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French Version

Hoss prescribes radical reform to end Beirut crisis

Former prime minister touts new initiative in meetings with berri and siniora

Lebanon is in dire need of radical political reform, former Premier Salim Hoss said after meeting Premier Fouad Siniora and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri Tuesday.

Hoss told reporters that this "radical political reform starts with a modern electoral law." He defended his initiative which he carried to Lebanese officials two days ago, saying that he had mentioned the creation of an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri.

Pro-government media reports had suggested that Hoss had not included a solution for the tribunal in his initiative.

"I said the crisis in Lebanon has two faces: One is the tribunal's project and the other is forming a national unity government. With regard to the tribunal, all the Lebanese have agreed on the necessity to form this tribunal. In my initiative there is a whole page on the tribunal. The media should be fair," said Hoss.

Siniora had dismissed the initiative a day earlier saying it was "unconstitutional," and that "middle solutions don't work in Lebanon anymore," but added that the "door for a solution isn't closed yet."

Hoss told The Daily Star that he delivered "a written letter on Tuesday" to Siniora in response to the latter's comment on his initiative. In the letter, Hoss said that his initiative - which he proposed to both pro-government and opposition officials - "aims at getting the country out of the crippling political stalemate it has been witnessing for months."

Hoss also told Siniora in the letter that his proposal "was not a solution to the problem, but rather a proposed path to be followed to reach a solution."

Some of the proposals by Hoss include "bringing back the national dialogue; calling upon the opposition to stop their insistent calls to form a national unity government."

"All I did was propose an attempt to get this country out of this deadlock and place it on a path to a possible solution," Hoss said. "I didn't say that Siniora's government was unconstitutional. I proposed that President Emile Lahoud can consider it as if it were resigned, as a caretaker government that would be able to take decisions which would help people out."

Lahoud said more than once that the current government is illegitimate and has refused to sign any of the decrees issued by it, and thus has halted the work of the state.

Hoss said Lahoud "would sign the decrees issued by a caretaker government, and this would help facilitate the lives of the citizens."

Speaker Nabih Berri "was more understanding and open to my initiative, but he didn't promise anything, and all he said is to leave things until the holidays are over," said Hoss.

When asked about the possible new initiative which Berri spoke of after meeting Italian Premier Romano Prodi last week, Hoss said that "there is no new initiative."

"I can also say that the opposition side dealt with me and my initiative more positively than the way Siniora did."

Hoss will be leaving for Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to take part in the Hajj. It is unclear whether he will meet with Saudi officials to discuss the situation in Lebanon.

Justice Minister Charles Rizk also met with Berri Tuesday and said after the meeting that the issue of the international tribunal "can either be part of the crisis, and this would be easy to solve or could be the reason behind the crisis, and that is why we should hurry up in solving it. The clauses of the tribunal are not divine and can be amended."

President Emile Lahoud said Tuesday that he welcomes any efforts that aim to bring together the views of the Lebanese.

Speaking after meeting Lahoud at the presidential palace, former Minister Wadih Khazen said Lahoud believes that officials should know better, and that the country cannot be run from the outside.

"It is futile to look for external support because such support remains temporary and related to the changing regional and international interests and relations," Lahoud said, according to Khazen.

Beirut 27-12-2006
Leila Hatoum
The Daily Star

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