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During its meeting on Wednesday at the Baabda presidential palace the Lebanese cabinet again failed to reach an agreement on how to handle the controversial $5.9 billion bill on extra-budgetary expenses.

President Michel Suleiman who headed the cabinet meeting suggested that Finance Minister Mohammed al-Safadi should redraft it to resubmit for approval by the parliament. Safadi did present the budget to the parliament but failed to get it approved because of differences between the March 8 majority and March 14 opposition.

Several March 8 parties including Hezbollah and MP Michel Aoun’s FPM have urged Suleiman to sign the bill under article 58 of the constitution . The article allows him to sign a bill that is deemed urgent by the government after the parliament fails to approve it within forty days .

But the president has refused to do so and stressed that parliament is the party that should approve budgets.

If the parliament fails again to approve it , then the appropriate decision would be taken, Information Minister Walid al-Daouq quoted President Suleiman as telling the cabinet.

The cabinet asked Safadi to with pay the salaries of state employees after failing to reach an agreement over the budget .

Linking budgets

During a Parliament session last February , March 14 MPs rejected the draft law on the budget , saying it only partially addresses the problem. They said that the $11 billion ” extra-budgetary expenditure” spent under the Cabinets of former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora between 2006 and 2009 and $5 billion by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Cabinet in 2010 should be also legalized , but March 8 bloc did not agree.

Hezbollah MP Nawwaf Moussawi last March blasted former PM and current Future Movemnt bloc leader MP Fouad Siniora over linking the past and current cabinet expenditures.

“Linking the $5.9 billion [spent by the current cabinet of Prime Minister Najib Mikati] to the $11 billion [spent by the past cabinets of former PMs Fouad Siniora and Saad Hariri] cannot be justified,” he said.

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