Berri Defiant on Officers Decree, Says Stance 'Not against Christians'


Speaker Nabih Berri is “still clinging to his constitutional and legal viewpoint regarding the officers decree and whoever tries to depict the issue as being targeted against Christians would be mistaken,” MP Ali Bazzi of Berri's Development and Liberation bloc said.

“Speaker Berri does not approach things in this manner and maybe if his opinion had been taken into consideration there would have been more than one solution,” Bazzi told reporters after the Speaker's weekly meeting with lawmakers in Ain el-Tineh.

“There is no political clash, but perhaps there are parties who are offering advices in contravention of the Constitution and the law,” Bazzi added.

Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, who is also Berri's political aide, meanwhile said that had he received the decree to sign it, “there would not have been a constitutional problem.”

Berri and Khalil have insisted that the decree, which grants one-year seniority to a number of officers, should have carried the finance minister's signature along with the signatures of the president and the premier.

“Anything based on something illegal would be illegal,” Khalil added, noting that similar decrees related to the Internal Security Forces had been referred to the finance minister and that “the Finance Ministry's role is not restricted to expenditure but also to the impact of expenditure.”

As for Berri's statement that “only the weak would resort to the judiciary,” the minister clarified that “Speaker Berri meant that those whose constitutional argument is weak would resort to the judiciary.”

President Michel Aoun had noted Monday that the decree, which has sparked a row between him and Berri, is “lawful,” asking those who have reservations to “go to the judiciary.”

Ain el-Tineh sources have meanwhile warned that the decree would tip sectarian balance in favor of Christians in the army's highest echelons.

The officers in question were undergoing their first year of officer training at the Military Academy when Syrian forces ousted Aoun’s military government from Baabda in 1990. They were suspended by the pro-Damascus authorities until 1993 before they resumed their officer training course as second-year cadets.

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