Cabinet OKs New Appointments as Christian Participation during Vacuum Remains Uncertain

The cabinet appointed on Thursday new employees in public administration in a cabinet session haunted by uncertainty over Christian ministers' possible boycotting of ministerial meetings following the expected vacuum in the presidency.

Prime Minister Tammam Salam's government appointed on Thursday afternoon Suzanne al-Khoury Yohanna as director general of civil status at the interior ministry, several media outlets reported.

Also, Judge Omar Hamzeh was appointed as director general of municipalities and Hoda Salloum as director general of the traffic and vehicles department.

And a new board of directors was appointed for the Rafik Hariri University Hospital.

The ministers also agreed on allocating millions of dollars to execute new roads in different regions in the country.

“The cabinet has earmarked $18 million for executing the Tannourine al-Tahta-Tannourine road project and $6 million for the Ehmej-Laqlouq road project,” Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil revealed in a tweet during the session.

Meanwhile, LBCI television reported that the government earmarked $8 million for executing the Daraoun-Harissa-Ashqout road project, and $27 million for the Mayrouba-Nahr al-Bared- al-Termos road.

Another $46 million were earmarked to execute the Mar Shaaya- al-Atshana road, and to link Baabdat-Beshlama road to Zahle, that in addition to executing the Jal El Dib bridge in al-Metn.

In a separate matter, the ministers approved Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq's suggestion to issue new biometric passports.

Accordingly, old passports will become invalid as of 2015.

But LBCI said that the use of new passports will not necessarily kick off in 2015, as several countries have not yet adopted this biometric system.

Salam hoped at the beginning of the session that all political forces would join efforts to elect a new president and not to allow the vacancy period to protract, three days before President Michel Suleiman's term in office comes to an end.

Suleiman's tenure ends on May 25, but MPs failed on Thursday morning for the fifth time in electing a new head of state over differences between the March 8 and March 14 coalitions.

Several reports have said that Christian lawmakers and ministers are considering boycotting parliamentary and ministerial sessions following the expected vacuum in the top Christian post in the Republic.

Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon announced before the session that the Christian independent figures of the March 14 coalition will decide on Friday on whether to take part in the cabinet and the parliament's sessions amid the presidential vacuum.

Meanwhile, FM Bassil, who is also a Free Patriotic Movement official, declined to comment on this issue.

“There is no need to fear for the security situation in the event of vacuum and Christians are rational and won't paralyze the cabinet,” Mashnouq commented on the controversy.



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