Press round-up for Saturday, June 9th 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
March 14 forces propose a salvation cabinet to Sleiman.
“Extremely positive” indications in the case of the kidnapped [Lebanese nationals].
Clinton and Annan are in favor of “increasing pressure” on Damascus.
Moscow mentions “points of contact” with Washington.
Circles close to PM Najib Mikati told An-Nahar that the contacts he initiated after what happened yesterday in Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tebbaneh revealed to him in certainty that “the situation is under control with limited breaches and [that] the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Internal Security Forces have managed to put an end [to the clashes].”
Circles close to President Michel Sleiman, who is gearing up to chair the national dialogue on Monday, told An-Nahar that the dialogue meeting is still set to be held at 11 a.m. as per the previously-distributed agenda. The sources added that the president is set to meet today with the March 14 delegation.
According to these circles, President Sleiman met with Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Assiri who had booked an appointment with the president earlier on in order to be informed of the contacts pertaining to the dialogue, especially since Saudi Arabia had been the first to recommend its resumption.
President Sleiman is to meet with the March 14 delegation chaired by former PM Fouad Siniora at the Baabda Presidential Palace at 10 a.m. so that delegation members can take part in [veteran journalist] Ghassan Tueni’s funeral.
Following the meeting, the delegation is to head to the headquarters of the General Secretariat of the March 14 Coalition where former PM Siniora is to read the text of the “salvation initiative” memorandum submitted to the president.
The memorandum is composed of 8 full scape pages and – as An-Nahar has learned – includes a warning against “the current dangers threatening Lebanon as a result of the developments in Syria and the Syrian regime’s attempt to export them into Lebanon.”
March 14 forces “are submitting an initiative to save Lebanon from the dangers threatening it; [they] praise the president’s measures to counter these dangers and the call for dialogue given Lebanon’s location in a region surrounded by dangerous circumstances.”
The March 14 forces go on saying that, “despite the changes and takeovers they faced, they propose a salvation initiative in keeping with the president’s efforts in order to put Lebanon on the salvation track according to the following three constant principles:
1- Rejection of violence and the use of weapons by any side, the [Lebanese] civil war being an example in this respect.
2- Mutual recognition of concerns.
3- Emphasizing the decisions of former dialogue tables and the need to implement them.”
The March 14 memorandum “calls on all forces, including Hezbollah” and other March 8 parties to rally around if they agree on constant principles, the Taif constitution and the state’s role as a reference, which leads to the formation of a necessary national salvation cabinet in order to move from the current tension to the desired state of stability.”
An-Nahar has learned that Hezbollah circles have received “extremely positive indications regarding the release of the 11 Lebanese nationals kidnapped in Syria within 48 hours” against a backdrop of assertions that they are all in good health.
According to the sources, “the negotiations led by those involved with the kidnappers have covered an extensive terrain.” Other sources predicted that the hostages will be brought to Lebanon using the same method, which was previously announced and hampered at the time.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Joint UN-Arab League Special Envoy on Syria Kofi Annan called for [finding ways to] “further pressure” the Syrian government into implementing the Annan plan, which – as many believe – is dead or dying.
In Moscow, Russia announced that “points of contact” have been developed with the United States with regard to settling the Syrian crisis.
The ministerial majority refuses to raise the VAT to 12 percent.
US instigation against Lebanese expatriates in the Gulf.
Preparations are ongoing in order to hold the first national dialogue session this Monday in the absence of the Lebanese Forces. An extended March 14 delegation is to visit the Baabda Presidential Palace to hand over [their] memorandum to President Michel Sleiman.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia renewed its call on all parties to take part in the dialogue.
The Council of Ministers is to hold three sessions next week. The first will be an ordinary one whereas the two others will be dedicated to examining the draft budget.
Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, Energy Minister Gebran Bassil and Minister of State for Administrative Development Mohammad Fneish are to meet this Wednesday with PM Najib Mikati in order to continue discussing the action paper on which they agreed in order to promote cabinet action once again.
The prime minister met yesterday with three ministers and Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi in order to discuss the draft budget transferred by the Ministry of Finance to the Council of Ministers.
According to ministerial sources, discussions focused on the taxes proposed in the draft. Hezbollah, Amal Movement and Free Patriotic Movement ministers stressed their opposition to raising the VAT from 10 percent to 12 percent, insisting on keeping it as it is.
For the past few days, Arab and Western newspapers and media websites have been spreading an instigation campaign, whereby the fire towards the end of the previous month at the Villagio Mall in Qatar’s capital Doha (leading to the death of 19 people) was “masterminded by Syrian and Iranian Intelligence and executed by Hezbollah.”
The websites linked this issue to the deportation of Lebanese expatriate employees from the United Arab Emirates over the past few weeks.
Moscow welcomes US envoy Hof: We don’t know of any plans by Assad to resign.
Following high-level talks with US Envoy Frederic Hof, Russia announced yesterday that it is ready to make “amendments” to Joint UN-Arab League Special Envoy on Syria Kofi Annan’s plan.
However, Moscow stressed it does not know of any plans by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to resign.
In a statement published on its website, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs mentioned that “Russia and the United States held talks on Syria. Russia was represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov in his capacity as presidential envoy for the Middle East and Deputy Foreign Minister Gennadiy Gatilov. The United States was represented by Frederic Hof who is in charge of the Syrian issue at the US Department of State.”
According to the statement, “[Russia and the United States] had a thorough exchange of opinions regarding the means to support a peaceful settlement in Syria, while focusing on mobilizing internal support in order for all parties to implement Kofi Annan’s plan. In this context, the practical aspects of Russia’s initiative to hold an international conference on Syria as soon as possible were discussed.”
Political parties to the cabinet agree on the distribution of expenditure.
One killed in sniper fire in Tripoli; stores are burnt and reconciliation fails.
Hollande calls Sleiman in support of dialogue; March 14 forces visit Baabda today.
The details pertaining to the agreement among the parties to the cabinet were fully discussed yesterday during the meeting chaired by PM Najib Mikati within the presence of Minister of State for Administrative Development Mohammad Fneish, Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil and Energy Minister Gebran Bassil.
Discussions are to be continued this Wednesday, knowing that consensus has already been reached on the mechanism to be adopted for the distribution of the 10 billion LL amount among ministries.
The situation in Tripoli is still tense, as one person was killed and several others were wounded in sniper fire yesterday.
Violence resumed in Tripoli against a backdrop of a profusion of offshoot armed groups, political divisions, instigation and the burning of stored based on the sectarian identity of their owners.
President Michel Sleiman received a phone call from his French counterpart Francois Hollande yesterday afternoon during which the two men discussed the current relations between the two countries on all levels.