Naharnet

Khalil Says No Need for Foreign Intervention in Battle against ISIL, Terrorism

Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil stressed on Sunday that Lebanon's battle against terrorism and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant doesn't require any foreign intervention, saying that the Change and Reform bloc's proposal for a constitutional amendment requires local accord.

“Lebanon can always count on its local forces, which are united,” Khalil said in an interview with the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat.

He pointed out that the battle between the Lebanese army and jihadists in the northeastern border town of Arsal, which erupted on August 2, united the Lebanese in solidarity with the army against terrorism.

“The gunbattles created awareness among the Lebanese, who now realize that the challenge is real in order to maintain the stability of the country.”

The minister rejected direct negotiations with “terrorists” to free the security personnel who were taken hostage.

The unrest ended with a ceasefire on August 7 and the withdrawal of the gunmen, who kidnapped the soldiers and security forces.

Eight of the captives have so far been released.

Media reports suggested that the captors are seeking to exchange their captives for Islamist inmates held at Roumieh Prison.

Khalil, who is Speaker Nabih Berri's aide, expressed belief the regional and international decision to distance Lebanon from the developments in the area remains “in an indirect way.”

However, the minister warned that the Lebanese accord reached after the battle of Arsal would deteriorate if the presidency post remains vacant.

“The presidential elections should remain a priority,” the AMAL movement official told al-Hayat, warning that the ongoing vacuum could paralyze the state institutions.

Lebanon's top Christian post was left vacant in May this year when the rival MPs failed to elect a successor to President Michel Suleiman over their differences on a compromise candidate.

The majority of the March 8 alliance's MPs, including the Change and Reform bloc, boycotted the sessions aimed at electing a head of state, causing lack of quorum.

Khalil said that the country's political impasse should be “wisely” confronted.

He remarked that Speaker Berri's stance regarding the parliamentary polls is “preliminary,” saying: “We will vote against the extension of the legislature term.”

“No one will benefit from extending the term of the parliament as long as lawmakers can't endorse laws,” Khalil stressed.

He said that if the political arch-foes failed to agree on a new electoral law, then the elections should be staged based on the the 1960 electoral law, winners-take-all system.

The vacancy in the country's top Christian post and the looming parliamentary elections raised fears of more vacuum in top institutions.

Some parliamentary blocs are calling for another extension of the legislature's term, while others, including Berri, are rejecting such a move.

Concerning the Change and Reform bloc's proposal to amend the constitution in order to enable the people to elect the president, Khalil said: “This matter requires a thorough constitutional study.”

“Discussing constitutional amendments require a more consensual atmosphere in the country, which is not available right now.”

The Change and Reform bloc proposed that in the first round of the direct elections, only Christians would vote for the candidates.

In the second round, the polls would be held at the level of the entire nation to pave way for both Muslims and Christians to choose the two candidates who received the majority of votes in the first round.

The suggestion has been totally rejected by Change and Reform bloc MP Michel Aoun's rivals in the March 14 alliance.


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