Lebanon News

Hariri: Key appointments to be based on merit

BEIRUT: Both the issue of the spring municipal elections and the administrative appointments topped the Cabinet’s discussions on Tuesday. Prime Minister Saad Harri stressed the need to prepare a draft law to be studied concerning norms to be adopted when it comes to administrative appointments. “We will give qualifications and honesty top priority when it comes to the issue of administrative appointments,” he said. 
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud said he would discuss with Cabinet members during upcoming sessions the possibility of holding municipal elections on time or a potential postponement of the polls in the event that any reforms are to be implemented. 
“The Council of Ministers united is to issue a decision in that regard and refer it to Parliament,” Baroud said, while stressing that his ministry was ready to hold the process on time if the Cabinet decides to do so. 
Well-informed sources told The Daily Star that Free Patriotic Movement ministers raised the issue of the municipal elections during the session, demanding a clear response with regard to whether they would be held on time. 
The interior minister has reiterated on several earlier occasions that four essential amendments to the municipal electoral law needed to be passed, including the election of the municipalities’ heads through direct vote, the approval of proportional representation in major municipalities, the establishment of a female quota and the adoption of pre-printed ballot papers. 
Also, lowering the voting age to 18 would necessitate the addition around 300,000 new voters to the electoral list which requires time that is not allowed for given the current deadline. 
The Dabinet also tackled the issue of the Lebanese-Syrian border demarcation and last month’s explosion in the Beirut sothern suburb of Haret Hreik that killed two Hamas members. 
Separately, President Michel Sleiman stressed Tuesday that political and security stability pave the way for administrative reforms, thus promoting social stability for the Lebanese people, particularly its working class. 
“I call on all parties [to engage in] further cooperation and unity since the real threat to the country comes from Israel, which is harmed by a united and secure Lebanon,” Sleiman added. 
The Cabinet as expected avoided during its meeting Tuesday tackling the administrative appointments before a political agreement over the issue was reached and a clear procedure was set. 
The issue is expected to lead to a heated debate between political leaders given the lack of a clear process to choose candidates, along with the need to comply with parity between Muslims and Christians as well as the allocation of shares between political parties. 
Berri’s press office denied Tuesday media reports regarding a dispute between Sleiman, Berri and Hariri over the issue of administrative appointments. 
In other news, Hariri is scheduled to visit Jordan Wednesday to discuss bilateral ties and regional developments with King Abdullah II, who met with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz during a brief trip to Saudi Arabia aimed at breaking the deadlock surrounding the Middle East peace process. 
Meanwhile, the Central News Agency reported Tuesday that US Senator John McCain would arrive in Lebanon over the weekend to meet top Lebanese officials as part of a regional tour to discuss the Arab-Israeli conflict. McCain’s visit to Beirut comes before the arrival of US Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell to the region, the CNA added. 
“McCain would also discuss with Lebanese officials ways to reach a comprehensive peace solution in light of the resistance weapons against Israel along with Lebanon’s call to the international community to pressure Israel into implementing international resolutions,” the CNA reported. 
The issue of Hizbullah’s weapons has been the subject of debate lately between the party’s officials and March 14 Christians figures, who accuse Hizbullah of serving Iranian interests and undermining the state’s authority. 
The CNA quoted diplomatic sources as saying that the Lebanese officials would reiterate Sleiman’s stances during his last visit to Washington, adding that Berri would inform McCain of his position on the resistance, UNSCR 1559, and the daily Israeli violations against Security Council Resolution 1701.





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