Lebanese press round-up: April 24, 2012

Press round-up for Tuesday, April 24th 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 truce in Syria staggers under the weight of violations; 28 killed in Hama and new Western sanctions.

Obama: “We will keep increasing the pressure for the diplomatic effort to further isolate Assad and his regime.”

Sleiman holds electoral consultations; diplomatic appointments are held as a priority.

March 14 forces initiate contacts to form the “National Council.”

  • Local News

The ceasefire in Syria was increasingly violated yesterday. Activists said that 34 people were killed, including 28 killed in the shelling of Hama by regular troops, knowing that international observers had visited the city on Sunday.

The observers’ delegation continued its visits in the Damascus countryside, Homs and Aleppo. Meanwhile, the United Nations said that the ceasefire is incomplete and called on the Syrian authorities to abide by its commitment to adhere to the truce and withdraw heavy weaponry from [Syrian] cities.

As the ceasefire is being shaken, the European Union enacted new sanctions on Damascus, including a ban on selling luxury goods to Syria. This measure particularly targets Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his wife Asma.

The issue of allowing emigrants and non-residents to vote in Lebanon has been added to the agenda of the Council of Ministers’ session, which is to be held tomorrow. This issue will be the first procedural test to the cabinet’s approach to the 2013 elections.

Ministerial sources told An-Nahar that there are no divergences among the parties to the cabinet with regard to the emigrants’ vote, as it is a legally binding issue mentioned in the existing electoral law (the 2008 law).

It seems highly unlikely that raising the issue of the emigrants’ vote will lead to addressing the electoral law in the cabinet anytime soon.

Sources close to President Michel Sleiman said that his meeting with Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour aims to discuss with the completion of diplomatic appointments and the filling in of vacancies so that these positions can assume their roles with regard to the 2013 elections.

The sources explained to An-Nahar that President Sleiman will initiate consultations with political leaders and figures in order to shape his opinion on the electoral law. Proportionality is set to be one of his favorite debate topics.

March 14 forces noticeably launched a consultation mechanism yesterday in order to speed up the consensus on drafting their new organizational structure. MP Walid Jumblatt’s visit to Saudi Arabia constituted yet another noticeable development.

A farewell dinner was hosted yesterday at former PM Saad Hariri’s downtown Beirut residence in honor of France’s Ambassador to Lebanon Denis Pietton. Saad Hariri, who is currently in Riyadh, called Ambassador Pietton and thanked him for his work in Lebanon’s service.

Commenting on MP Jumblatt’s visit to Saudi Arabia, informed sources predicted that he will meet today in Riyadh with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.

Key Future Movement sources asserted that “reports regarding a Future Movement proposition to appoint PM Najib Mikati at the helm of a neutral cabinet that would oversee the elections are wholly unfounded.”

March 14 circles told An-Nahar that security authorities will announce in the coming hours the results of investigations into the attempt to assassinate Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea in Maarab.

  • Opening Titles

[Power] ships: The Lebanese Forces calls for an investigation and the Free Patriotic Movement says it is heresy.

  • Local News

Speaking in the Lebanese Forces’ name, MP George Adwan once again proposed the formation of a parliamentary investigation committee to look into renting power-generating ships. He thus filed an official request before the parliament speaker’s office. This was held as heresy by the Free Patriotic Movement.

When asked to comment on MP Adwan’s move, Speaker Nabih Berri’s sources said: “They are entitled to do so as per the constitution. The parliament office committee will discuss the request and, according to regulations, it should be submitted to the plenary session.”

However, the sources declined to set a date for that, saying: “It takes time to discuss [these] things, especially since we have only just ended a long parliamentary session.”

Sources in the Serail welcomed the formation of a parliamentary investigation committee, asserting that PM Najib Mikati welcomes any measure aiming to check the transparency of all discussed issues and emphasize the cooperation between parliament and the cabinet.

Change and Reform Bloc circles asserted that the parliamentary investigation committee does not aim to [indulge in] political overbidding and judge people’s intentions.

MP Walid Jumblatt is continuing his visit to Saudi Arabia. Sources close to Saudi Arabia said that the “visit is an unofficial one” and that Jumblatt will meet with [Saudi Foreign Minister] Prince Saud al-Faisal.

The sources said that Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz “listened to former PM Saad Hariri’s opinion on [his] relation with MP Jumblatt, which was a positive one.”

  • Opening Titles

The Lebanese Forces calls for investigations regarding [the power] ships; Mikati and the Free Patriotic Movement hail [the initiative].

The cabinet and the opposition are election-minded.

  • Local News

Upon his return from Australia, President Michel Sleiman seemed genuinely excited to bring up once again the emigrants’ vote issue, as stipulated in the 2009 electoral law, which settled the matter pertaining to the vote of those residing outside Lebanon.

PM Najib Mikati’s circles denied that the cabinet has overlooked the power ships renting deal, saying that the deal is still on and [that] “we are still in the phase of legal negotiations pertaining to the contract with the Turkish company.”

The Ministry of Energy and Water’s announcement, whereby it is taking in employment requests at the Oil Sector Management Authority in Lebanon, expires today.

Minister of State for Administrative Development Mohammad Fneish told As-Safir that the ministry received a fair amount of requests for appointment to the Authority’s board of directors, adding that things are moving to the next stage now that the deadline for submitting requests has expired.

  • Opening Titles

Berri probes Jumblatt’s electoral concerns by sending [Ali Hassan] Khalil and [Hussein] Khalil.

The Council of Ministers is to examine the controversial “emigrants’ vote” tomorrow.

Israel starts building an isolation wall along the border with Lebanon.

  • Local News

Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour announced that diplomatic appointments are almost done and will be announced soon in the upcoming Council of Ministers’ session this Wednesday or the session immediately following it.

Sources close to PM Najib Mikati asserted to Ad-Diyar that the opposition’s proposition to form a new cabinet “is for fun” only and amounts to an attempt to “drive a wedge” between PM Mikati and his allies.

Saudi Defense Minister Prince Salman bin Abdel Aziz welcomed former PM Saad Hariri at his Maazar office yesterday.

The most noticeable and dangerous development yesterday evening was the announcement by Israel Channel 10 private TV that Israel will start building a wall along its border with Lebanon starting at the Israeli gate of Metulla as of next week.

According to sources, MP Walid Jumblatt tasked joint friends with Speaker Nabih Berri with expressing to the parliament speaker his reservations on Berri’s proportionality-based draft and his lack of excitement for forming a Senate.

Speaker Berri reportedly discussed the electoral issue with former Minister Elias al-Murr and will discuss it as well with former Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzli who had submitted the Orthodox proposal [regarding the elections].