PRESIDENTIAL PROGRAM (UPDATED VERSION 28-08-07)
 
  I. The Message
  II. Introduction: Current Situation- Blunders  
 
  A. The dominance of the authoritarian regime and the clientelism mindset has led to the following
  B. A widespread lack of accountability and answerability has led to the following
  C. The loss of balance between the executive and legislative powers has led to the following
  D. The obstruction of the judicial power in effecting justice and the loss of confidence in it due to political interventions has led to the following
  E. The lack of a clear economic and financial vision according to a comprehensive program has led to the following
  F. Not granting the education sector the important role it deserves at both national and academic levels has lead to the following
  G. The absence of a serious national dialogue among the Lebanese has led to the following
 
  III. The Program  
 
  First Part: The strategic roadmap for a holistic solution includes four main pillars:
 
  A. Political and administrative reform based on the following
  B. Guaranteeing the independence of the judicial power through the following
  Second Part: The stimulation of the role of education and youth includes seven essential points
  Third Part: The economy and the framework for reform include eleven essential dimensions
  Fourth Part: The elaboration of a consistent and forward looking foreign policy revolves around four main topics
 
     
     
     
     
     
I. The Message
To raise the standard of politics, one has to raise the human spirit
Michel Chiha

Because Lebanon deserves our care and attention
Because I am proud to belong to this nation, to its precious soil and glorious historic heritage
Because I want to dispel hopelessness and frustration, prevent failure, and because I am conscious of my responsibilities, I seek to break through the suffering and reach out, the potential force of the Lebanese people. The Lebanese people that are once again seeking to prove to themselves and to the world that Lebanon is a nation capable of flourishing, prospering and renewing itself to become an active member of the human civilization.
Because citizenship is a duty as much as it is a right, it involves making serious efforts and being generous. As both a political regime and political entity, Lebanon has proven its ability to persevere and it will continue to do so thanks to the will of its sons and daughters.
I have put forward a comprehensive vision for a salvation plan, along with its implementation mechanisms, relying on an objective political thought that contains the seeds of renewal, for the benefit of the public interest. This is so that we can once again consecrate the proper values of politics and political performance, upon which we will see the unity of all Lebanese, through their involvement in a national fabric that is vital and homogenous, in order to transition towards a modern civil state.
Therefore, as a public servant, but more so as a citizen and a father
I believe that it is my duty and my responsibility to reunite all those who cherish the values of the republic and are eager to see the principles of a multifarious democracy prevail so that we can make the upcoming presidential elections a point of change for the better, and a golden opportunity to renew the hopes of young men and women in their future and the future of their children. This must take place through creating a collective dynamic that interacts with these goals and works to accomplish what Lebanon deserves, for the benefits of every citizen.
Bergson said that One feels the call of duty only if one is free
It is in a person's nature to want and be free and to defend his freedom and civil liberties.
Based on the concept of responsible freedom, and feelings of duty, I call on everyone to take a moment to reflect on this vision, which I wanted to be comprehensive, and enter a profound and serious dialogue blessed by good intentions and sound will. This is so that we can arrive at strong convictions, adhere to them, and be guided by them in saving and resurrecting Lebanon, and preserving its rightful role and message in the world.
Robert Ghanem

 

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II. Introduction: Current Situation- Blunders
A. The dominance of the authoritarian regime in prior years and the clientelism mindset has led to the following:
  1. Primacy of private interests over the public interest
  1. Spread of corruption across the administration and politics along with the personalization of files and institutions, i.e. reducing the latter to the level of individuals
  1. Lack of fulfillment of the institutions' role and even its obstruction, which contributed to the emergence of parallel apparatus
  1. Use of sectarianism to reinforce the authority of the heads of the institutions
  1. Obstruction of the reform projects which were initiated by HE late martyred Prime Minister, Rafic Hariri, and were granted serious international support
  1. Negative repercussions of the Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon which lasted until the year 2000

 

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B. A widespread lack of accountability and answerability has led to the following:
  1. Loss of citizen's confidence and trust in the state
  1. Dispersion of public funds and the division of benefits and deals amongst some of the officials
C. The loss of balance between the executive and legislative powers has led to the following:
  1. Hindering the role of governance in guarding the institutions which has led to the corrosion of national partnership to the advantage of sectarianism and factional interests
  1. Hindering the principle of separation of powers and divergence of political performance from its essence and noble cause

