General Security will vet the names included on a controversial naturalization decree after reports of impropriety surfaced and amid backlash from political figures and officials.
President Michel Aoun and General Security head Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim met Saturday to discuss the decree, which would grant Lebanese citizenship to 375 people.
“I will conduct a thorough investigation into all the names mentioned on the naturalization decree and will resort to the [security] bodies of their countries [of origin] if I have to,” Abbas told local television station MTV Sunday. “I appreciate the president’s [vote] of confidence and his response to the people’s concerns. He is the only president to do so.”
Part of the controversy involves reports that some of those on the list have links to the President Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria. Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Joumblatt tweeted a series of pictures of names believed to be on the list, including Samer Foz, a businessman with reported ties to Assad.
However, a source from the Interior Ministry said the claims were false and that Foz was never on the list, local channel Al-Jadeed reported Sunday.
A day earlier, Aoun had asked anyone with evidence of the ineligibility of individuals on the list for obtaining Lebanese citizenship to present the information to the General Security.
Parliamentary sources told The Daily Star that Aoun’s announcement came ahead of the likely removal of a number of names.
“During the meeting between Aoun and Ibrahim, it was agreed to revise the [decree] and to present the citizenship only to those who deserve it,” one parliamentary source said.
The sources added that the announcement may even pave the way for rescinding the decree.
The act was signed last month by Aoun, caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri and caretaker Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, but news of its passage only surfaced late last week.
While not a violation of the Constitution, the manner of the decree’s passage and its timing has raised hackles across the country.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai said in his Sunday sermon that public outcry over the decree was justified due to the lack of transparency.
“One of the manifestations of mercy is clarity in dealing [with public matters] and respecting public opinion, especially with regard to the naturalization decree, which caused a justified uproar because of the concealment of its content,” Rai said, adding that fears of changing the demographic and confessional makeup of the country were adding fuel to the fire.
Naturalization has been a controversial topic since the outbreak of the 1975-90 Civil War, mainly due to its implication on the country’s sectarian balance.
Of the 375 names on the latest decree, 260 were Christian and 115 were Muslim. It has also been reported that some of those on the list paid large sums of money to be included.
A copy of the decree and the full list of names have yet to be released to the public or government officials.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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