Press round-up for Saturday, March 10th 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
Mikati to An-Nahar: A wording to close down the financial issue.
The LAF warns those targeting it; Geagea criticizes Rai.
The cabinet successfully defused yesterday the billions in additional government expenditures from outside the budget between 2006 and 2010, and entrusted the issue to PM Najib Mikati in the shape of an amended draft law.
PM Mikati had apparently started to prepare for the new solution wording, which he will submit to the upcoming Council of Ministers’ session Wednesday.
The Change and Reform bloc was satisfied with the amended wording as it included settlement of accounts and was transferred to both parliament and the Court of Accounts. Likewise, the opposition was pleased with the fact that the issue was entrusted to PM Mikati.
Opposition sources indicated that the principle of not dividing the government expenditure issue into parts is supposed to guarantee that this issue be completely legalized.
In a statement to An-Nahar, PM Mikati said that the atmosphere within the Council of Ministers was positive, adding: “Discussions occurred without any maliciousness or rewards to anyone. What matters for us is to regulate the financial situation.”
When asked why the amended wording of Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi’s draft was not adopted, PM Mikati said: “Non-final proposals were mentioned during the session and efforts are being made currently to complete the final wording regarding which an agreement has been reached.”
Cabinet circles predicted that the wording entrusted to PM Mikati will be put on the agenda of the next Council of Ministers session.
According to sources, the draft to be developed by PM Mikati will include detailed items for each of the expenditure years from 2006 to 2010.
Sources involved in the security situation along the Lebanese-Syrian border stressed the tough stance, which official political and military authorities have started to generalize following the meeting of the Higher Defense Council.
These sources abstained from commenting on reports whereby Syrian requested upon Lebanon to hand over a group of armed Syrian nationals. However, the sources said that the adopted path is the implementation of Lebanese laws.
The Lebanese Armed Forces Command published an orientation bulletin in which it pledged that “the Lebanese Armed Forces will take all preemptive measure and thwart any attempt to infiltrate it or undermine the cohesion of its troops.” The LAF Command stressed that “it will firmly keep on pursuing those who undermine security.”
In an implicit response to Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al-Rai’s statement about the situation in Syria, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea noticeably criticized “some people’s saying that we do not support the spring of violence, destruction and killing.”
Geagea went on saying: “Of only these people would talk to the Syrian regime [and convince it] to stop this destruction and violence.” Geagea expressed surprise at “some people saying that the closest thing to a democracy in the region is Syria,” and wondered: “I do not know according to what standard.”
Appointments start “in retail.”
The financial expenditure issue is on its way to being resolved, as a consensus wording was reached between Ain al-Tineh, Verdun and Rabieh. The early premises of appointments have also started to loom in the horizon, as an agreement was made to pass them “in retail form.”
Ministerial sources told Al-Akhbar that Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi said that an agreement was reached on the “settlement” and that he was requested to submit a draft law, which would translate this agreement into words, instead of the draft he had already submitted.
According to the sources, “Safadi – however – refused to submit any new draft and told the Council of Ministers that what is being discussed is a “political settlement” with which the Ministry of Finance has nothing to do. He thus agreed on having this mission entrusted to the prime minister.”
Other ministerial and parliamentary sources within the majority asserted that the administrative appointments issue will be slowly addressed during the next few days. The sources predicted that the agenda of the Council of Ministers’ session this Wednesday will include several appointments.
The sources said that the appointments will not involve “essential” positions; however, “they attest to a new method in dealing with this issue based on the meetings held over the past couple of weeks between PM Najib Mikati and Energy Minister Gebran Bassil.”
MP Sleiman Franjieh’s media office refuted US Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly’s saying that he had seen the statement issued by the US Embassy in Lebanon following their latest meeting in Bnachii.
A national water plan costing $9 billion is adopted.
Beirut answers Damascus: No arrested Syrian armed men.
A murky wording for past expenditures; Berri adopts the “inseparability of the two tracks.”
The atmosphere of the Council of Ministers’ session yesterday indicated that all parties to the cabinet are keen on avoiding any damage to the cabinet structure.
The fact that a murky wording was reached for the additional expenditures incurred between 2006 and 2010 clearly indicates a wish to avoid any constraining and final wording, as everyone was pleased afterwards and left free to pursue its political and financial experiments.
The Progressive Socialist Party dissociated itself from any wording that does not bear the “Sadat Tower seal” (i.e. that of former PM Fouad Siniora). President Michel Sleiman seemed to agree with PM Najib Mikati on the need to adopt a wording that suits everyone’s purpose.
When President Sleiman and PM Mikati attempted to lure Speaker Nabih Berri into taking part in the “wording”, the parliament speaker dissociated himself from the matter “as it is part of the executive authority prerogatives.”
Hezbollah, the Amal Movement, the Change and Reform bloc and other parties to the majority seemed to agree to a great extent on [their] approach to the past expenditure issue based on the principle whereby “there are no settlements and no middle solutions, but rather a settlement of accounts law for each year.”
Speaker Berri told As-Safir that he is waiting for the cabinet to issue the final wording and that he will not submit the draft law on the 8.9 trillion LL to the plenary session [of parliament] before the cabinet transfers the draft on the $11 billion.
It is up to Mikati to “secretly” pass the settlement regarding the billions in expenditure.
Mechleb and Chabtini are ruled out; consensus on a third name for the presidency of the [Higher] Judicial Council.
The issue about billions in expenditure went back and forth between the presidential seats, the Ministry of Finance and the parliamentary Finance and Budget Commission. It finally “landed” in PM Najib Mikati’s lap in order for him to reach a compromise through which the billions in expenditure are “secretly” adopted.
This issue is in many ways similar to the financing of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which raised a major fuss and ended up being “secretly” adopted, specifically in Mikati style.
By transferring and entrusting the issue to the prime minister, the Council of Ministers managed to avoid a crisis that almost “flew the cabinet out of the window” had it adopted the finance minister’s draft, which recommended merging and legalizing all funds.
With regard to the appointments issue, informed sources asserted that contacts resulted in settling the presidency of the Higher Judicial Council by ruling out each of the two candidates backed by President Michel Sleiman and General Michel Aoun respectively.
Informed sources said that an agreement was reached on a third candidate who may be of the Daher family. This means that the Council of Ministers is likely to adopt judicial appointments and those pertaining to the Disciplinary Committee during its Wednesday session if things go on as planned in the contacts that have been made.
Ad-Diyar has learned that the Lebanese Armed Forces has lately uncovered many attempts to smuggle weapons into Syria, as well as attempts to smuggle “tents” by Lebanese smugglers in the Al-Qaa area.