The Lebanese cabinet met at Baabda presidential palace and was chaired by president Michel Suleiman. Prior to the cabinet meeting Suleiman had a closed door meeting with PM Saad Hariri, who returned last night from Saudi Arabia.
As expected the focus of the meeting was the arrest warrants.
On Sunday the Syrian judiciary issued 33 arrest warrants for judges, officers, politicians and journalists of Lebanese, Arab and other nationalities in the case brought by former Lebanese General Security chief Jamil as-Sayyed, according to a statement from Sayyed’s office.
Sayyed along with 3 other generals was detained from 2005 to 2009 on suspicion of involvement in former PM Rafik Hariri’s murder. In April 2009, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL ) ordered their release without charges due to insufficient evidence. STL prosecutor made it clear at the time they were set free that their release did not mean they are Innocent and that once more evidence is available they could be back in jail.
In December 2009, he filed a lawsuit in Damascus against various defendants whom he alleges were involved in a conspiracy of false testimonies against him.
Health Minister Mohammad Khalifeh called the arrest warrants a “judicial matter,” and also voiced his appreciation for Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar’s following up on the issue of false testimonies in the international investigation into former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s 2005 murder.
“Deciding on the issue of false witnesses is the way to address the crisis,” Khalifeh was quoted as saying.
Minister of State for Administrative Reform Mohammad Fneish was quoted as saying , “I do not agree with those who say that the warrants are an insult… we have not been told about the false witnesses in an official form, and if [March 14 ministers] want to take a stance we will ask for a postponement.”
Labor Minister Boutros Harb was quoted as saying that “the cabinet has to take a position on the arrest warrants”
Minister of State Michel Pharaon said that the warrants “do not conform to the law, nor [do they conform] to the rules of diplomatic relations.”
The cabinet has reportedly decided that the warrants issue must be tackled by the Lebanese and Syrian justice ministries, LBC TV reported.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri considered the warrants a setback, but believes that they should not affect Syrian-Lebanese relations, LBC also reported.
The cabinet did not reportedly tackle the issue of false witnesses and President Michel Suleiman postponed the discussion on the 2011 draft state budget’s clause on funding for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), LBC added.
Earlier today Hariri was quoted by LBC as saying about the arrest warrants : “This subject is purely judicial,” adding that it is unlikely that the cabinet will discuss Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar’s report on false testimonies in the Rafik Hariri murder investigation or the 2011 draft state budget clause on funding for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).