|March 14 MPs gather at Parliament again to demand session
|Dozens of March 14 Forces MPs gathered at Parliament for the second straight week on Tuesday to call for the convening of the legislature. Druze leader MP Walid Jumblatt lashed out at Hizbullah, saying the party was attempting to transform Lebanon into a "Hizbullah state," while opposition MPs defended Speaker Nabih Berri's refusal to convene Parliament.
Similar to a protest last week, legislators from rival camps took turns speaking to reporters from behind a podium placed outside the empty chamber inside the Parliament Building at Nijmeh Square.
"We will continue to gather at Parliament so that political forces that don't believe in Lebanon will not control us," Jumblatt told the media as he looked straight at a crowd of opposition MPs who had gathered to rebut him and his allies.
"The conflict is the de facto government, the government of Hizbullah, which does not recognize Lebanon," Jumblatt said.
"We will not accept any other government besides the government of Taif," he added, in reference to the accord struck in Saudi Arabia that ended 15 years of Civil War in Lebanon.
Jumblatt said that he had "in-formation" that there "are people training and distributing weapons" in the mountains and other locations.
"Only the Lebanese government has the right to hold any arms and weapons," he added. "We will not allow Lebanon to become a battle field for settling scores."
The March 14 legislators vowed to continue their gatherings at Parliament to urge Berri to convene a session.
The Constitution stipulates that Parliament convene twice a year for two ordinary sessions. The first is to begin in mid-March and continue until the end of May, while the second should run from the middle of October until the end of December. The schedule has not always been followed.
Hizbullah MP Ali Ammar responded to Jumblatt by saying that "the de facto government is your government."
Ammar vowed that Hizbullah would not be disarmed, as called for in repeated UN Security Council resolutions, "as the resistance's arms are a symbol of the country and its pride."
Pro-government Deputy Speaker Farid Makari complained that Parliament was "crippled" while "hundreds of bills" await approval, urging Berri to call a session "immediately."
"While it is true that is not mandatory to convene ordinary sessions now, given the current political situation, it is vital that the sessions start," he said.
In response, Amal MP Ali Hassan Khalil ridiculed Makari by urging him to "read the internal regulations of Parliament and learn about the responsibilities of the deputy speaker before making public statements."
Khalil also responded to Jumblatt, saying: "We were the first to commit and protect Taif."
"Those refusing to compromise and travel with us to Saudi Arabia to sign an agreement are the ones who are working against Taif," he added.
Khalil told The Daily Star that, in addition to "provocative statements," he expected members of the ruling coalition to "put on a grand theatrical performance" for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon when he arrives in Lebanon on March 30.
Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan called on "our Shiite brethren" to join hands in building Lebanon and urged "mutual recognition" between both sides of the political divide.
"We call upon the speaker to take into consideration our views as MPs and convene a session, regardless of whether the government is viewed as constitutional or not," Adwan said.
Social Affairs Minister Nayla Mouawad called on Berri to convene Parliament "for the sake of Lebanon."
"There are many critical projects that Parliament needs to oversee," she said, "especially those that are related to reforms and the Paris III conference."
The Daily Star