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Lebanese Govt to kick-start implementation of trash plan Friday

The Daily Star — BEIRUT: The government will begin collecting garbage from Beirut and Mount Lebanon streets Friday and will open three landfills on the outskirts of the capital, ending a nearly 8-month crisis that gripped the country.

“The implementation of the deal to remove garbage from the streets should begin by tomorrow,” Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk told reporters after a Cabinet meet at the Grand Serail.

This meeting is the first to convene since ministers announced a breakthrough deal last weekend to resolve the crisis.

Ahead of the session, Prime Minister Tammam Salam held a separate meeting to discuss the details of opening a landfill in Beirut’s eastern municipality of Burj Hammoud. He met with Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb and Tashnag Party leader MP Hagop Pakradounian.

“We have reached a comfortable stage concerning the trash and I will carry out further contacts” to thoroughly discuss the matter, Chahayeb said after the session.

The Cabinet had agreed Saturday to set up temporary landfills east of Beirut in Burj Hammoud, and south of Beirut in the coastal area of Costa Brava. They had also agreed to reopen the infamous Naameh landfill for two months.

This deal, which was met with opposition from activists, some officials and local residents, is the government’s latest effort to end the worst trash crisis in the country’s history.

The already divided Cabinet also witnessed a heated debate over a deal regarding the “marginalization” of the general-directorate of state security.

Several Kataeb Party and Future Movement ministers threatened ahead of the meeting to walk out of the Cabinet session if a deal was not reached.

“There was a heated discussion over the state security issue which almost toppled the session,” said Tourism Minister Michel Pharoan, who was among the ministers threatening to storm out of the session.

The ministers objected to what they called the marginalization of director-general Maj. Gen. George Qaraa, who was not invited to security meetings. They also protested the Cabinet’s failure to approve a two-year old bill to create a six-member leadership under Qaraa’s authority, despite promises to tackle the issue two weeks ago.

“Tensions concerning political issues were prevalent during the session, and the Cabinet was on the brink of collapse,” Education Minister Elias Bou Saab told reporters at the end of session.

Information Minister Ramzi Joreige tried to downplay comments made by Bou Saab in an official briefing to reporters.

“He [Education Minister Elias Bou Saab] is moving toward an abyss, and not the Cabinet,” Joreige said.

Media reports said that Salam, who chaired the session at the Grand Serail, agreed to discuss the state security issue in the next Cabinet meet.

Voice of Lebanon (93.3) radio reported that Economy Minister Alain Hakim threatened to leave the meeting, but Salam attempted to calm the situation.

“We will not remain silent … all Christians reject this,” Hakim said ahead of the meeting.

Patriarch Gregory III of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church reportedly contacted Salam a day earlier to discuss the sidelining of Qaraa, who is himself a Catholic.

A session was not scheduled for next week due to the Easter holiday.

Source: The Daily Star

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