Rifi: We Won’t Allow Mobile Network to Be Transferred to Private Sector Except with Cabinet’s Approval

Internal Security Forces chief Ashraf Rifi stated on Friday that he won’t allow the mobile phone network in Lebanon to be transferred to the private sector except with the government’s approval.

He told LBC television: “The Security forces would be geld responsible if these stations are destroyed or stolen.”

He also questioned caretaker Telecommunications Minister Charbel Nahhas’ refusal to provide the ISF with phone data necessary for its investigations, saying that it’s unfortunate that the ISF’s duties may sometimes “require confrontation with others.”

Rifi said that he respects Caretaker Interior Minister Ziad Baroud but he was compelled not to abide by his orders out of his keenness to ensure the protection of the people and state institutions.

Rifi told al-Liwaa daily in remarks published Friday that he respects Baroud despite his decision to give up his ministerial responsibilities after being unable to enforce the law.

“At times, we find ourselves compelled to take major decisions for being responsible for the protection of the people and institutions,” Rifi said about his rejection to abide by Baroud’s orders to pull his forces out of a building affiliated with the Telecommunications Ministry in Beirut’s al-Adlieh area.

On Thursday, the security forces prevented Nahhas, accompanied by a number of technicians, from accessing the facility to dismantle equipment of a third telecom network.

Rifi reiterated that the ISF’s decision to guard the Chinese-donated equipment was based upon the request of OGERO, the state-owned telecommunications company with autonomous status.

“In accordance with the ISF law, I am required to provide the support to any demand by an authority. So I am responsible for the protection of the equipment,” he told al-Liwaa.

The ISF chief also accused Nahhas of concealing telecommunications data from the ISF’s Information Branch, obstructing investigation into the case of seven Estonian tourists who were kidnapped in the Bekaa valley in March.

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