BEIRUT: A leaked video in which Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil calls Speaker Nabih Berri a "thug" has fueled tensions between supporters of the Free Patriotic Movement and the Amal Movement, whose members are gearing up for a protest later Monday.
Bassil’s comments were revealed in a leaked video which was broadcast by “Al Jadeed” local TV station on Sunday. The video sparked an outcry on social media late Sunday, with Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, Berri's top political aide, blasting Bassil for crossing a red line and describing him as a "political dwarf" with sectarian motives.
In a meeting with FPM supporters in Batroun district, Bassil accused Berri of seeking to derail a diaspora conference organized by the Foreign Ministry in Abidjan by forcing Shiite businessmen to boycott the gathering.
Bassil, President Michel Aoun's son-in-law, and FPM President, said Berri threatened to have Shiite businessmen participating in the conference fired from their jobs and the bank funding the diaspora gathering closed.
Shortly after the video was leaked, a hashtag describing Bassil as a "thug" became the most trending in Lebanon.
In a longer audio recording of the meeting released Monday, Bassil tells one of his supporters that his party will have the final say in the ongoing dispute with Berri.
The rift between Berri and the FPM has deepened since Aoun, the FPM founder, signed a decree that grants a one-year seniority to army officers who graduated from the military academy in 1994.
The decree ultimately advances the ranks of mostly army officers who served under Aoun when he was army commander in the late 1980's.
Berri argues that the implementation of the decree violated the Taif Accord, arguing that the Constitution requires the finance minister's signature on any decree that entails spending.
Justice Minister Selim Jreissati, a member of Aoun's party, on the other hand, argues that granting seniority to officers doesn't entail spending before officers are promoted in rank, which then results in a pay increase.
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