Lebanese press round-up: April 2, 2012

Press round-up for Monday, April 2nd 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 Istanbul conference calls on Annan to provide a timeframe.

A Gulf fund to finance the Free Syrian Army.

Bassil rebuts Mikati’s “10 fallacies”: Calling for new bids does not change the result.

  • Local News

The Second Friends of the Syrian People Conference in Istanbul was attended by representatives of 83 states and organizations. It increased the verbal pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and questioned his acceptance of joint UN-Arab League Envoy on Syria Kofi Annan’s plan.

The conference called for setting a timetable for implementation, including a referral to the Security Council, and recognized the opposition Syrian National Council as the representative of the Syrian people.

Sources who took part in the meeting revealed that Gulf states agreed to establish a fund to finance the payment of salaries for Free Syrian Army members.

In the meantime, acts of violence went on unhindered. The Syrian Human Rights Observatory thus said that at least 41 people were killed all over Syria, including five people in the shelling of opposition neighborhoods in Homs.

The de facto cabinet will not be able to go beyond its self-imposed siege, as providing electricity before summer seems to be hindered due to the continuing struggle between PM Najib Mikati and Energy Minister Gebran Bassil.

Minister Bassil referred to PM Mikati as “the Future Movement’s representative” in the cabinet, adding that he is a continuation of former PM Fouad Siniora.

Sources told An-Nahar that the tense atmosphere is likely to prompt the cancellation of the meeting set to be held today by the ministerial committee tasked with renegotiating the cost of renting [power] ships. Another alternative would be for this meeting to be held without reaching any results.

With regard to drafting the electoral law, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel asserted to An-Nahar that President Michel Sleiman and PM Mikati agree on proportionality. However, things are more complicated than that, as most parties do not wish to adopt this option.

  • Opening Titles
The [power] ships committee develops the negotiation mechanism today.

  • Local News 

Energy Minister Gebran Bassil questioned PM Najib Mikati’s intentions with regard to the electricity issue, saying that he fears “Mikati will have recourse to overbidding to foil the [power] ships renting project.”

The ministerial committee tasked with following up on the power ship renting issue is to meet under PM Mikati’s aegis at the Serail today in order to pave the way for initiating negotiations with the Turkish and US companies in order to secure a better offer.

Committee member Nazem Khoury told Al-Akhbar that today’s meeting aims to set the bases and mechanism of negotiation with the two companies and who will undertake it.

In a noticeable security development the night before last, a Lebanese Armed Forces roadblock at Talaat al-Omari between [Tripoli’s] Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen came under fire followed by an exchange of gunfire between the troops manning the roadblock and the assailants.

Sir David Baragwanath, the new Special Tribunal for Lebanon prosecutor, arrived yesterday in Beirut from Frankfurt. During this visit, he is set to meet with several officials following his appointment.

Sheikh Ahmad al-Asir, the imam of the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque in Saida, continued his regional tours and visited Wadi Khaled yesterday where he took part in a festival organized by the Salafist Movement under the title “Support for the Syrian people and its revolution.”

Sources told Al-Akhbar that a communication channel was opened between the Future Movement and al-Asir yesterday under the indirect supervision of Future Movement political bureau member Radwan as-Sayyed.

Asir visited the Municipality of Zahle-Mouallaqa where he was welcomed by Municipality head Joseph Diab al-Maalouf and other municipality members.

  • Opening Titles

Safadi to As-Safir: I support Mikati for life.

The electoral draft law is brought up: Proportionality as a decoy.

  • Local News  

Informed sources said that the Council of Ministers is gearing up to adopt some additional appointments, which may be announced in its upcoming session, based on the principle of adopting them in retail and progressive fashion.

The ministerial committee tasked with examining the electricity issue is to meet today. In the meantime, additional information emerged with regard to the General Electric offer based on developing the personal offer as an expression of readiness to abide by the plan submitted officially by the company.

An official source who supports the prime minister’s opinion told As-Safir that it is odd for Energy Minister Gebran Bassil to anticipate the result of negotiations by saying that the price can hardly be brought down. The source wondered about the nature of the message, which Bassil wants to deliver to the two companies.

As-Safir has learned that Speaker Nabih Berri called Interior Minister Marwan Charbel yesterday and urged him to speed up the process of drafting the electoral law and submitting it to parliament.

When asked whether the 1960 electoral law may be adopted at the end of the day, Speaker Berri told As-Safir: “In my opinion, making this mistake again is tantamount to further slipping backwards and anyone seeking this outcome is responsible.”

Finance Minister Mohamamd Safadi told As-Safir that despite the divergence of opinions with PM Najib Mikati, “there is no conflict or difference between us and I hope our cooperation and alliance shall endure for life.”

  • Opening Titles

The gap on “electricity bids” runs deep; Bassil: Mikati is the Future Movement’s representative.

Berri expects the electoral law from the cabinet; Jumblatt: “The 1960 [law] or else …”

Gunfire towards a LAF roadblock in Tripoli; three soldiers wounded.

  • Local News

The electoral law has shot back to the forefront following the meeting chaired by President Michel Sleiman in Baabda. Speaker Nabih Berri called Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and requested explanations regarding the results achieved so far. The parliament speaker stressed that parliament is waiting for the draft.

Sources informed of this issue said that, speaking through the ministers loyal to him, MP Walid Jumblatt informed the president, the parliament speaker, the prime minister and all those concerned that he will not accept [the principle of] proportionality no matter what.

MP Jumblatt added that he will take a decisive stance if any of the top three state officials are inclined to adopting proportionality.

According to the sources, MP Jumblatt linked his participation in the cabinet to the electoral law to the exclusion of all other issues. Therefore, he hoped that parties to the majority will support his choice in order to preserve the cabinet, adding that his alliance – or lack thereof – with any political force hinges on its stance regarding the electoral law.

Commenting on the fact that the electoral law issue is being addressed [once again], parliamentary sources within the Free Patriotic Movement said: “They are toying with us starting with the electricity issue and including the electoral law. The sources wondered about what issues have been completely settled by the cabinet so it can move on to another one.

The sources accused President Michel Sleiman and PM Mikati of seeking to exhaust General Michel Aoun politically by raising the electoral law issue at this time through leaks, whereby a parliamentary center [of influence] would be moved from one region to another.