BEIRUT: Premier Fouad Siniora will on Monday preside over a meeting at the Grand Serail to address the growing controversy over illegal phone tapping. The issue has attracted the attention of a number of politicians since MP Walid Jumblatt last week alleged a General Security colonel "with a long history of wiretapping" had been given protection by Telecommunications Minister Jebran Bassil and was seeking information given by Bassil's ministry to the International Independent Investigation Committee (IIIC) on the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Jumblatt's allegations were refuted by the General Security services but prompted calls for the launch of an investigation into wiretapping.
Speaking to Voice of Lebanon Radio on Sunday, Tourism Minister Elie Marouni said such a probe was needed as soon as possible because "the lives of the [Lebanese] people cannot rest in the hands of any minister."
"How will we run the upcoming parliamentary polls in a free and transparent manner when our moves are tracked and our phone calls recorded?" he asked. The minister added that he would withdraw the vote of confidence from ministers who did not fulfill their duties and who "risk the safety of citizens."
Also on Sunday, Future Movement MP Hadi Hobeich said that such establishments as the IIIC were entitled to tap phone lines. "Many assassinations took place after the phone calls of the assassinated politician were monitored," Hobeich told Free Lebanon Radio.
Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud told As-Safir newspaper on Saturday that his ministry had been working with the Telecommunications Ministry since the Cabinet was formed to set up a phone-tapping center, which is due to begin work in April.
The Media and Telecommunications Commission would hold a follow-up meeting on Thursday about the wiretapping issue, the newspaper added.
MP Hassan Fadlallah, who heads the commission, told As-Safir that the freedom and privacy of the Lebanese people was under attack, and called for an end to wiretapping.
Last year, then-Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh accused Iran of building a communications network for Hizbullah that would give the Shiite group the means to tap phone calls by members of other political groups in Lebanon.