Lebanese diplomats hold dialogue session as Beirut drowns in garbage

Published October 26th, 2015 - 11:40 GMT

Lebanon's political elite held a new round of dialogue Monday after heavy rains washed piles of uncollected garbage into Beirut’s streets, raising public health concerns about the three-month-old trash crisis.

Speaker Nabih Berri, who is chairing the talks, was the first to arrive at the Parliament in Beirut's Nejmeh Square.

Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt did not attend the session for health reasons, delegating MP Ghazi Aridi to represent him.

Kataeb Party chief Sami Gemayel announced in a statement the suspension of his participation in the all-inclusive talks until politicians “resolve the vital and necessary affairs of the people, at the forefront of which is the collection of trash from streets.”

Head of the Future parliamentary bloc Fouad Siniora, Telecoms Minister Boutros Harb, Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas were also among those who didn't attend the new round of talks.

Siniora, who is currently outside Lebanon, was represented by MPs Atef Majdalani and Ahmad Fatfat.

A closed-door meeting was held between Berri and Change and Reform Bloc chief Michel Aoun on the sidelines of the session. It was attended by MP Ibrahim Kanaan.

There was a noted absence of protests by civil society groups in Nejmeh Square, who have tried to obstruct the dialogue sessions since the beginning, and no extra security measures were taken.

Berri has called for three consecutive dialogue sessions, on Oct. 26, 27 and 28, in an attempt to reach an agreement on the election of a president. The all-party talks, which began on Sept. 9, are also intended to end paralysis in Parliament and the government and approve a new electoral law, a major demand of all the March 8 and March 14 parties.

Garbage has piled up on streets and reached rivers and forests after the infamous Naameh dump shut down in July. Originally designed to receive 2 million tons of trash, Naameh had received over 15 million by the time of its closure.

A plan approved by the government last month to end the three-month-long trash crisis has faced strong opposition from the start.

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