BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Tuesday postponed a Cabinet meeting for 48 hours “to take a breath” after the killing of two members of Minister of State for Refugee Affairs Saleh Al-Gharib’s entourage at Mount Lebanon on Sunday.
The decision to delay the session in order to allow tensions to calm, came as head of the Lebanese General Security, Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, confirmed the start of extradition proceedings of a suspect arrested over the attack, in which two other people were also wounded.
It had been expected that Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting would be attended by Al-Gharib and ministers of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), along with ministers of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), led by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.
It was Bassil’s visit to the western Shahhar region that sparked protests by supporters of the PSP — which is headed by Walid Jumblatt — who clashed with the convoy of Al-Gharib, who is loyal to the Lebanese Democratic Party, fronted by Talal Arslan, an ally of Bassil and Jumblatt’s rival.
Speaking during a press conference Hariri said: “The quorum of the Cabinet’s session was achieved, but we decided to take a breath. There is a problem in the country, and we need 48 hours to vent the tension, so I decided to postpone the session. I am presiding over a government of national unity, not a national conflict.”
The premier added: “Security is a red line and all measures will be taken to hold accountable the perpetrators. Whoever committed the crime will be taken to court, which will take its course and its decision will be critical.”
He said the government was “doing great” and offered condolences to the families of the victims of the Mount Lebanon incident saying he hoped “the entire country would overcome this rift.”
Hariri held a meeting in his office with PSP ministers Akram Chehayeb and Wael Abou Faour, who were later joined by Al-Gharib. Also present was security chief Ibrahim, who was assigned to mediate and ease tensions.
Al-Gharib had accused the PSP of trying to assassinate him by shooting at his convoy and called for the case to be referred to the Judicial Council which examines crimes against state security.
However, Hariri seemed unconvinced, pointing out that officials were working to calm the situation and that the leaders of the PSP and the Lebanese Democratic Party, Jumblatt and Arslan were open to solutions and that no one wanted conflict in the country. He also called for a reduction in political speeches.