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Lebanese ministers during a Cabinet meeting at the presidential palace, in Baabda, Lebanon (AP Photo)
BEIRUT: A Cabinet session on Thursday was mired with controversy, as tensions reached a boiling point with Agriculture Minister Ghazi Zeaiter storming out of the meeting, prompting Prime Minister Saad Hariri to briefly suspend the session.
Political bickering was on display before the session even kicked off, with Zeaiter, a member of Speaker Nabih Berri's Amal Movement member, threatening “to leave the session if certain agricultural issues weren’t discussed.”
"I have obligations toward the Lebanese farmers, and I have submitted items to be added to the agenda back in May which have yet to approved,” he said.
Zeaiter made good on his threat, storming out of the meeting as Hariri maintained that it is his prerogative, as head of the Cabinet, to set the agenda.
The scuffle led Hariri to walk out of the session as well, before making his way back shortly afterward to chair the meeting.
The political infighting signals the continuing strain on Hariri and Berri’s relationship, which has deteriorated as a result of a controversial decree that advances the ranks of Army officers that served under President Michel Aoun in the late 1980’s.
Hariri rushed to co-sign the decree alongside Aoun, angering Berri who has vehemently contested its Constitutionality as it lacks the signature of Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, a member of Berri's political party.
After resuming the session, the Cabinet approved plans to expand the Costa Brava landfill, which will now be receiving additional waste from the Chouf and Aley districts, yet adjourned talks over the landfill in Bourj Hammoud.
On December 26, 2017, the Cabinet tasked a ministerial committee with putting forth a comprehensive waste management plan to look into the Costa Brava and Tripoli landfills, as the country continues to battle the repercussions of the waste crisis of 2015.
Before the session got underway, Hariri highlighted the three main issues currently hampering the country, namely, “the upcoming parliamentary elections, waste, and electricity,” vowing that “under no circumstances will we let trash riddle the streets of Beirut and its suburbs again.”