During an extraordinary session held this morning at Baabda, the Lebanese cabinet endorsed a proposal by President Elias Al-Hrawi to amend clause three of Article 49 of the constitution, which allows first rank civil servants to run for presidency. Cabinet also decided to open an extraordinary session of parliament's general assembly to ratify the bill and elect the new head of state before October 20. Information Minister Bassem Al-Sabaa said after the meeting the next step will be the publication of the new legislation in the Official Gazette, allowing the house speaker to set a date for the election.
Today's session was headed by President Hrawi and attended by Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and all the ministers, except Minister of Displaced Walid Jumblatt and Environment Minister Akram Shhayyeb who both earlier announced their opposition to the amendment. Foreign Minister Faris Boueiz who was present at the meeting did not wish to vote for the bill's ratification.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri early this morning visited President Elias Al-Hrawi at the Baabda presidential palace for talks with the president ahead of cabinet's meeting. The two leaders discussed issues to be tackled and studied in the session.
Before heading to Baabda, the premier told reporters that talk on the formation of the next government is still early adding the issue should not be discussed before electing the upcoming president and naming the future prime minister.
At 11:30 this morning, shortly after cabinet concluded its meeting, parliament received the endorsed proposal of opening an extraordinary session of its general assembly. House Speaker Nabih Berri is now expected to refer the draft bill on Article 49 to the administration and justice parliamentary committee headed by Deputy Shaker Abu-Sleiman. Following the committee's approval, the speaker will head parliament's extraordinary session to ratify the bill. During the meeting, Berri is then expected to set a final date for the election. The administration and justice committee is due to hold its session next Monday.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri this morning received the General Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, Hazem Al-Biblawi who updated the premier on ESCWA's recent activities in Beirut.
Hariri later held talks with the British Ambassador to Lebanon, David Ross MacLenin who revealed that discussions centered on recent regional developments in light of the escalating Turkish threats to Syria. MacLenin added his government is contacting all parties involved in the crisis in a bid to ease to prevalent tension in the region. He also said his country welcomes Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's moves to reach a peaceful solution to the crisis.
The premier also held a meeting today with the German Ambassador to Lebanon, Peter Wittig and the European Union Representative in the country, Demitris Kourkolas. Talks tackled a number of joint projects between Lebanon and the union in addition to the current Turkish-Syrian crisis.
Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam was today quoted by his visitors in the Syrian capital as approving the choice of Army Commander General Emil Lahhoud for the next presidency in Lebanon. Khaddam reportedly added that Syria's stance in this regard came in agreement with Lebanon's popular will and the stances of Lebanese deputies. Khaddam also reiterated Syria's wish that the next presidential term be a term of institutions and praised President Elias Al-Hrawi's accomplishments. His visitors also quoted him as stressing that it was still early to talk about the formation of the next Lebanese government.
War Displaced Minister, Walid Jumblatt yesterday announced that he, along with deputies belonging to his Progressive Socialist Party, will not back Army Commander General Emil Lahhoud for presidency and will not vote for him. Jumblatt made his statements to Baabda reporters last night following his meeting with President Elias Al-Hrawi, which was also attended by Environment Minister Akram Shhayyeb. The War Displaced Minister added no one can impose on him or on his party members to vote for a candidate without conviction. Jumblatt continued to say that things should have happened in a more democratic way.
Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir late yesterday voiced his backing for the choice of Army Commander General Emil Lahhoud as upcoming head of state. But following a meeting of the Maronite Bishops' Council, Sfeir said the council criticized the manner the decision was taken. The selection of Lahhoud was made following the last presidential Lebanese-Syrian summit in Damascus.
Following talks with the Maronite Patriarch today, Lawyer Naji Al-Bustani told reporters at Bkirki that the qualifications specified by Sfeir concerning the next head of state can be represented in the person of General Emil Lahhoud. Bustani also called for the participation of youth in public responsibilities.
The five-nation cease-fire monitoring panel is expected to meet at the beginning of next week at the headquarters of the UN Interim Forces in Naqoura. The group will look into two complaints: one filed by Lebanon and the other by Israel. The Lebanese compliant centers on Israeli shelling of the village of Barasheet causing damage in several civilian homes there.
For its part, Israel lodged a complaint claiming that the Lebanese resistance launched attacks on Israeli positions from civilian areas in Barasheet.
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