Lebanon News

Discussions over Cabinet policy statement to be extended

BEIRUT: Three days of parliamentary debate over the Cabinet’s policy statement scheduled to kick off next Tuesday are expected to be extended, as Prime Minister Saad Hariri prepares for an upcoming visit to Syria as part of a wider tour of several Arab states, Europe and later the United States. Hariri said Friday that the visit would take place after lawmakers vote confidence in the new national unity Cabinet, while President Michel Sleiman is scheduled to hold talks with US President Barack Obama on December 14. 
With more than 55 MPs demanding the right to address the house so far and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s announcement that he would set no time frame to the MPs’ sessions, the discussions are expected to extend to at least five days. 
Hariri said he would visit Syria after the Cabinet receives the vote of confidence as part of a tour of several Arab capitals.
“Despite disagreements, we should seek fraternal ties with Syria,” Hariri told reporters at the Grand Serail in Beirut  adding that “the establishment of diplomatic ties between both countries was positive.” 
In response to a question, Hariri denied that he objected to article six of the ministerial statement, which mentions the right of the resistance to liberate occupied Lebanese territory, adding that even ministers who had expressed their reservations over the statement should defend it following the vote of confidence. 
Hariri also denied recent media reports claiming that he was also headed for the US, saying that he would visit Washington at a later date, but that the trip had yet to be scheduled. 
Despite the belief that Christian members of the March 14 coalition will reiterate their reservations about article six, the new Cabinet is expected to receive a record level of support in the vote of confidence, given its embracement of the country’s major political parties.
March 14 Christian parties have objected to the policy statement’s including a clause that mentions the resistance’s right to liberate occupied territories independently from the Lebanese Army. Article six highlights Lebanon’s right to liberate its territories by means of its resistance, army and its people. 
On Friday, Minyeh MP Ahmad Fatfat, a member of March 14, called for the full implementation of the Taif Accord and the spread of the state’s sovereignty over all Lebanese territory, as well as the disarmament of all militias that did not comply with constitutional norms or security institutions. 
“The call for cohabitation [between Hizbullah and the Lebanese Army] would create a dangerous security duality and instigate complications that will explode,” Fatfat said. 
Separately, Energy Minister Gebran Bassil, from the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), said reservations over the statement only served “media propaganda and electoral purposes.” 
Bassil added that the statement mentioned the state’s right to monopoly over the country’s political orientations, which should be enough to eliminate any reason for objections over the statement. 
The FPM’s allies, Hizbullah and Amal, issued a joint statement on Friday saying that parties expressing their reservations about the ministerial statement did not want a strong Lebanon capable of protecting itself. 
“The conclusion of the ministerial statement is an essential step on the right track and will not be hindered by non-influential parties that are not part of a major national [political] understanding,” the statement said.





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