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Controversy in Lebanon Over Libya’s Invitation to Economic Summit

Controversy in Lebanon Over Libya’s Invitation to Economic Summit

Saturday, 12 January, 2019 - 08:00
Nabih Berri, speaks after he was re-elected Lebanon's parliamentary speaker, in Beirut, Lebanon May 23, 2018. Lebanese Parliament/Handout via REUTERS
Beirut - Caroline Akoum
The date for the Arab Economic Summit that is scheduled to be held in Beirut on Jan. 19-20 has not changed despite a dispute sparked by Speaker Nabih Berri following his objection to invite Libya after his earlier call to postpone the event over Syria’s non-representation.

On Friday, the Organizing Committee of the Arab Summit for Economic and Social Development issued a statement saying Berri has informed members of the Supreme Committee that he agreed on inviting Libya, provided that the invitation be addressed through diplomatic channels.

“This was done by Libya's delegate to the League of Arab States,” the statement said.

The committee members also explained to Berri that Syria’s invitation is not a Lebanese decision, adding that it was up to the Arab League to approve the mater.

However, Berri’s media office countered claims that he had been notified of the status of the two countries’ attendance.

It stressed in a statement that “the information is made up and absolutely not true.”

In fact, the statement claimed, Berri’s top aide, caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, had visited President Michel Aoun on the Speaker’s request to protest inviting Libya to the Summit.

“The office expresses its surprise that the level of fabrications reaches this level,” the statement added.

Berri is opposed to Lebanon having ties with Libya because of the 1978 disappearance of the movement’s founder, Imam Musa Sadr, and two of his companions during an official visit to the country.

Sources close to Aoun told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Summit would be held on time. “We were not informed about any decision to postpone it,” the sources said.

Meanwhile, the Higher Islamic Shiite Council held an emergency meeting and called on the concerned Lebanese authorities not to invite the Libyan delegation to the Summit.

The Council warned against "ignoring the popular reactions that may result from insisting on inviting the Libyan delegation," stressing that "meetings will be kept open so as to follow-up on the developments and take the appropriate measures."

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