 

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D. The obstruction of the judicial power in effecting justice due to political interventions and the loss of confidence in it has led to the following:
  1. Rendering the judicial power subjective and a cover for personal and political interests
E. The lack of a clear economic and financial vision according to a comprehensive program has led to the following:
  1. Reinforcement of the patronage social contract at the expense of economic productivity, growth, and the creation of job opportunities, leading to youth emigration and brain drain
  1. Growth of the public debt and its service cost along with the increase of the budget deficit
  1. Increase of spending and excessive waste of public funds along with the expansion of the public sector and subsidy funds
  1. Missed opportunities to capitalize on the serious support offered by the international community, especially through Paris 1 and Paris 2

 

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F. Not granting the education sector the important role it deserves at both national and academic levels has lead to the following:
  1. Lack of interest in vocational training compared to academic training, in addition to the deterioration of the quality of national education and notably public education which was known to be Lebanon's edge
  1. Lack of adoption of a clear and specific policy for human resources training and development, one that consecrates Lebanon's human resources as the pillar of Lebanon's cultural and civilization wealth
  1. Lack of a sound and compelling civic education leading to an erroneous and inadequate exercise of authority

 

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G. The absence of a serious national dialogue among the Lebanese has led to the following:
  1. Failure to evolve from sectarian allegiance to national allegiance and to promote true citizenship encompassing fundamental rights and responsibilities, which has further aggravated the continued false sense of a true social cohesion across all religious lines, and the reliance on compromises as opposed to comprehensive solutions.
  1. Lack of will to establish a new social and political contract rooted in truths and based on concepts and principles that are agreed upon by all Lebanese in view of immunizing national consensus and collective living
  1. Failure to modernize political parties law in line with democratic systems
  1. Disregard of an essential part of the Lebanese society in the decision making process which created a widespread feeling of marginalization

 

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II. The Program
 
First Part: The strategic roadmap for a holistic solution includes four main pillars:
 
A. Political, administrative, and social aimed at strengthening the national unity and restoring and activating the role of institutions based on the following:

1.A new electoral law free of exceptions ensuring true representativeness and effectiveness, giving voters the ability to choose their representatives, monitor their performance, and hold them accountable. This would lead to a new political social contract that reinforces citizens' rights at the expense of political sectarianism, as Lebanon is the sum of all its citizens and not a group of religions or sects

 2.An administrative decentralization law, according to the Taif accord, which allows each governorate (mouhafazat) or caza to have its own elected council made up of heads of municipalities handle all administrative and financial matters pertaining to the area, without having to constantly refer to the central administration in Beirut. This would be coupled by strict auditing control to oversee all financial and administrative procedures in order to ensure that the elected officials are acting in due diligence and in the best interest of their constituents

 3.Consolidation of institutions' constitutional role through the following:

-An objective and upright application of the constitution in order to render it the point of reference for solving any dispute or divergence in the context of upholding our democratic system, civil liberties, and institutions
-Translating the concept of separation of powers from a mere motto or ideal to an actual practice
-Focusing on the role of parliament in legislating and overseeing the mandates and practices of the executive authorities so as to render their accountability solely based on the provisions of the constitution, in line with Lebanon's democratic system
-Restructuring the executive authority so as to ensure coordination between the different ministries in order to allow for better productivity and avoid any duplication in responsibilities
-Reestablishing the stature of the Presidency and strengthening that institution to allow the president to carry out his functions including assuming his role as a symbol of national unity, ensuring respect for the constitution and upholding Lebanon’s independence, its unity and the safety of its territory
 -Speeding up the formation of the constitutional council in order for it to assume its functions according to the constitution and established laws

4.Reassessment of the framework and scope of work of the different public institutions, in line with a comprehensive strategy for the public sector, by redefining the mandate and responsibility of each ministry through the enactment of legislative measures and abiding by them, so as to eliminate the duplication of roles and responsibilities and to put an end to the red tape and excessive bureaucracy in the public sector. Such measures would greatly improve the partnership between the private and the public sector in a way that would benefit the society at large, especially once certain state-owned enterprises are privatized through an objective, legal and transparent process that would benefit all citizens, by stimulating competition, while all along ensuring that the state retains its right and role as regulator and defendant of the public interest.

