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Saturday, November 10, 2012
Lebanese political crisis deepens in wake of nation-wide strikes

Lebanese Forces bloc MP Antoine Zahra: "after today, how can we believe this
government when it claims it is distancing itself when in reality government
parties are embroiled in what is happening in Syria, as well as
assassinations in Lebanon?”

Lebanese political crisis deepens in wake of nation-wide strikes
09/11/2012 By Yousef Diab.
http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=1&id=31748

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – The Lebanese government appears trapped between
the opposition’s campaign to topple it, against the backdrop of the
assassination of Lebanese intelligence chief Wissam Hassan, and the strikes
being organized by trade unions and public services for better pay. Teachers
and civil servants, responding to a call by the Lebanese Union Coordination
Committee [UCC], observed a one-day strike across Lebanon on Thursday in
protest at government delays in carrying out a controversial pay scale,
practically bringing the country to a stand-still. This completely disrupted
Lebanese public services and administrations, whilst schools across the
country were closed.

Commenting on the strikes, under fire Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati
said “we understand the cry of the UCC and the employees’ demands, but in
the end we are responsible for maintaining financial stability and we cannot
risk [making] any impromptu or hasty decisions that would hit the economy.”

Speaking on the day of the strikes, the Lebanese Prime Minister vowed not to
bow to threats of escalatory measures by teacher unions and public sector
employees. He stressed that “the salary scale issue cannot be solved by
negativity or escalation, but by a calm debate on the best means to secure
the needed revenues [to cover] the pay scale, while maintaining the acquired
rights of public sector employees and monetary balance and sparing the
productive sectors more burdens.”

He added “we call on everyone to carefully approach this issue and avoid
involving it in political polarization because we are all concerned with
protecting our country and not exposing monetary stability to any setback,
particularly amid the state of [economic] stagnation and slowdown the entire
region is witnessing.”

For his part, Lebanese Forces bloc MP Antoine Zahra informed Asharq Al-Awsat
that “the opposition’s position regarding the government’s resignation is
not linked to it as a government, but rather its failure to do anything to
stop the political assassinations.” He added “following the assassination of
head of the information branch [of Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces] and
the other assassination attempts, we cannot follow the traditional approach
regarding a government based on a quota system, because we cannot compromise
on national security,”

MP Antoine Zahra revealed that “the only solution that we can think of is
the resignation of the current government and carrying out political
consultations to study how to return confidence to normal political
operation in Lebanon.”

He asked “after today, how can we believe this government when it claims it
is distancing itself when in reality government parties are embroiled in
what is happening in Syria, as well as assassinations in Lebanon?”

The Lebanese Forces MP also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the dangerous thing
is that they killed the chief of the security apparatus that is not
subordinate to their sovereignty.”

Speaking earlier this week, Lebanese Forces bloc MP Antoine Zahra played
down the potential for a political vacuum to emerge in Lebanon if the
current government steps down.

He said “in [the Lebanese] constitution, there is nothing called ‘vacuum’ if
[attempts] to form [an alternative] government fail, because the [old]
cabinet will [become a caretaker government] until a new one is established
with a vote of confidence.”

He stressed that international warnings regarding an emergence of a
political vacuum in Lebanon seek to defend the current government, adding
that a new government should be formed “after the required [political]
consultations are carried out” in line with the Lebanese constitution.

MP Zahra also downplayed the chances of a new government being formed
through national dialogue, asserting “we, [the March 14 forces], will not
commit the same mistake and sit down with [the March 8 Forces] before the
killings are brought to an end.”

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