The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

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November 29, 2011

The Daily Star- Two solutions to Lebanon’s Cabinet crisis over the STL , November , 29, 2011

By Hasan Lakkis

Is Lebanon heading toward a Cabinet crisis Wednesday, when the decisive item of funding for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will be on its agenda, or will a showdown be avoided and more time made available for behind-the-scenes contacts to reach an agreement?
The controversial issue is the 49th item on the session’s agenda, listed under the title “Contributing to the Budget of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.”
There are signs that contacts between party leaders in Beirut and Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who is in Rome, have continued, and there’s a possibility that dialogue could begin between the prime minister and the parties that control the Cabinet, namely Hezbollah and Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun.
The “doves” in March 8 believe that a Cabinet collapse is not in their interest. Meanwhile, Mikati cannot abandon his commitment to fund the STL, and will reiterate this stance after his return Monday evening.
The prime minister has told all parties that he can no longer put off the matter. He was informed by Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt the Chouf MP’s ministers would submit their resignations if the funding item does not pass. Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi has taken the same stance.
Mikati also believes that Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, will not be satisfied if Lebanon does not pay its more than $30 million share of the tribunal’s annual budget. Furthermore, his stance on the STL is in line with his convictions and based on the fact that STL will not stop its operations if Lebanon does not pay its share.
Ministerial sources said that two possible solutions could be adopted before Wednesday’s session.
The first one involves sending the funding item to Parliament, a move which is not supported by Speaker Nabih Berri and other groups in March 8, as a majority of legislators are prepared to endorse funding the STL. This option has the backing of Jumblatt, members of his bloc, along with Mikati, Safadi and Minister of State Ahmad Karami, all three of whom are lawmakers for Tripoli.
The other solution lies in the Cabinet fulfilling one or two of the items that Aoun has set as conditions for his continued participation in the Cabinet in return for his ministers’ support for funding, or at least their refraining from opposing the move in the Cabinet, especially if Hezbollah’s ministers don’t attend the session.
These demands are: providing the Lebanese Army with more advanced weaponry, adjusting salaries, passing the draft budget on time, moving forward with development projects, appointing civil servants and tackling the issue of the state’s public finance account.
For the STL item to pass, it must be approved by half of Mikati’s 30-member-Cabinet plus one. Mikati and 11 ministers are supportive of the STL funding.
MPs from Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc believe that if the matter is cleared first with Hezbollah, then fulfilling all or some of the bloc’s demands would facilitate passing the funding item, since the bloc’s problem is not with the tribunal but with the Cabinet’s neglect of its demands and projects.
Sources close to Mikati said that he did not react negatively to the phone call he received from Berri, with whom he is expected to meet or contact once he returns from Italy, in order to continue discussing possible solutions to the current situation.
It is possible that Wednesday’s session will be postponed if an agreement over the matter is not reached, the sources added, especially as Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi will not be present as he will be participating in the Conference of Arab Justice Ministers in Cairo.
The same sources also said that Mikati might agree with Sleiman to drop the funding item from Wednesday’s agenda if, in his contacts with Berri, there are signs that a solution could actually be reached.
According to the sources, if the parties making up the government truly fear the consequences of the Cabinet falling and the difficulties posed by forming a new one, then one of these solutions should prove to be successful. This is especially likely because the internal situation in the country cannot tolerate a Cabinet vacuum, while influential countries in the region are preoccupied with events in Syria, Egypt, Yemen and Morocco, and have little time to mediate the latest Lebanese crisis.

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