 5.Reinforcement of the role of the supervisory institutions, including the civil service board, court of audit and the central inspection board, and the establishment of the concept of accountability through effective legislative measures and modern mechanisms to ensure that best practices are upheld. These institutions will also be in charge of overseeing the transparency in the recruitment process for civil service while establishing clear job descriptions for each function.

 6.Reassessment of all legislations pertaining to the civil service board so as to redefine its role and responsibilities in view of its mandate. The civil service board would then be entirely responsible for all activities related to human resources, including the screening and recruitment of potential candidates across all public administrations, institutions and municipalities.

 7.Reestablishment of the state's credibility through the following:

-Focusing on the principle of citizenship, with what it entails in terms of civil, political, social, and cultural rights due to all citizens, as well as the responsibilities of all citizens towards the state, in a way that it becomes the denominator for all Lebanese as it does not contravene with religious faiths or beliefs and can safeguard the values of diversity and right to differ while elevating religion above the potential trivialities of daily politics.
-Reinforcing the role of the civil society and establishing a modern law governing political parties, in line with which political activity would be encouraged
-Establishing the essential pillars for a civil society based on the prerogatives and principles of true citizenship. This would serve as a remedy through which future disputes would be solved and would immune Lebanon against internal divisions along regional and international allegiances while safeguarding its stability.
-“Rebuilding” the presidency in a way that it be a nationally respected authority and a benchmark of true leadership. The president of the republic is the head of the state and a symbol of its unity, which is his foremost function and responsibility. The presidency is by definition the mediating authority and the president’s responsibility is to be impartial and at an equal distance from all sides. The president’s duty, in addition, is to gather everyone around him and be a conciliator, as well as to elevate himself above the internal political squabbling and act as the guardian of the constitution and the guarantor of the institutions.
-Ensuring parity of officials and citizens under the rule of law.

 8.Social reform:

-Planning a social policy based on the concept of social democracy, i.e. providing social security for all in return for contributions to the fund to be made by all, modernization of the social security fund and its management, and the establishment of a health care system that ensures a minimum level of free medical care to all Lebanese through a unified Medicare card.
-Ensuring social security by including all Lebanese, living in Lebanon and abroad, in the national social security fund, through a well-developed plan to provide medical services, retirement pensions, and access to education for all.
-Issuing a new law aimed at modernizing the national social security fund and ensuring that adequate basic services be provided, both in quality and quantity, by dividing responsibilities and tasks and computerizing processes and transactions.

 

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B. Guaranteeing the independence of the judicial power, and its ability to uphold justice and personal rights and freedoms, through the following:

1.Instituting a “white-hands” operation to be spearheaded by judges known for their integrity and competence and who would train and oversee a number of other judges who would follow in their lead and in turn pass on their acquired knowledge, so as to restore the integrity and independence of the justice system and to rebuild people’s confidence and trust in its ability to uphold people’s rights.

2.Reinforcing the role of the Institute of Justice and immunizing the judges through adequate financial and moral compensation.

3.Reinforcing the role of the judicial inspection and the jurisdictions of the Higher Judicial Council.

 4.Establishing a computerized system to determine the number of outstanding cases in the courts and the processing time of each case so as to allow the Higher Judicial Council to appraise the courts and reallocate the resources according to the perceived needs. Such a system would allow to better evaluate the sentences passed in a more objective manner allowing in turn to detect any deficiencies and flaws in the legal system.

 5.Reevaluating the authority of the courts of first instance in reducing the number of sentences that can be up for appeal (e.g. Sentences whose value does not exceed a certain amount).

 6.Adopting a policy of continuous training through seminars and sessions reserved for judges.

 7.Reexamining certain laws to clarify the mandates of the attorney general and the public prosecution.

 8.Identifying the number and nature of judicial auxiliaries and training their member.

 9.Rehabilitating the Palaces of Justice so they are up to par with the standing and status of the judiciary authority.

