MON 13 - 7 - 2020
Date: Aug 23, 2019
Source: The Daily Star
Lebanese Cabinet appoints remaining members of Constitutional Council
BEIRUT: Cabinet Thursday appointed the five remaining members needed to make up the Constitutional Council, Information Minister Jamal Jarrah said, following a session at Beiteddine Palace.

The names approved by ministers to go to the Constitutional Council are: Fawzat Farhat, Elias Bou Eid, Elie Mashraqani, Abdallah al-Shami and Omar Hamzi.

The appointment of Said Malik, whose name was put forward by ministers belonging to the Lebanese Forces, was voted down, Jarrah said.

Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumjian, who belongs to the LF, tweeted following the meeting that his party opposed this and claimed that LF ministers had not previously seen the names proposed during the session.

“We regret the lack of morality in politics,” he added.

The other five members – Tannous Meshleb, Antoine Breidi, Akram Baasiri, Aouni Ramadan and Riad Abu Ghaida – were approved by Parliament in June.

Jarrah said that most of the 46 items on the Cabinet’s agenda were approved, with some matters postponed to a later session that he said was likely to be held Tuesday.

During Thursday's session, ministers tasked a team of lawyers with defending the Lebanese state against the Fattoush family, which has requested a $400 million settlement for the closure of unlicensed rock crushers and quarries they own in Aley’s Ain Dara.

The U.S. law firm that is representing the Fattoush brothers, Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss PLLC, has contacted the Lebanese Finance Ministry requesting that dialogue be opened to agree on a monetary settlement.

The Fattoush family owns a number of rock crushers, quarries and cement factories which have proved environmentally controversial and sparked political dispute between Hezbollah and the Progressive Socialist Party.

Ministers approved the formation of a ministerial council headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri to look into the issues surrounding Palestinian refugees and their work status in Lebanon.

A recent crackdown on undocumented foreign workers by the Labor Minister has sparked protests among Palestinian refugees, who feel it targets them unfairly.

Thursday’s Cabinet session comes a day ahead of an expected downgrading of the country’s sovereign credit rating by global ratings agency Standard and Poor’s. However, Jarrah predicted that the rating, which is currently at B-, will not change.

“The Lebanese government is taking the necessary steps to preserve the economic and financial situation,” he said.

Lebanon is burdened by a national debt of $85 billion, equivalent to about 150 percent of GDP, slow growth and a high budget deficit.

It is also facing growing pressure from the international community to implement a series of fiscal and economic reforms pledged at last year’s CEDRE conference in Paris. International donors in return promised more than $11 billion in grants and soft loans to shore up Lebanon’s ailing economy and finance infrastructure projects.

Ministers also approved the expropriation of land in the Minyeh-Dinnieh town of Ain El Houakir to establish a landfill.

Since the closure of an informal waste dump in the area in April, trash has been piling up on the streets of the northern municipalities of Minyeh-Dinnieh, Zgharta, Bsharri and Koura in what has been described as a “waste crisis in the north.”

The initial proposed solution was the establishment of a temporary waste dump in the town of Terbol. However, its establishment provoked large protests by residents of the area and led Hariri to call for work on the landfill to be halted.

President Michel Aoun, who chaired the session, met with Hariri met ahead of the meeting and reportedly discussed the premier's recent visit to Washington.

The ministers’ meeting was the second to follow a reconciliation meeting between two rival Druze leaders, Progressive Socialist Party chief Walid Joumblatt and Lebanese Democratic Party head Talal Arslan. The shooting in Aley’s Qabr Shmoun on June 30 raised tensions between the two and prevented Cabinet meetings for more than a month.

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