Minister of Transportation and Public Works, Ghazi al-Aridi, of the National Struggle Front stated that the bloc is counting on various political contacts in order to resolve the dispute over government spending ahead of Monday’s parliament session, reported the daily An Nahar on Sunday.
He told the daily however: “We will not attend the session if a settlement is not reached.”
He added: “This does not mean that the bloc has joined the March 14 camp’s ranks.”
Speaker Nabih Berri had postponed a parliament session on February 23 after several opposition MPs walked out of the session over a dispute over government spending.
They were protesting the proposal of a bill that would legalize the $5.9 billion spending made by Premier Najib Miqati’s cabinet in 2011.
The lawmakers are conditioning the approval of the bill to a comprehensive settlement to the current spending and the $11 billion spent by the previous governments of ex-PMs Fouad Saniora and Saad Hariri between 2006 and 2009.
Lebanon has been without a state budget since 2005.
Aridi revealed that he had informed Hizbullah of the National Struggle Front’s position.
Furthermore, he said that ministers Wael Abou Faour and Alaeddine Terro’s recent contacts with Berri and Miqati were aimed at clarifying that “we have nothing to do with the division between the March 8 and 14 camps.”
“The government spending in 2011 is no different than the spending under previous governments, which was also illegal, but a blind eye was turned to it in order to facilitate state functioning,” he noted.
He praised the speaker’s role in resolving the current dispute, saying that had exerted “exceptional efforts” to this end, calling on the March 14 camp to positively approach these efforts.
Contacts to end the dispute intensified on Saturday in order to avert an escalation of the crisis at parliament.
President Michel Suleiman had held talks with Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil and later Abou Faour in order to find a means to end the dispute.
An Nahar also revealed that Change and Reform bloc MP Ibrahim Kanaan had held talks with Berri on the deadlock.
Meanwhile, sources from the bloc told the daily that it had informed concerned officials that the majority has to prove during Monday’s session that it truly represents the majority of the people.
It is facing a test where it will either reject the current spending or become part of the flawed system that has marred previous governments, they said.
The March 8 forces, mainly the Change and Reform bloc of MP Michel Aoun, are demanding records on how the $11 billion was spent.
However, Saniora, who heads al-Mustaqbal bloc, stresses the spending was made to cover the expenses of increase in wages of civil servants, subsidize electricite du Liban and pay the interest on the national debt and compensations to the victims of the Israeli aggression on Lebanon in 2006.
He said that the total of additional spending between 2006 and 2009 amounted to $11 billion. While the 2010 spending totaled $5 billion, and the amount spent in 2011 totaled $6 billion.
Saniora’s effort to sum them up is aimed at pushing parliament at finding a comprehensive solution to the extra-budgetary spending.
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