Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat- Lebanese Chamber of Deputies Speaker Nabih Birri has asserted to Asharq al-Awsat that there is no solution to the existing crisis without at least giving the opposition the “guaranteed third” (a one-third veto power) and disclosed that he had pledged in return not to make early elections a principal demand by the opposition.
Birri underlined his continued efforts to find a way out from the crisis “by relying on God” but urged the majority group to tell him frankly of its rejection of the 19 ministers for the majority and 11 for the opposition formula so that he can stop his efforts once and for all. He refused to confirm he would meet Deputy Saad al-Hariri soon and said: “There are contacts between his group and mine. But there is nothing definite yet on which we can build for the sake of the meeting. I do not want to give people a false dose of optimism because the impact of a meeting and not agreeing is more negative from the impacts of not meeting.”
Birri went on to say he was continuing his efforts to find ways out but refused to set “final timetables for the solution” saying: “I am continuing with my action, relying on God and when I fail I will tell all that by God I have tried.” He asserted that “there are no solutions for the crisis outside the 19 ministers for the majority and 11 for the opposition formula” and said: “If there are reports that the majority rejects this formula, then let them tell me and I will cease any effort because this formula is the least that the opposition might accept.” He added: “I told them that I would prevail on the opposition concerning the demand for early parliamentary elections and said I would leave it to the deputies. This means that I left the decision on it to the majority inside parliament.” He asked: “If they refuse to give the opposition the guaranteed third, then where are the bold decisions they are talking about?”
In reply to a question on whether the return to “streets war” is the alternative to the failure of the dialogue, Birri said: “Fortunately for them, they know that our decision is to avoid the street and that it is forbidden to use weapons inside.” He added: ” There are many escalatory steps and I use the brakes quite a lot, as I did before and will do later. I do not know however for how long I can succeed under the mutual intransigence.”
Birri disclosed that the opposition was thinking seriously of resorting to civil disobedience, saying this step means “we can forget Paris-3 and the others.” He considered the likelihood of the idea’s success with the people great and not just with the supporters of the opposition in view of the financial and economic situation. The idea of the people refraining from paying taxes might not be bad for many who are not supporters of the opposition. When told that the state would collapse, he said: “This is the ruling group’s responsibility.”
The Lebanese speaker underlined the refusal to be dragged into sectarian fighting between the Sunnis and Shiites and the need to act to avoid any of its forms and said that had it not been for him and (Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan) Nasrallah, we would have been in a big sedition that only God knows how it would have ended. He pointed out that the situation in Lebanon differs from the one in Iraq “because there is here much social intercourse and intermarriages between the two communities.”
Birri ridiculed the idea of partitioning Lebanon saying a single incident in the street prevented the people from moving because of the demographic interlinks between the communities so how can the separation be made. He stressed that no one can close the road before the sons of the south and stressed that “the road would be opened in one way or another if it was closed.”
Speaker Birri reproached Prime Minister Fouad al-Siniora and voiced “many observations” about him. He reproached him for causing this problem in the first place because he refused to wait three days to examine the international tribunal plan and insisted on holding a cabinet meeting without allowing the opposition to examine it.
He stressed the possibility of reaching agreement on the international tribunal issue and expressed his surprise at the insistence on passing it in this way as if it is a permanent attempt “to squeeze” the “Amal” movement and “Hezbollah” in a corner. Regarding his observations about the tribunal, he said: “I did not scrutinize it because I felt they were not interested in our opinion.” He added: “I discussed the issue at the United Nations. Even Zimbabwe intervened and demanded changes. But they are refusing to let us express our observations.” He pointed to two principal observations about the tribunal. The first is its ban on the general and private pardon right. He said: ” can understand it when the private pardon is banned for fear of giving the president of the republic who has this right the chance to pardon a person convicted of the crime. But the general pardon is approved by the Chamber of Deputies and this cannot be wrested away from it because it strikes deep at the heart of Lebanon’s sovereignty.” As to the issue of “leader and subordinate”, Birri said the way out is to consider the leader responsible for the subordinate’s crime if it is proved that he knew about his intention to commit the crime because there is then a criminal intent.
The Lebanese speaker underlined the need to have an intention inside the country in order to facilitate the work of Lebanon’s friends abroad. He said: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is making mighty efforts and its ambassador in Beirut is working for a solution with a sincerity the likes of which I have never seen. He and I daily “invent” a new exit from the crisis. But any initiative should be based on an intention for a solution by the parties inside.” He described the Palestinian-Palestinian Mecca agreement “a great work and a big achievement for Saudi Arabia.”