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PORT BLAST INVESTIGATION

Cabinet source: No solution yet to government standoff over blast probe

Cabinet source: No solution yet to government standoff over blast probe

The judge in charge of the Beirut port blast investigation, Tarek Bitar. (Credit: DR)

BEIRUT — After a brief meeting today between Prime Minister Najib Mikati and President Michel Aoun, a cabinet source told L’Orient Today that Mikati has so far been unable to resolve a standoff between different political blocs over the port blast investigation and its head, Judge Tarek Bitar,  and that as a result, no cabinet sessions will be held for now.

Here’s what we know:

    • Mikati made no statement after his meeting with Aoun, but the cabinet source told L’Orient Today that the premiere is still reluctant to call a cabinet session, since the Amal and Hezbollah ministers are likely to boycott the meeting unless there is an agreement on how to deal with calls for the government to take a stance on the future of the investigation and Bitar’s role in it.

    • The source said that Mikati does not want the government to get involved in the investigation because he believes it is a matter for the judiciary and wants to leave it to the Higher Judicial Council.

    •  A presidential palace source told L’Orient Today that Aoun has the same stance as Mikati and wants to allow the Higher Judicial Council to deal with the investigation.

    • The new roadblock to political progress comes barely a month into the tenure of Mikati’s government, which was formed after a 13-month vacuum following the resignation of former Prime Minister Hassan Diab. An extended deadlock would threaten the new government’s ability to implement reforms that will be required to reach a deal with the International Monetary Fund and to unlock other international funding to help the country out of its crisis. 

    • Last week, a cabinet meeting was adjourned early and then indefinitely postponed amid a dispute regarding the port blast investigation. Amal and Hezbollah ministers had reportedly demanded the removal of Bitar from the port investigation.The two parties have criticized what they describe as “politicized” handling of the case.

    • Minister of Culture Mohamad Mortada denied that the ministers had demanded Bitar’s removal, but said ministers had "presented our observations on his performance." Subsequently, former Finance Minister and current Amal MP Ali Hassan Khalil, for whom Judge Tarek Bitar issued an arrest warrant when he failed to appear for questioning, told the Al Mayadeen television station that the Shiite ministers might resign if no "proper decision" was made with regards to the blast investigation.

    • Last Thursday, a protest called by Amal and Hezbollah that demanded the removal of Bitar turned into violent clashes in Tayyouneh which led to seven people killed and more than 30 injured.



BEIRUT — After a brief meeting today between Prime Minister Najib Mikati and President Michel Aoun, a cabinet source told L’Orient Today that Mikati has so far been unable to resolve a standoff between different political blocs over the port blast investigation and its head, Judge Tarek Bitar,  and that as a result, no cabinet sessions will be held for now.Here’s what we know: ...