Lebanese press round-up: April 23, 2012

Press round-up for Monday, April 23rd from the morning edition of Lebanon’s An-Nahar, Al-Akhbar, As-Safir, and Ad-Diyar newspapers.

Note: There is no press round-up on Sundays

  • Opening Titles

The patriarch does not provide cover for Berri’s proposition and asks about “proportionality.”

Adwan prepares a request for a parliamentary investigation committee; Makari: “We will approve of it.”

  • Local News 

Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al-Rai did not provide cover for Speaker Nabih Berri’s proposition to adopt proportionality in Lebanon with the whole country as a single electoral constituency, as he said: “I do not know what proportionality is.”

Still on the electoral issue, the proposition pertaining to the emigrants’ vote will be one of the 62 items on the Council of Ministers’ agenda.

Speaker Berri stressed to An-Nahar that his call for adopting proportionality and establishing a Senate includes the preservation of the equal distribution of positions between Christians and Muslims, adding that the Senate is to be established after the elections.

An-Nahar has learned that Speaker Berri tasked Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil with launching a series of contacts and consultations as of today, starting with President Michel Sleiman and all other pro-government and opposition parties.

Speaker Berri responded to former PM Fouad Siniora’s repeated calls for establishing a cabinet of technocrats that would draft the electoral law, saying: “[Former] PM Siniora is entitled to express demands but now that the cabinet has won the confidence [vote], things have become more difficult.”

An-Nahar has learned that the opposition’s demand for a neutral government impacted on political circles. Circles close to PM Najib Mikati thus asserted that the prime minister rejected a relevant proposition to chair a neutral cabinet in return for not running for elections.

Majority sources said that the proposal is “booby-trapped” because it hides the intention to prove that the prime minister is about to depart from cabinet solidarity and the majority coalition in order to turn his back on his new allies and return to his March 14 bases.

An-Nahar has learned that March 14 forces will hold intensified contacts this week on certain issues in order to adopt unified stances on the threshold of a new era represented by the attempt to assassinate Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea.

Against a backdrop of the confidence vote staged by MP Sami Gemayel in parliament, An-Nahar has learned that this issue will be discussed in the meeting of the Kataeb Political Council under former President Amin Gemayel’s aegis. Party sources reportedly informed the Kataeb leader of party members’ displeasure with “the unilateral decision.”

Over the past couple of days, Kataeb leaders gave about 30 interviews and statements to explain the motives underlying MP Gemayel’s move and justifying his decision.

An-Nahar has learned that LF Deputy Leader George Adwan submitted a requested to form a parliamentary investigation committee to look into the power ships issue and the illegal allotment [of contracts] to electricity “service providers.”

MPs Walid Jumblatt and Nehmeh Tohmeh went on a visit to Saudi Arabia. Sources predicted that Jumblatt has probably taken his son Taymour along with him and is likely to meet today with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.

  • Opening Titles

Mikati rejects [the cabinet of] “technocrats;” Jumblatt visits Saudi Arabia.

  • Local News

A few days following Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz’s meeting with former PM Saad Hariri, MP Walid Jumblatt headed to Saudi Arabia on a visit that bears witness to the improved relations between the two sides following the period of boycott.

Sources close to decision-making centers in Saudi Arabia said that MP Jumblatt is to meet with Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal. However, they denied that Jumblatt will meet with the Saudi king, saying: “Grapes are eaten one by one.”

Sources said that Jumblatt’s visit [to Saudi Arabia] is unlikely to affect the situation of the Lebanese cabinet, saying that it is still early to discuss the results of that visit. The sources failed to say with any certainty whether or not MP Jumblatt will meet with former PM Hariri.

Key March 8 political sources said that MP Jumblatt’s visit to Saudi Arabia “is not good,” adding: “However, it will not impact negatively on the cabinet situation, especially since the National Struggle Front leader is pleased with his current status in the cabinet.”

Former PM Saad Hariri and MP Nohad al-Mashnouq are currently in Saudi Arabia.

An explosion occurred sometime before midnight yesterday at the Nocean restaurant in Sour near the city’s southern shore, wounding 6 employees and guests.

On-scene ISF investigators said that the explosion is likely the result of a bomb placed somewhere between the building’s elevator and staircase. The restaurant where the explosion occurred serves alcoholic drinks.

Armed men opened fire on a protest against the Syrian regime in Tripoli as it arrived on the Shiraa Square in the Abi Samra neighborhood. Three people were thus wounded.

  • Opening Titles

Mikati warns against “the devil in the details pertaining to power ships.”

Sleiman and Berri “sell” [the idea of] proportionality; Jumblatt visits Saudi Arabia.

  • Local News  

As-Safir has learned that Speaker Nabih Berri’s political adviser Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil and Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s political adviser Hajji Hussein Khalil will meet with MP Walid Jumblatt next Thursday at the latter’s Clemenceau residence.

This meeting aims to discuss the electoral issue and the proposition pertaining to proportionality in order to pave the way for MP Jumblatt’s visit to Ain al-Tineh soon to meet with Speaker Nabih Berri.

President Michel Sleiman told As-Safir that efforts should, from now on, seek to initiate change in the general spirit by enacting a new and modern parliamentary election law.

President Sleiman said that he will listen to all parties, particularly to MP Walid Jumblatt “so that we address all objections and reservations on the adoption of proportionality.” The president stressed the need to get rid of the infamous 1960 law.

PM Najib Mikati is heading to Brussels on Wednesday evening on an official visit lasting until Friday during which he is to meet with the Belgian prime minister and top EU officials.

  • Opening Titles

The electoral law is entrusted to Berri.

A four-party consensus on a cabinet of technocrats.

The Free Patriotic Movement objects and foils the agreement.

  • Local News

Sources said that Speaker Nabih Berri is about to initiate consultations into drafting a [new] parliamentary election law, stressing on the following specifications: Equal distribution [of positions] between Christians and Muslims, setting Lebanon as a single electoral constituency and the adoption of proportionality.

Speaker Berri told his visitors: “Now that confidence in the cabinet has been renewed, it has to take swift action, first and foremost, to address its previous mistakes and – secondly – to settle existing issues.”

Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al-Rai “thanked God” that the cabinet has endured, saying that “it would be difficult for it to stand on its legs again had it fallen [then].”

Two people were wounded yesterday in an explosion targeting the Nocean restaurant in Tyre. The explosion damaged a number of parked cars and shattered the display windows of several [nearby] shops.