Friday, March 23, 2007

Fouad Siniora

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said on Thursday that his country was passing through a "dangerous time," for which he blamed the opposition. In a televised address on Thursday from the Grand Serail, Siniora spoke at length about his proposed reform plans for the public sector, but devoted only a few words to the ongoing political crisis and mounting tensions in Beirut that he has repeatedly blamed on his political rivals.

"The main reason behind the added tension is the breaching of the Constitution and violation of democratic institutions," the premier said.

"And now we need extra efforts to get through this crisis," he added.

Siniora said that the "only way out" of the nearly four-month-old deadlock in Lebanon was multi-party dialogue.

"While we support dialogue without any preliminary conditions, it must not lead to the hampering of the Constitution," the premier said.

"We are going back to zero by using practices from the periods of [Syrian] tutelage and the fad of an infinite protest in Downtown Beirut," he said.

Siniora criticized the opposition for its reaction to a gathering of 45 MPs from the March 14 Forces at Parliament on Tuesday. The lawmakers had  called on Speaker Nabih Berri to convene the spring session.

"The anti-government sit-in in Downtown was welcomed as an expression of their opinions, even though it is a step outside the Constitution and is hurting the economy … but a protest by a few MPs in Parliament was greeted as a great provocation and a breach of acceptable behavior," Siniora said.

The prime minister reiterated his allegation that the opposition was attempting to carry out a "coup" against the democratically elected government.

"We will not accept anything that would affect our democracy," Siniora said. "Everyone acknowledges the transparency of this Cabinet and its respect for the law."

He also accused "some parties" of hiding behind the cover of democracy, adding that "when it is not convenient anymore, they turn their back against it and reject dialogue."

"Whatever the obstacles, we must not lose faith in ourselves and this country," Siniora said.