BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam has criticized Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun after he threatened to “take action” after the Cabinet passed a decree Thursday despite opposition from six ministers.

“No one can impose his position or his opinion on others,” Salam said in remarks published Friday in local newspaper Al-Liwaa.

He said a majority vote cannot be annulled.

Eighteen ministers out of the 24-member Cabinet voted in favor of allocating $21 million to help export agricultural and industrial products by sea. Lebanon’s agricultural and industrial sectors have been thrown into a crisis after Jordan’s Nasib border crossing withSyria was closed, making it impossible for Lebanese products to be transported to the Gulf by land.

Ministers from Hezbollah, the FPM, and Tashnag voted against the proposal.

The move has provoked Aoun, who said sidelining the opinion of his party would lead him to taking escalatory measures.

Salam said the decision to support agricultural exports is “national and vital.”

He said the decision “concerns all citizens of all areas and all sects, and is a necessity to maintain Lebanese products in Arab countries.”

“I’m exercising my constitutional powers, and I’m not challenging anyone … and I won’t allow anyone to challenge me or challenge the Cabinet.”

Furthermore, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun expressed frustration over the political wrangling in Lebanon, saying the country was being run by a “mafia.”

“I am fed up,” Aoun said in an interview with As-Safir newspaper published Friday, a day after he threatened to take “explosive” measures against the Cabinet for passing a “non-consensual” agenda item.

He said he was being targeted, and vowed to “engage in a confrontation with the Cabinet.”

“I am fighting to enforce reforms and (Christian) rights, that’s why they are all against me,” the FPM chief said.

“[Thursday’s] Cabinet session was a real test to the relation with the other factions,” he said, rejecting the “mounting violations” in the absence of the head of state.

However, Aoun said that his party ministers “will not resign from the government,” but they will not stand still either and simply do nothing.

He said his call for the election of a new head of state in two rounds is “the best democratic practice in the world.”

“According to the National Pact, sects are entitled to name the candidates for state posts,” he said.

Aoun had proposed in May four options to solve the presidential crisis, one of them being the election of a president directly by the people in two rounds of voting, first by Christians, and then by all Lebanese citizens.

“The Sunnis get to name the premier… the Shiites name the speaker… why doesn’t this rule apply to the Maronite president?” Aoun wondered.

Aoun expressed pessimism over the political deadlock in the country, noting that the “horizon is locked… They refuse to hear our complaints as if they want us to pack our bags and leave.”

More divisions emerged when the Cabinet convened its first session in a month Thursday.

The session was marred by heated arguments as ministers from the FPM, Hezbollah and the Tashnag Party argued that no agenda items should be discussed until security appointments were made. Other ministers maintained that no one had the right to dictate the session’s agenda.

Aoun denied that he had a personal dispute with Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwaji, “but i have objections on his performance since the Kweikhat incident.”

“Mistakes reoccurred, in particular in (the northeastern border town of) Arsal… We could’ve averted the situation.”

Sheikh Ahmad Abdel-Wahed, a Muslim preacher, and his companion Hussein al-Mereb were shot dead at a Lebanese Army checkpoint in the village of Kweikhat in Akkar three years ago.

Since the Kweikhat incident, the Army has been accused by some MPs and politicians of targeting Sunnis.

Source: The Daily Star