branch meeting involving the government.

According to the source, the March 14-led opposition group is throwing accusations over assumptions and not facts, “which proves that the group has become politically bankrupt.”

“The speaker might have thought of different initiatives he could launch to show solidarity with Gaza but he didn’t suggest anything to any party or call for a parliamentary session over the attack against Palestine,” the source reiterated.

The source also said that Berri had sent letters to his counterparts in Arab, Muslim and Asian countries to discuss the possibility of taking stances in support of Gaza.

“However, after the failure of the shameful Arab League meeting, the speaker backed down on this attempt,” the source said.

“What could the parliaments do when Arab foreign Ministers and the Arab League fail?” the source asked.

The Cairo-based Arab League met over the weekend to discuss the Israeli attack on Gaza. However, no decisive measures were taken on the crisis.

In remarks published Monday, Berri slammed accusations by the March 14 coalition that he was setting them a trap by suggesting holding a parliamentary session to voice solidarity with the people of Gaza.

“What is Nabih Berri’s crime and what is the trap he is trying to set for the opposition?” Berri, who spoke to An-Nahar newspaper, asked.

“Is it a crime for me to call for a parliamentary session in solidarity with the Palestinians?” he added.

Berri said he was very surprised by the opposition’s reaction to media reports that he was thinking about calling for a parliamentary session in solidarity with the Gaza Strip.

Berri also accused the opposition of adopting double standards when it came to boycotting the Cabinet.

“How can they boycott the Cabinet while [Future parliamentary bloc leader] Fouad Siniora calls Prime Minister Najib Mikati to discuss the developments in [the southern city of] Sidon? How can they contact [Progressive Socialist Party leader] MP Walid Jumblatt?” Berri asked.

The opposition’s decision to boycott the Cabinet and any parliamentary activity involving the government came in the wake of the Oct. 19 assassination of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, who headed the police’s Information Branch.

The March 14 coalition insists that the government step down and that a neutral salvation Cabinet be formed to replace the current one and oversee the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Berri has also called for a parliament session on November 27 to hear a speech by the Armenian president. However, it has not been confirmed whether the opposition will attend the session or not.

 

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