MPs resume deliberations today

The three-day parliamentary session, which started yesterday, to discuss the Ministerial Statement and grant the cabinet the vote of confidence will resume today in Nejmeh Square. During yesterday’s session, MPs focused on disputed Article 6 of the Ministerial Statement – which pertains to Hezbollah and its arms – and Speaker Nabih Berri’s controversial call to form a national committee to end political sectarianism.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri kicked off the three-day parliamentary session yesterday, saying that success can be achieved in a cabinet of coalition with principles and objectives, not one of contradictions.

“This is a cabinet of development and progress,” he added, urging MPs to discuss the statement in a civilized manner.

While some MPs were objecting to Article 6 of the Ministerial Statement in Nejmeh Square on Monday, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir voiced his objection to the “Resistance army” as an independent entity parallel to the Lebanese army.

The patriarch said that “the Lebanese army alone should confront the enemy,” and that as such, the Resistance should integrate itself into the army.

Meanwhile, An-Nahar newspaper reported on Wednesday that the Syrian Embassy in Beirut formally handed over Syrian extradition notices issued against several Lebanese politicians, judges, security officers and journalists to the Lebanese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday.

This is following Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali al-Shami’s statement on Sunday that he did not receive any extradition notices from the Syrian government following reports that a Syrian judge called for the arrest of several Lebanese public figures for perjury against former General Security Director Jamil as-Sayyed.

Sayyed was one of the four generals that were held in connection to the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and released in 2009. He has previously filed a complaint to the Syrian Judiciary against those who allegedly falsely testified against him.

An informed source told the daily that Damascus’ most recent move exhibits Syria’s judicial and political authorities approval of such notices, which contradicts earlier reports that the two authorities were not in sync.

However, according to Al-Manar television on Monday, Damascus insists on separating between judicial and political issues.

Head of the Lebanese-Syrian Higher Council Nasri Khoury denied in an interview with An-Nahar that the extradition notices have been brought forth to the council, adding that such notices should either pass through the Lebanese-Syrian Higher Council or through the Foreign Ministry.

Another well-informed source close to Damascus told An-Nahar that the Syrian leadership “was surprised and annoyed by the politically-inappropriate timing” of issuing the extradition notices.  The source also stressed that “the issue is merely judicial” and not politically-charged, saying that the extradition notices were most probably sent directly from the Syrian to the Lebanese judiciary.

The source added that the notices are “not yet in effect,” stressing that they will not affect PM Hariri’s expected visit to Damascus after the Lebanese cabinet is granted the vote of confidence.

Also in the news today are reports on the five massive bombs that rocked Baghdad on Tuesday, killing 127 people, including women and students, and wounding hundreds in the third coordinated massacre to devastate the city since August.

The attacks came hours before an official announced the country’s general election – the second since the US-led ouster of dictator Saddam Hussein – would be held on March 6, 2010.


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