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Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi told Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV on Wednesday that the cabinet approved the draft energy bill during today’s meeting.

“We approved the electricity bill… the funding, which is for $5 billion, was divided into four, annual stages,” Safadi said.

More details to follow as they become available

Update: Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Wednesday following the approval by the cabinet of the energy bill

“We approved the bill aiming to increase electricity by 700 Megawatts… the plan will be divided into four stages starting in 2011 and ending in 2014.”

“The cabinet asked me to contact Arab and international funding agencies to finance the project,” he added.

Mikati also said a supervising committee for the energy spending will be formed within three months, while a new administrative board for Electricite du Liban will be formed in two months.

The PM added that the Energy Ministry will oversee funding for the project in 2011, after which the cabinet will supervise spending for the remaining years of the plan.

Update 2 Compromise

The root of the compromise was the decision to allocate the budgeted funds – in four installments, rather than in one payment. The government also agreed to establish a regulatory authority to supervise the sector within three months.

Mikati said the government also decided to form within three months a ministerial committee, headed by him and including the finance, health, justice, social affairs, energy, works and economy ministers, to look at the introduction of amendments to Law 462.

Law 462, which outlines the regulatory norms for the administration and management of the electricity sector, requires the formation of a regulatory authority to supervise the sector.

The breakthrough reportedly came after intensive talks between President Michel Suleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun and officials from Hezbollah.

The discussions led to a compromise that was approved during a meeting between the prime minister, Energy Minister Jibran Bassil and Hezbollah official, Minister of State for Administrative Reform Mohammad Fneish.

Mikati said the government also agreed on the appointment of a board of directors for Electricite du Liban within two months, and to draw tenders from contractors for the construction of the project in line with applicable laws.

He added that the draft bill had yet to be discussed in Parliament where it will be subject to a vote. The bill would need an absolute majority to pass.

“Lebanon won today,” Mikati said when asked which party emerged victorious in the compromise over the electricity bill. “Any dispute or discussion is to reach one goal: to provide electricity to people,” he added.

Mikati said the plan was part of a long-term project to provide Lebanon with electricity 24 hours a day, and future governments would need to continue the project, which is expected to cost $5 billion.

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