  

Second Part: The stimulation of the role of education and youth and the strengthening of the environmental consciousness to highlight Lebanon’s human and natural richness and diversity through:

The elevation in the concept of public education to a concept of general civic education which ensures the democracy of learning, national upbringing and the activation of the role of schools and universities to achieve the following:
 
A. The Culture of Democracy
 
Strengthening and shielding our democratic system as it is more than just an institutional framework, since it requires active participation of citizens that adhere and believe in its values and benefits and assume the responsibility of their choices. The republic of Lebanon is by no means a static ideal but is a living will and a constant developing project, a personification of faith in mankind and the necessity to communicate and establish common grounds and mutual respect while ensuring solidarity for the good of all and the freedom of one in safeguarding the freedom of all.
 
B. The Culture of Remaining in One’s Nation and Not Emigrating
 
Stimulating the youth and encouraging them not to abandon their responsibilities vis-ŕ-vis their country through a well-thought discourse that addresses them in their language and according to their ideas and expectations rather than arrogance and superiority.
Furthermore, the youth should be motivated to remain in their country through certain initiatives that will help enhance job opportunities (e.g. encouraging investments, creating a fund by the Association of Banks aimed at financing youth projects and promoting credit loans for small and medium size businesses and projects)
Lebanon might be small in size, but is giant in terms of human capital, as Lebanese seem to succeed wherever they go and have always contributed to the economic and cultural growth of their host countries. Only when their confidence in the state is restored could Lebanese once again take part in the economic development of their own country.
It has now become a necessity to develop a close and solid relationship between Lebanon and its Diaspora in order to activate their role in supporting Lebanon's causes across the world.
 
C. The Culture of Labor
 
Because every deed has a reward, because unemployment is unacceptable, and because labor accentuates citizenship, justifies meritocracy and institutionalizes productivity; reinforcing vocational and technical education, elevating it to a higher level and linking it to the job market becomes a must.
 
D. The Culture of Dialogue and Community living
-Emphasizing the richness of Lebanon in its diverse society and in its differences, whereby all should see themselves in one mirror that reflects everyone with all their differences.
-Reaffirming the human rights principles in guaranteeing the right to disagree or be different.
-Initiating a serious dialogue that is based on common conditions and concepts agreed upon by all Lebanese.
-Reinforcing the role of Lebanon as a model for multi-ethnic, multi-cultural or multi-religious societies through its embrace of both the Muslim and Christian faiths both of which are based on the principles of forgiveness, tolerance and respect for others.
 
E. The Culture of Faith and the History of Religions
Adopting an educational curriculum that objectively presents religions, as religion is not merely the worship of the All Mighty, but also a knowledge of the culture, values, and history that are an integral part of any religion.
 
F. Civic Education and the Unifying Culture
Lebanese cultivate themselves according to the community or the group to which they belong, as there is a lack of a unifying national culture to which they can adhere to, leading to a situation whereby their nation has become part of their confessional identity. This creates the need for a modern book on civic education.
 
G. The Culture of Inclusive Holistic Education
It consists of a system of education and self-realization aimed at developing an individuals personality and character so that it transcends one's own immediate environment to provide him with an outlook on the world with its complexities and intertwined events. Only then will the individual be able to see things through other people's eyes, freeing him from prejudice and providing him with a sense of responsibility towards his own environment and the rest of the world.
 
H. The Culture of Environmental Education
-Finding the necessary mechanisms through legislation to protect natural beauty and put an end to pollution and the damages caused by the hazardous waste, with the help of the most modern and environmentally-friendly means of purification. This will guarantee the right of future generations to a sound and healthy environment, knowing that man does not own the land; it is rather entrusted to him, and thus he is responsible for nature and has to respect and protect the environment and safeguard it from any harm.
-Developing a clear and long-term strategy for the water resources of the country while giving the topic the importance it deserves. This could include the construction of dams and preventing waste while preserving underground water, cleaning river streams, and combating water pollution.
-Promoting alternative sources of energy by providing the appropriate incentives for it.
Third Part: The absence of political stability and the prevalence of the political face-off over all social and economic matters has led to a stalemate and to the obstruction of opportunities to establish the ground rules necessary to reignite growth and investments and create jobs, hence producing the need to remedy the economic situation through:
 
1-Moving from an economy based on subsidies to an economy based on productivity, competitiveness, and growth. (Planning, preventing waste, reestablishing the relationship between the citizen and the state). For that, it is crucial to reach a national consensus on the prioritizes to adopt in lifting the economy once more.
 
