Finally the Lebanese cabinet agreed during its meeting at the Baabda presidential palace late Friday night on a policy statement and averted Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s resignation, but Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi and the Phalange Party’s three ministers voicing official reservation on the text.
“The cabinet has endorsed the policy statement amid the reservations of the ministers of the Phalange Party Sejaan Qazzi (Labor), Ramzi Jreij (Information) and Alain Hakim (Economy), in addition to Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi,” National News Agency reported.
“By the virtue of the state’s responsibility to preserve Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the government stresses the state’s duty and efforts to liberate the Shebaa Farms, the Kfarshouba Hills and the occupied part of Ghajar (village) through all legitimate means, while stressing the right of Lebanese citizens to resist Israeli occupation, repel its aggressions and regain the occupied land,” the policy statement states.
Qazzi said: “We cannot but reject the wording of the resistance clause and we want to emphasize on the authority of the Lebanese state in this regard.”
“We have asked to be given until tomorrow to return with a final answer after holding a politburo meeting and all options are on the table,” Qazzi added.
Rifi , a leading Sunni figure from Tripoli affiliated with the Future Movement voiced reservations over the resistance clause in addition to the failure to mention “Hezbollah’s presence in Syria and the autonomous security that is being practiced in al-Labweh and Arsal and which is threatening the safety of citizens.”
A bilateral meeting was held between Salam and President Michel Suleiman prior to the cabinet session while another meeting was held between the president, the PM and several ministers, including State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Mohammed Fneish and Heath Minister Wael Abou Faour.
A third meeting was held between Fneish, Public Works and Transport Minister Ghazi Zoaiter, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil and Industry Minister Hussein al-Hajj Hasan, during which they held phone talks with Hezbollah’s leadership.
The new 24-minister cabinet, formed after months of political bickering, has been preparing the ministerial statement with which it will stand before parliament for a vote of confidence.
The role of “the resistance” against Israel was a main point of contention for the committee in charge of drafting the ministerial statement. After the ministerial committee failed in its mission, reports emerged that Salam would resign if no agreement could be reached on the issue.
March 14’s suggested formula was “Lebanon’s right to defend itself,” while the March 8 parties wanted the clause to acknowledge “the right of Lebanon and the Lebanese people to self-defense and to the resistance against the Israeli enemy.”
Under the constitution, the cabinet had until Monday to approve a policy statement or else it would have been considered resigned. In the face of such a scenario, President Suleiman would have had to call for binding parliamentary consultations to name a new premier.