Slim rejects extension as he meets al-Rahi over army chief crisis

As cabinet failed to convene to resolve a looming crisis in the army chief command, caretaker Defense Minister Maurice Slim met Friday with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi to discuss the steps that must be taken to avoid vacancy after army chief General Joseph Aoun's planned retirement in January.

Slim, who is loyal to the Free Patriotic Movement, unsurprisingly said after the meeting that extending Aoun's term does not fall under his jurisdiction.

"Extending Aoun's term needs to be discussed and passed in parliament," he said, as he supported the appointment of a new army chief.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri had hoped for the extension to take place in Cabinet, but vowed to discuss Aoun's term extension in parliament if Cabinet fails to take this step before the end of November.

"I have told al-Rahi that appointing an army chief would not infringe on the next president's role," Slim said, adding that the next president can, when appointed, reverse the decision.

Al-Rahi, who supports the extension of Aoun's term, told Slim that he prefers the appointment of a new army chief to take place when a president is elected.

Aoun's retirement would add another gap to crisis-hit Lebanon's withering and paralyzed institutions as the tiny Mediterranean country has been without a president, while its government has been running in a limited caretaker capacity. Lebanon has also been without a top spy chief to head its General Security Directorate since March, and without a central bank governor.

Source: Naharnet

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