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Following the weekly cabinet session at Baabda palace , Information Minister Tarek Mitri said the following in a statement:

Iran sanctions:

The government requested Lebanese Ambassador to the UN Nawwaf Salam to say “that the cabinet did not reach an agreement on the UN Security Council resolution to impose new sanctions on Iran.” He added, “There was a tie between ministers who wanted Lebanon to abstain from voting and those who wanted the country to vote against the resolution.”

Mitri said that Salam carried out the government’s request, denying media reports that the ambassador went against the cabinet’s decision.

He said that Lebanon does not approve of imposing sanctions and said that the country’s position on Israel’s nuclear arsenal is well-known. “Lebanon, despite its limited potential, contributed greatly to securing diplomatic success in the UN during last month’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Conference. For the first time, Israel is mentioned by name in a decision that called on it to open up its nuclear plants for inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).”

MEA /Union agreement

The cabinet discussed the agreement reached on Wednesday between the Middle East Airlines (MEA) administration and the Pilots’ Syndicate to meet the pilots’ salary demands.

2010 budget

The government also discussed the 2010 state budget, noting that 52 of its articles have been approved. The rest will be tackled during Monday’s cabinet session, said Mitri.

Salam abstains

In a related development Lebanese Ambassador to the UN Nawwaf Salam said on Wednesday during the UN Security Council session held to vote on a fourth round of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear drive that Lebanon as well as all Arab states call for making the Middle East a nuclear-free zone in line with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conference held last month in New York.

This comes after 12 of the 15-member UN Security council voted on Wednesday in favor of Resolution 1929, which imposed new sanctions on Iran. Turkey and Brazil were the only 2 that voted against the resolution while Lebanon abstained .

Salam also said that Israel remains the only country in the region that possesses nuclear power, adding that it should adhere to the NPT and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s decisions.

It remains of the utmost importance that the NPT decisions are applied across the board and not selectively, said Salam, adding, “Iran has the right to develop its nuclear drive for peaceful ends and under the supervision of the IAEA.”

He said that last month’s nuclear swap agreement reached between Iran, Turkey and Brazil could provide a solution to Tehran’s nuclear drive, which the West believes is not purely for peaceful purposes. However, Iran should cooperate with the UN security Council over its drive, Salam said.

“I would like to say that this issue could be resolved peacefully and not through sanctions, and this is Lebanon’s position.”

The Lebanese government did not reach a final position on the issue, and therefore, Lebanon has decided to abstain from voting, concluded Salam.

Salam has reportedly said that Lebanon has indicated earlier to its fellow council members that it would probably abstain due to the fact that the Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah is in its government, UN diplomats said.

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