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Implicit Understanding to Dissociate Cabinet Session from Aoun-Berri Crisis

Implicit Understanding to Dissociate Cabinet Session from Aoun-Berri Crisis

Thursday, 4 January, 2018 - 08:30
Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun talks to Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri during the cabinet meeting in Baabda near Beirut, Lebanon December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

The Lebanese Cabinet is holding its first session this year amid an ongoing dispute between President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri over a decree to promote a number of officers, who graduated from the military academy in 1994, without the approval of the finance minister.

Sources noted that there was an implicit understanding to dissociate the Cabinet session from the crisis, especially that officials close to the speaker have pointed last week that any escalation would lead Berri’s Amal Bloc ministers to boycott ministerial sessions.

Amal Movement MP and Agriculture Minister Ghazi Zeaiter told Asharq al-Awsat that ministers representing Amal would participate in Thursday’s Cabinet session at the Baabda Palace, saying: “We are calling for the implementation of the Constitution and the law to overcome the current problem and avoid falling into new problems.”

A number of deputies, who met with Berri on Wednesday, quoted him as saying that the situation “is still the same” with regards to the officers’ decree, reaffirming the need to “abide by the laws and Constitution” to resolve this matter.

The Lebanese speaker underlined “the necessity to take care of people’s problems”, saying: “The time has come to secure electricity, water, medicine and all services across the country.”

The Cabinet is expected to discuss on Thursday an agenda of 43 items, mainly the request of the Defense Ministry to refer the events of Arsal, al-Qaa and Ras Baalbek to the Judicial Council and give the Justice Minister permission to sign a cooperation agreement with Iran for the exchange of convicts between Beirut and Tehran.

Meanwhile, sources at the Baabda Palace told Asharq al-Awsat that there were no developments regarding the officers’ decree issue, noting that it was up to the ministers themselves to raise this matter during the Cabinet session, as it was not included in the agenda.

As for the awaited bid by Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to contain the crisis, sources in the Future Movement confirmed the presence of such initiative, pointing out that its content is “confidential” and its results “are not guaranteed.”

However, sources in Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) stressed that the dispute was not confined to Aoun and Berri, noting that Hariri was an essential part of it because he signed the decree and therefore supported the position of the president.

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