The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri visited this afternoon Former Minister, Major General Ashraf Rifi, in Tripoli.
At the beginning of the meeting, Rifi said: Welcome to Tripoli and to your home, the brothers remain brothers and blood is thicker than water. We are beside you. The challenges at this stage are great, both at the regional and local levels, and you are not envied for the situation you are in. Locally, there is a statelet trying to control the state. There are also repercussions for corruption, out passing law and trying to turn the state into a failed one.
There is no doubt that you bear a lot, but be sure that there are men in every sense of the word standing by you to pass this stage, and hopefully we will overcome it together. The presence of the statelet is like cancer, which is the main disease that produces side effects if it is not treated, such as the corruption we see in the country.
He added: You are very keen on preparing the budget, reducing the deficit and passing the electricity project. On the other hand, all of us know that one political team has put its hand on the Energy Ministry for ten years, and in fact gave us nothing but words, while your presence gives us hope that things will be normal despite all the difficulties. I assure you that we are by your side and this northern region, which is the main line of defense of the sovereignty of the country, tells you that it is by your side and that it will make great sacrifices to help the country cross from the statelet to the state. We do not recognize any illegitimate weapon. We recognize the weapons of the Lebanese state, the Lebanese army, the internal security forces and the official armed forces. We live a very unusual situation, and rare are the countries that have a statelet that is sometimes stronger than the state.
We must continue working with you to eliminate the existence of the statelet and rise as one state. Our coexistence is sacred. We must gather around our political authority, our religious authority, and our national references, to establish the state.
For his part, Hariri said: Ashraf has always been frank. As Ashraf said blood is thicker than water. We walked a long path together, we may have differed at some point, but eventually we returned to our roots and to our cause. We want the country to rise.
My presence today is on the occasion of the elections in which Dima Jamali is participating, but development in Tripoli and in all the Lebanese regions must take place. The advantage of what happened during CEDRE is that for the first time there is a balanced development that includes all the Lebanese regions. Some came to tell us that there is no share for Tripoli and the North in the CEDRE projects, but there is actually a share of these projects for all the Lebanese regions. Tripoli's share exceeds 20% of the total CEDRE, in addition to the national projects that benefit every Lebanese, whether in the north, the south, the Bekaa, Beirut or Kesrouan.
If we set up an electricity plant in any region, for example, in Salaata, Zahrani or Jiyeh, all the Lebanese would benefit from it in all regions. We have a project to end the economic crisis that is ravaging the country, but that does not mean that we are in a worrying situation.
What is reassuring is that all the political forces today agree on the need to carry out reforms and fight corruption, and more importantly, to stop the squander that should not be present in the new budget.
There are still some problems here and there, but we ended the divisions that have been taking place, and we are moving forward to improve the economy.
He added: A lot has been said about the general amnesty, and to emphasize this issue, I insisted to include it in the ministerial statement so that no one questions the matter. We obtained parliament's confidence on the basis of this statement. The amnesty will happen. Some people speak without knowing the truth about who these Islamist detainees are, knowing that they have been unjustly imprisoned for five or ten years without being interrogated or tried. We will work on the amnesty and all political forces are convinced that injustice has been inflicted on them.
We will focus our work on all of Lebanon, especially Tripoli and the North, as well as Baalbek, Hermel and the Bekaa. These are forgotten areas but we assure you that all the CEDRE projects and all that we work for day and night in this government, aim to have projects in all Lebanese regions, especially the north. Today there are the projects of the economic zone, the port of Tripoli, the International Fair, Rene Moawad airport, roads, electricity and water.
We approved the electricity plan and now we are working on approving the budget, and then we will approve all the CEDRE projects so we can get funding from the Council of ministers and Parliament. These projects are known and studied and we only have to implement the reforms.
Hariri added that reform is necessary, and reminded that when Paris II Conference was convened and collected a lot of funds, Rafic Hariri was prevented from carrying out the necessary reforms, adding: We reached where we are today because we did not make the necessary reforms, nor develop our political system or update the laws dating back to the 1950s and 1960s. Today there is a technology that did not exist 20 years ago. We have to provide electricity, roads, technological platforms and laws that facilitate work. I assure you that the young men and women of Tripoli will raise the city much better than the state.
He concluded: We will continue this path together and our project is clear. We want the state and all of us to be under the banner of this State, in which Martyr Prime Minister Rafic Hariri believed in and for which he was killed. He developed the country when some wanted to take it backward, but we are determined to move forward. We will not forget and we will not forgive, but at the same time, there is the interest of the Lebanese citizen for whom we must work. In the end, I, as the head of the government, am an employee of the Lebanese citizen who pays me my salary. We all have to realize who we are. Those who come to power must serve the people.
Earlier, Hariri had visited Rifi's mother and checked on her health.
Before that, he performed the Friday prayer at the Salam Mosque in Tripoli, with Rifi and a number of MPs and citizens. This mosque had been severely damaged in a terrorist attack in August 2013 that also targeted al-Taqka mosque and killed dozens.
Source: National News Agency