Lebanese press round-up: June 11, 2012

Press round-up for Monday, June 11th 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 Baabda [dialogue] table misses Ghassan Tueni today.

Sleiman: He was the one to name it the dialogue committee.

Sectarian kidnappings in Akkar.

Jumblatt: [This] period reminds me of 1982.

  • Local News

The dialogue table convenes today at the Baabda Presidential Palace in the presence of 17 political leaders instead of 19, as former PM Saad Hariri and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea will be absent.

The security situation is growing more dangerous as mutual kidnappings occurred yesterday among the inhabitants of Wadi Khaled and the village of Massoudieh in the Akkar plain on sectarian and political grounds against a backdrop of armed deployment and roadblocks, resulting in the kidnapping of nine people.

The nine people kidnapped are added to another Shia victim named Hussein Seblini from the village of Saksakiyyeh. His kidnappers are demanding a ransom, knowing that he is the twelfth Lebanese national to be kidnapped in Syria.

This is added to the almost-daily tensions along the Bab al-Tebbaneh-Jabal Mohsen axis, as an Energa rocket fell last night on the Al-Shamal slope while a grenade hit Baal al-Darawish.

MP Mohammad Raad said that Hezbollah is open to debate, arguing: “If the Taif settlement is still valid in order to establish a strong state then it is alright, and if it needs some amendments based on the agreement of all parties, then why not?”

Sources told An-Nahar that President Michel Sleiman has taken note of the March 14 memorandum. However, its substance may [only] be tackled in former PM Fouad Siniora’s address and will not be part of the [dialogue] agenda because any additional item requires unanimity within the dialogue committee.

In his address, the president will reportedly call for a bold decision to address the issue of weapons within and outside cities and the need to provide the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Internal Security Forces with cover.

According to the sources, the cabinet’s fate will not be discussed as it is not on the agenda. March 14 forces, which are calling for the cabinet’s departure and the formation of a neutral salvation government, realize that this dialogue will buoy up the cabinet.

PM Najib Mikati has reportedly prepared an address in which he will pledge his cabinet’s commitment to implementing all unanimous decisions and explain its steering away policy [vis-à-vis the Syrian crisis].

LF leader Samir Geagea said: “The dialogue is useless under these circumstances, as the other side has invited us to a dialogue when the situation got out of hand so that we take a share in shouldering the responsibility. However, the solution only lies in forming a cabinet of technocrats.”

Speaker Nabih Berri told An-Nahar that the mere fact that dialogue is being held and parties are meeting around the same table is reassuring for the Lebanese people.

  • Opening Titles

The dialogue based on a “royal wish” starts in Baabda today.

  • Local News

The Future Movement decided to take part in the Baabda dialogue based on the [Saudi] king’s wish, as the only explanation prevailing within the Future Movement is that participation is in honor of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz’s wish.

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said that the image conveyed today is “one of apparent unity, but the truth is entirely different.” Geagea asserted: “Sometimes, someone has to stand up and say no.”

In an interview with Al-Jadeed TV, Geagea asked: “Are the Syrian regime and Hezbollah ready to take part in the dialogue? Of course, they are not.”

Marada Movement sources asserted that Marada leader MP Sleiman Frangieh will take part in the dialogue in person once it became clear that Geagea will boycott it. Had Geagea sent a representative, Frangieh would have done the same.

MP Walid Jumblatt thanked President Sleiman “who invited us to the dialogue as did late President Elias Sarkis.” This was a reference to the national salvation committee formed by former President Sarkis following the 1982 Israeli invasion.

Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem said that “March 14 forces have brandished the slogan of ‘moving to the state’ because they were not in the state and wanted to move to it, but all they did is move it altogether.”

  • Opening Titles

Discrepant priorities for the parties [to the dialogue] … and the “ghost of the North” is present.

The dialogue kicks off without any illusions: The image first.

  • Local News

Today’s dialogue session is the sixth one of the National Dialogue Committee series chaired by President Michel Sleiman since his election. This session is the thirteenth of the national dialogue, as seven sessions were previously held in parliament.

The new presidential call for dialogue aims to discuss the national defense strategy and the following items: the Resistance’s weapons, Palestinian weapons and disarmament within and outside cities.

Sources close to President Sleiman told As-Safir that his address today will emphasize the importance of dialogue “as it has become apparent that no matter how high the tensions, they can be addressed by having key leaders initiate dialogue.”

The sources expressed the hope that “the dialogue will force all political forces to take on their responsibilities by adopting executive measures that would be tantamount to a binding announcement for all parties, which would define the taboos preventing any escalation.”

Former President Amin Gemayel said that he will take part in today’s dialogue session and in any other session with a spirit of openness, adding that everyone has a duty to have mercy on the Lebanese people and be ready and positive.

President Gemayel revealed that the Kataeb Party “has something new to put on the dialogue table.”

  • Opening Titles

The dialogue table convenes today “so that we steer away from Syrian events.”

Berri to Ad-Diyar: The [dialogue] table is a good start and “work is ongoing”; Jumblatt: We thank the president for inviting us.

Hezbollah: Let us amend the Taif [Accord], but only if everyone agrees; Geagea: The constituent conference is a dangerous thing.

  • Local News

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea described the constituent conference called for by Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah as extremely dangerous and which spells the end of the Taif Accord. Geagea stressed that the call for dialogue is “a trap.”

Baabda sources told Ad-Diyar that preparations for the dialogue session are complete. The session is set to start with a welcome address by President Michel Sleiman who will give an overview of the domestic situation, security tensions and the delicate regional circumstances.

According to the sources, the dialogue table is not an executive authority; rather, it is a political cover that will [help to] spread a different atmosphere than the one currently prevailing.

At the end of the session, President Michel Sleiman will reportedly set a date for another one, probably towards the end of June or early July.

Key political sources described the atmosphere in the country as being uncomfortable amidst easy-looking kidnappings, armed deployment and instability in Tripoli.

Sources at the Serail revealed that the Council of Ministers’ agenda is composed of 92 administrative and service-related items. Three members of the Higher Judicial Council, including one female judge, will reportedly be appointed. Two of these members will be incumbents in addition to one substitute.