Aoun to Meet Nasrallah as Extension Put on Front Burner

A meeting is expected to be held soon between Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun and Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Monday.

The two allies are expected to focus in their talks on the controversial extension of top security officers' terms, which is completely rejected by the FPM.

Sources close to the Christian party said that the Aoun's Change and Reform bloc ministers will “escalate their stances over the matter.”

“We are serious.”

“All options are on the table regarding the matter, whether we boycott the cabinet or resign from it,” the sources told the newspaper.

They pointed out that the bloc is mulling all options and their repercussions as “the party will not make a foolish decision after it was a key supporter of the formation of the cabinet.”

“We have discussed with our allies our position and we still haven't received any signals that oppose our stance as no one demanded us to cool our endeavors... we only heard positive encouragement.”

In February, Aoun had withdrawn confidence from Defense Minister Samir Moqbel over the extension of the term of the head of the Higher Defense Council, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Khair.

The FPM described Moqbel's extension decision as “illegal,” arguing that the defense minister's jurisdiction state that he can extend the terms under the authority of a president.

Media reports had said that Aoun's main objective is to receive political consensus on the appointment of his son-in-law Commando Regiment chief Brig. Gen. Chamel Roukoz as army chief as part of a package for the appointment of other top security officers.

Roukoz's tenure ends in October while the term of army commander Gen. Jean Qahwaji expires at the end of September.

Despite the reports about his insistence to have his son-in-law as army chief, Aoun denied that he had made such a proposal.

The military posts in Lebanon are suffering as the result of the months-long presidential vacuum in light of the parliament's failure to elect a successor for Michel Suleiman whose tenure ended in May. The vacuum also threatens the Internal Security Forces as chief Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous is set to retire in June.

The tenure of Qahwaji was extended in 2013. It is set to end in September later this year.



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