Caretaker Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn is expected on Wednesday to issue a decision to extend the mandate of Army chief Gen. Jean Qahwaji for two years after the parliament failed to take such a move.
The decision comes on the eve of Army Day. It will turn the page on a simmering dispute between its supporters who argue that it is necessary to avoid a security vacuum and its opponents who claim the move is unconstitutional.
Ghosn's decision also includes the two-year extension of Army chief of staff Lt. Gen. Walid Salman's mandate that expires on August 7.
Qahwaji's term expires on September 23 when he turns 60 – the retirement age for army commanders.
The caretaker defense minister will rely on articles 15 and 55 of the defense law to issue his decision, which comes a day after the last obstacle on the matter was removed following a meeting between caretaker Premier Najib Miqati and Qahwaji.
Several dailies quoted sources as saying that Miqati struck a final deal with President Michel Suleiman to issue the administrative decision on the extension rather than signing a decree to avoid challenges by lawmakers after Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun reiterated on Tuesday that he was ready to challenge the extension, which he described as unconstitutional.
The sources said the decision could only be challenged by officers who have been negatively affected by it. But they ruled out such a move by the 350 brigadier-generals in the army.
Aoun's Change and Reform bloc has been among the MPs boycotting a parliamentary session that has the extension on its agenda in addition to 44 other draft-laws.
Miqati and the March 14 alliance's lawmakers who have also boycotted the session claim that Speaker Nabih Berri does not have the right to call for a National Assembly amid a resigned government.
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