2-Promoting investments and reducing barriers to entry to the Lebanese market, in order to create new job opportunities, while easing the administrative procedures necessary to establish future projects (free zones and economic zones). The state should also work on reducing the cost of production which would promote exports and encourage manufacturing firms to set up shop in Lebanon.
 
3-Achieving a budget surplus (by decreasing the cost of the public sector) through effective mechanisms such as strengthening the role of the Court of Audit.
 
4-Fulfilling Lebanon's commitments towards Paris 2 and Paris 3 and towards the international organizations, including its partnership agreement with the European Union.
 
5-Restructuring the public funds and the banks' monetary circulation, and capitalizing on the influx of capital to Lebanon by investing it in sectors that can contribute to the economic growth of the country.
 
6-Reassessing the income tax structure in order to make it more just and proportional to the corresponding profits made.
 
7-Developing the capital and financial markets.
 
8-Developing the private sector in order to restore its role as a model and driver of the economy, and promoting a recapitalization of enterprises and private institutions in order to help them become more competitive while decreasing their operating costs.
 
9-Creating a public debt fund or committee that would be independent from the government, and whose role is to steer all policies related to the public debt, restructuring it, and ensuring that due diligence is applied. This fund will act as the strategic arm in charge of regulating the debt according to specific programs and of sounding the alarm in the case of a downturn in the economy and a worsening in the conditions of the productive economic sectors.
Fourth Part: The elaboration of a consistent and forward looking foreign policy revolves around five main topics:
 
A. General Foreign Policy
Amidst the unrest and the conflicts in the region that negatively affect Lebanon, we need to develop a sound foreign policy that secures national stability and strengthens the country’s immunity so that Lebanon retains its message to the world.
Lebanon, proud of its Arab identity and belonging, is committed to the international resolutions enacted by the United Nations and is committed to the resolutions made by the Arab League, to its friendly relations with both Arab and non-Arab countries, and to the implementation of the Taif accord.
Lebanon is an integral part of its Arab environment and will always take to heart its just causes and strive to assemble and unite all Arabs. Lebanon’s recent history is a testimony to how the country has always lost, apart than in the Arab-Israeli conflict, when placed amidst regional and international alliances, which have incessantly divided Lebanese and weakened their national unity. The resolutions taken during the Beirut Arab Summit of 2002, which garnered Arab consensus and support, undoubtedly present the most serious, comprehensive and just solutions to the persisting conflict in the region.
A free, sovereign and independent Lebanon is especially capable of playing a positive role when it comes to defending and promoting the just Arab causes on the international arena and moving forward from a policy of being constantly reactive to a policy that advocates always being proactive.
Consequently, it is imperative to devise the proper modern frameworks and procedures needed to accompany such a policy, for example by redefining through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the mandate of Lebanon's foreign diplomatic representations to include keeping up with the dynamics of the national economy and the imperatives of globalization.
 
B. Lebanon and Syria
The status of the Lebanese-Syrian relationship post-Taif and the flaws that had shaped it require that a new page be turned now that the Syrian forces have withdrawn, so as to learn from the past and redefine the relations between the two neighbors based on equity, justice and an institutional framework that guarantees the common interest of both states which are geographically, historically and socially linked. It is then that the border demarcation between the two nations becomes a routine procedure and diplomatic exchange a source for consolidating and developing their relationship.
Lebanon believes that for its special relationship with its neighbor to willfully last, it needs to be built on trust and a conviction in its necessity, benefits, and value, as well as its clear objectives– all within the common interest of both sides and a respect for the sovereignty and independence of both nations which will see that none is a source of unrest to the stability of the other.
 
