Following are summaries of some of the main stories in a selection of Lebanese newspapers Thursday. The Daily Star cannot vouch for the accuracy of these reports.
Financial scandal: EDL exempt from VAT
Security concerns dominated Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting at which security chiefs attended.
President Michel Sleiman underlined the need for security services to coordinate with each other and exchange information in order to track down crimes.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi uncovered a scandal at his ministry. The head of this scandal is a former minister.
Safadi said that a scandal took place during the era of a former finance minister he refused to identify. He pointed out that the latter issued a decree to exempt Electricite Du Liban from paying VAT (Value Added Tax) on imported fuel to generate electricity.
Security plan to dismantle kidnapping rings ... Charbel asserts plan enjoys political support
March 8 ministers protest agreement with France ... Paris warns citizens in Beirut
Amid the tension generated by an anti-Islam film produced in the United States and a French magazine that published cartoons about the Prophet Mohammad, the government decided to put an end to the kidnap-for-ransom phenomenon.
Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said kidnappings would stop within seven days, reassuring Lebanese that the Lebanese Army was already implementing a plan to combat this phenomenon.
Charbel expressed his belief that a clash between an army unit and a small clique of kidnappers in the barren terrain of Baalbek Wednesday was the first [evidence that the plan was bearing fruit.]
He told Al-Liwaa newspaper that Cabinet listened to the plan that security leaders had drawn up and stressed that it enjoys political support.
And, as was expected, parliamentary committees failed once again to agree on an electoral law in the first session devoted for this issue Wednesday amid disputes and political differences among the blocs.
Both the March 8 and March 14 coalitions accused each other of procrastination and held each other responsible for lack of quorum.
Army releases kidnapped man from Zahle ... two kidnappings in Bekaa, north Lebanon
The kidnappings-for-ransom incidents kept public figures busy Wednesday and prompted Prime Minister Najib Mikati to admit that this phenomenon has targeted the prestige of the state and struck at the heart of Lebanon’s stability.
This issue was the center of discussions during a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, which was attended by the leaders of the security services. The security chiefs had been asked to draw up a plan to raid the kidnappers’ hideouts and apprehend the captors.
During the Cabinet meeting, ministers were informed that the Lebanese Army freed Zahle resident Fouad Daoud after clashing with the kidnappers in Baablek.
With Daoud’s release, two men – a Lebanese identified as Ali Ahmad Mansour and a Syrian – remain held for ransom.
Mansour was kidnapped in the Bekaa. His captors have demanded $15 million in ransom.
Elnashra website said Wednesday evening that unknown gunmen kidnapped a Syrian national in north Lebanon, adding that the kidnappers want $3 million in exchange for his release.
Bank robbery network admits preparations to assassinate two judges
Kidnappings for ransom: the prestige of the state ... hostage!
Interior Minister Marwan Charbel uncovered that there is a gang behind the kidnap-for-ransom phenomenon.
“We are going to nail the gang,” Mikati told As-Safir.
Meanwhile, As-Safir has learned that a four-man cell headed by Mohammad J. has admitted that it was preparing to assassinate judges Abdel-Rahim Hammoud and Henry Khoury.
The cell confessed that it had prepared three bombs, two of which were to be used to target the two judges while one was had planned to target a security apparatus (Military Intelligence).
Investigators were able to determine that Mohammad J. was the man who shot and wounded a Lebanese Army officer during a robbery last month of a BLOM bank branch [in Elissar, northeast of Beirut].