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French Version


Chambers of Commerce set for shake up

Hariri-backed list likely to sweep forthcoming union elections

A list of candidates backed by Beirut MP Saad Hariri is set to sweep elections for the Union of Lebanese Chambers of Commerce, which opens today.

Former Economy Minister Adnan Qassar announced recently that he would step down from the post after 33 years as president. The 8,000 member Chambers of Commerce in Lebanon represents all major industries and businesses in Lebanon and often helps draft the country's economic policies.

From a total of 57 candidates, the Hariri-backed "Reconciliation and Economic Development" list will likely take over the majority if not all of the 16 seats on the board of directors, as no other list has countered it. The rest of the candidates are running independently.

Qassar said he is not supporting any list, because as president of the Chambers of Commerce he is not allowed to take sides. He added: "I prefer to see a fair competition among the rival lists."

A prominent businessman who spoke on condition of anonymity said another list will be formed soon for the second round of elections, which will be held next month, but declined to give further details.

Qassar said he was not pressured to step down, although there is speculation that as a former minister under ex-PM Omar Karami he was out of favor with the new government.

Qassar is considered to have good relations with Syria, which has recently caused massive economic damage to Lebanon by drastically restricting truck traffic across its western border.

Some businessmen have criticized Qassar's resignation, saying the position requires someone with close contacts to Damascus to fix the border crisis.

As exporters have tried to find alternative transport routes, the government has not initiated any substantial diplomatic moves toward Syrian officials except for phone calls made by former PM Najib Mikati.

Current Premier Fouad Siniora has promised that he will head to Syrian as soon as the Lebanese Parliament's vote of confidence allows him to officially represent the country.

Qassar told The Daily Star that he will continue his work to resolve the crisis with the Syrians until his terms ends on September 6.

Beirut 01-08-2005
Bechir Saade
The Daily Star



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