C. The Resistance
1- Resisting an occupier is a legitimate and fundamental right to all those who have seen their land occupied in the absence of the state, as acknowledged to Lebanon by the international community in 1996, following the Cana massacre. So is the right of people to live in peace and prosperity, away from the shadow of war and the need to search for their livelihood in faraway countries.
2- The Lebanese resistance has without a doubt, and to the acknowledgement of both friends and foes, succeeded in securing a historical victory in 2000 when it liberated the South from the Israeli occupation with the support and sacrifices of all Lebanese.
3- There remains, however, the issue of the Shebaa farms and the options available for liberating it. After long and excruciating years of war, it is time for diplomacy to be given a chance. It is also time for Lebanon to reclaim its lawful and rightful place amongst the international community and to embrace its role as a beacon for democracy and tolerance in the region.
4- Lebanon has committed to implementing UN resolution 1701 which stipulates that the situation of the Shebaa farms be resolved through diplomatic channels.
5- Hezbollah’s members are our brothers and partners on this land, and their future is our future. After liberating the Shebaa farms diplomatically or through any other means, including armed resistance, and exchanging prisoners of war between Lebanon and Israel, I reiterate what I had previously suggested at the start of the round table talks between all Lebanese parties, which is:
First, forming a national strategic council on defense, in which Hezbollah and all other components of the Lebanese resistant movement would be represented, and which would devise a defense strategy for Lebanon. The decisions on how to counter any Israeli aggression would than be solely in the hands of this council.
Second, members of the resistance will be promoted as auxiliaries (ansar) to the Lebanese army in a way that all armament remains under the supervision of the Lebanese army. Such a solution would transform the resistance into a unifying Lebanese resistance movement, within the confines of the state and its institutions, allowing Lebanon to force Israel into abiding by the armistice agreement as stipulated in the Taif accord.
The essence of Lebanon and its message to the world is in its genuine national unity, beyond simple rhetoric, as is the coexistence of its communities, its civilization and its specificities. Therefore, any truth or settlement between the Arabs and Israel will not put an end to the conflict between Lebanon and Israel, as Lebanon will always be the antithesis to the Zionist Israeli state. The conflict will then simply turn into one of culture, economics and science.
 
D. The International Tribunal
International and regional interests have seldom allowed Lebanese to agree on matters of national importance, and when they have, to actually go through with what they have agreed on, as in the case of the international tribunal set up by the United Nations to try those responsible for the murder of the late martyred Prime Minister, Rafic Hariri, and all those subsequently assassinated. The tribunal was consequently created by the UN instead of being set up by the Lebanese constitutional authorities as it should have. The tribunal therefore became a divisive issue, whereas, in essence, it is meant to be a unifying element especially that it relates to serving justice and finding and trying the culprits behind the horrendous bombings and murders.
 
E. The Palestinians in Lebanon
Lebanon has distinguished itself, ever since the 1948 war, in playing a pioneering role in defending the Palestinian cause in front of the international community and has served as a cultural, media and combative platform servicing that cause. Lebanon has also welcomed on its territory, proportionately, the highest number of its Palestinian brothers and has made numerous sacrifices and has greatly suffered economically, solely in the name of that cause.
Lebanon refuses the permanent settlement and the naturalization of Palestinians on its soil. Lebanon is adamant about the right of Palestinians to return to their land and supports the creation of a viable Palestinian state. Lebanon urges the international community to support its call for a Palestinian state and to offer its support in providing Palestinian refugees on its land with decent and humane living conditions until their right of return is upheld.
All Palestinian arms outside the control and jurisdiction of the Lebanese state do not, in any way, serve the higher purpose of the Palestinian cause. Consequently, a solution should be reached to ensure that there are no Palestinian military pockets outside of the Palestinian camps, or else the Lebanese state will have to assert its authority in every possible legitimate way.
As for the armament inside the camps, it is imperative that it be regulated so that the camps would no longer serve as a safe haven for outlaws, terrorists and fugitives from justice.
It is finally time for Lebanon to put an end to the phenomena of security zones on its territory which has adversely impacted the Palestinian cause as much as it has hurt Lebanon; especially that the Palestinian authorities have shown genuine willingness in helping Lebanon and have collaborated in assisting the Lebanese state extend its authority on all the camps. The conflict in Nahr El Bared, with the grave assault on the army and the security forces, is a testimony on the need for the Palestinian camps to fall once again under the authority of the Lebanese legitimacy.

 

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28-08-07