Lebanese Cabinet meets Wednesday to discuss appointments

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The Cabinet will convene under President Michel Sleiman Wednesday at Baabda Palace with 96 items on the agenda, including appointments, and no plans to tackle the heated debate over the pay raise for public sector employees.

It is also expected that Sleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati will highlight the need for parties to attend the National Dialogue session scheduled for Thursday at Baabda Palace, particularly after the harmony between politicians portrayed during the ceremony elevating Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai to the position of cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI. The ceremony, held Saturday at the Vatican, was attended by Sleiman and members of all the political parties.

Two appointments will be discussed by the Cabinet.

Engineer Thanaa Sayrawan, a Sunni, will be moved from the Environment Ministry and appointed as director-general of the technical affairs department in the prime minister’s office and will also be promoted from grade two to grade one employment status.

This post has traditionally been reserved for the Christian sect and was previously occupied by Claude Masaad.

There is also a draft decree on the agenda to appoint Lahoud Lahoud, who hails from Amchit and is close to Sleiman, to the post of director-general of the protocol and public relations department at Mikati’s office.

The 37-year-old is currently a contract worker in the protocols department at the Presidential Palace and it is still unclear whether someone will replaced at the palace or if he will continue to hold both posts.

Apparently the appointment is to ensure Lahoud becomes a full-time rather than contract employee and will now have a contract renewable based on the wishes of the next president.

Lahoud’s resume says he has completed several training programs, including preparation for Suleiman’s most recent visit to Paris.

Since appointments at the Presidential Palace and the prime minister’s office take place under an independent mechanism that does not require the agreement of all parties, the good ties between Sleiman and Mikati have facilitated the two appointments.

The Cabinet will not tackle the wage hike for the public sector despite the two-day strike that teachers and public sector employees will stage starting Tuesday.

Ministry sources said referring the salary hike to Parliament is becoming more complicated by the day, given the economic and financial repercussions of such a move.

The Cabinet is also set to discuss legislation to amend the income tax law as well as a demand by the Public Works and Transport Ministry to study the costs of operating the Rene Mouawwad Airport in Qulaiat.

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