TUE 18 - 6 - 2019
Date: Jun 6, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
Lebanon: Citizenship decree uproar geared to delay Cabinet: Future
Hussein Dakroub| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The mounting uproar over the naturalization decree is aimed at impeding ongoing consultations on the formation of a new government, the Future Movement’s parliamentary bloc warned Tuesday, in the latest twist of the controversial decree that would grant citizenship to over 300 people.

In a statement issued after its weekly meeting chaired by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, the bloc also called for a new law that regulates naturalization and allows Lebanese women married to Arabs or foreigners to pass on citizenship to their children.

The Future bloc’s stance came amid a snowballing outcry over the decree recently signed by President Michel Aoun, Hariri and caretaker Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk that would grant citizenship to 260 Christians and 115 Muslims, igniting a sensitive issue due to its implications on the country’s delicate sectarian balance and demographics.

Faced with widespread public and political criticism as well as plans to challenge the decree by the Lebanese Forces, the Kataeb Party and the Progressive Socialist Party, Aoun has tasked General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim with vetting the listed names, effectively putting the implementation of the decree on hold, while concerned officials said they are “taking their time” before publicizing the final list of names.

General Security issued a statement Tuesday asking people who have information regarding the names listed in the naturalization decree to come forward.

Although the names listed in the naturalization decree haven’t been

made public, media outlets said Ibrahim would publish the names Thursday on the website of the Directorate General of General Security.Addressing an iftar hosted by the Union of Beirut Families Associations at the Phoenicia Hotel Tuesday night, Hariri signaled he would form a new government of 30 rather than 32 members, as reportedly demanded by Aoun to represent minorities such as the Alawites and Assyriacs.

“I am inshallah optimistic all political parties are cooperating to form this government. If we want to please each party regarding the number of ministers it wants, we would [need] to form a government of 50 ministers,” Hariri said at the iftar attended by Machnouk and Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian. “However, the government that we will form hopefully will be of 30 ministers. This is the maximum I can announce, and cooperation is ongoing with all parties to accomplish this task,” he added.

Earlier in the day, Hariri chaired the Future bloc’s meeting at his Downtown Beirut residence which discussed the Cabinet formation efforts and the naturalization decree uproar. The bloc regretted some of the reactions and stances that accompanied the announcement of the naturalization decree.

“The bloc considered the publication of many misleading and incorrect information about the naturalization list –and the inclusion of names that did not originally appear in the proposed decree – malignant attempts to impede ongoing consultations to form the government and distract attention away from them to undermine the credibility of the presidencies of the republic and the government in dealing with the issue of naturalization,” the statement said after the meeting.

The bloc stressed that previous difficult experiences concerning naturalization “require working on the preparation of a special law that does not violate the constitutional right of the president to grant citizenship to those he deems fit, and regulates the process in the context of the national interest and the legal and human rights of those entitled.”

“In this regard, the bloc emphasizes the priority of working to include in the draft law articles related to the right of Lebanese women married to Arabs or foreigners to grant citizenship to their children. This will put an end to the injustice suffered by thousands of Lebanese mothers who are denied the right to pass on their nationality to their sons and daughters,” the statement added.

Also Tuesday, lawyers from the Kataeb Party, the Lebanese Forces and the PSP met to coordinate legal steps toward the naturalization decree, a day after the three parties lodged a request at the Interior Ministry for a copy of the decree. “We hope that we can get the decree so that we can give our opinion on it,” Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel said, speaking after the meeting held at the Kataeb headquarters in Saifi.

In discussing the Cabinet formation efforts, the Future bloc praised Hariri’s “sound orientations to overcome any possible obstacles hindering the [Cabinet] formation.”

“The bloc emphasized that the consensus of various parties on the importance of reaching an all-embracing government formula that addresses these challenges responsibly, must encourage them to facilitate the task of the prime minister-designate, to reduce the conditions [on government formation], and to launch a serious ministerial workshop that would be up to the Lebanese people’s aspirations and the international community’s expectations from Lebanon and its constitutional institutions, to implement the results of the support conferences,” the statement said.

Speaker Nabih Berri renewed his call for the swift formation of a new government to meet economic challenges facing the country.

“The government should be formed quickly,” visitors to the speaker’s Ain al-Tineh residence quoted him as saying. Berri said he and Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah with whom he met last week want the government to be formed as soon as possible. “The economic situation cannot endure dilly-dallying and procrastination,” he said.

Berri added his meeting Monday with Aoun and Hariri at Baabda Palace did not touch on the Cabinet formation efforts, but focused on the demarcation of the maritime and land borders between Lebanon and Israel “in light of an Israeli proposal for a comprehensive and simultaneous demarcation of the maritime and land borders and Chebaa Farms.” He said the Israeli proposal was relayed to Lebanese officials by U.S. Congressman Derail Issa during his visit to Lebanon last week.

“It is in Lebanon’s interest to conduct a comprehensive demarcation that protects its rights to its waters and territories, including the [Israeli] occupied Shebaa Farms,” Berri said. He added Lebanon was waiting for the U.S. administration’s official stance on the Israeli proposal “in order to act accordingly.”

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