| Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri received this evening at the "Center House" the "Beirut Development Conference", in the presence of the General Coordinator of the Conference MP Mohammad Kabbani and MPs Atef Majdalani, Hani Kubaisi, Jean Oghassapian, Ammar Houry, Serge Torsarkissian and Sebouh Kalbakian, former MPs Salim Diab and Mohamed Amine Itani, former Minister Hassan al-Sabeh, mayor of Beirut Bilal Hamad and members of the municipal council, president of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in Beirut Mohammed Choucair, mayors of the capital, head of Press Federation Aouni Kaaki and Beiruti figures.
MP Kabbani thanked Premier Hariri for hosting the Beirut Development Conference "which is practically the Beirut popular parliament, consisting of elected bodies, MPs, municipal council, mayors, economic bodies, syndicates, associations and others."
Hariri said: "Beirut was the beloved city of Rafic Hariri and his house even before he worked in politics.
His eye was on Beirut since the eighties, he came to it to work and began his political career with you, the people of Beirut, he martyred in Beirut, and we are continuing this path. There is no doubt that the development of Beirut is for us the goal and the foundation to be able to enhance this capital, amidst the capitals that are collapsing around us every day.
Thankfully, we were able to preserve Beirut and Lebanon amid the surrounding storms, our primary goal is to see a new economic growth and real development, so that the Lebanese can live in dignity without needing anyone. This was the main idea of Rafic Hariri, development to give people jobs so that they can improve their lives.
During eleven years after the martyrdom of Rafic Hariri, we have only seen attacks against each idea of Rafic Hariri, starting from the center of Beirut, Solidere, right down to trying to thwart the determination of the people of Beirut. But they are capable to develop their city. There is no doubt that during this difficult, Beirut was affected by negative factors, especially the tension and division, which led to a significant decline in the scope of services. Our duty, as a political movement, and mine, as Saad Hariri, is to give hope to the people. Beirut was much worse than it is today when Rafic Hariri took charge of it. Now we just have to see how we can bring stability to the country, and I am confident that with the election of the president and the nomination of a new government, we will see the extent of hope that the people have and how much they are able to do in this country, and Beirut's ability to recover its position among the capitals of the world."
He added: "Beirut's light will not be dimmed, it will permanently remain lit, I highly believe in this and that our project is the only one able to develop the country, and we will hopefully work together with the people of Beirut and its young men and women and we will be able to develop the country. There are many challenges and problems, but that does not mean that we are not up to them.
Some might ask what are our achievements, we say if we look around us and we see the extent of the storms that devastated the surrounding countries, Egypt , Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Iraq, or elsewhere, we realize we are in the heart of this area but we managed to preserve the country and our unity and avoided being drawn into sectarian fighting, and that is something we are proud of. We also succeeded in saying that moderation is the solution and not extremism. Nevertheless, it is time to elect a president, and now we have municipal elections in all of Lebanon, and this is healthy for us, for Beirut and all Lebanese areas because it brings some new blood. Hopefully I will stay with you in Beirut, but as Rafic Hariri used to say, it is forbidden to lose hope, with hope only can we can restore Beirut to how it was".
Then there was a discussion between Hariri and the guests that focused on the demands of the capital and its problems, like establishing a central vegetable market, a modern garbage treatment factory, non-stop electricity, in addition to providing Beirut with drinking water from new sources and organizing the streets in the capital.
Hariri reiterated that "we are serious about the municipal elections, all the preparations are taking place, and we ask the citizens to vote to elect their representatives, whether in Beirut or in all the Lebanese regions".
He added: "These elections are very important for us, and we emphasize on parity between Muslims and Christians, which we consider as a part of the legacy of Rafic Hariri, and we must preserve it, especially in Beirut, which paid dearly to consecrate this equation. Rafic Hariri was killed in Beirut because he was keen on the capital, on parity and on coexistence, in deeds not in words".
Answering a question, Hariri said: "The problem is that some praise the constitution in their speeches and positions, and do not abide by it in their practices and political behavior. Sometimes they declares their adherence to the Constitution and sometimes they disable it by not going to the parliament to elect a president. Then they go to Yemen and other countries to fight without an authorization from any Lebanese group, as "Hezbollah" is doing".
Premier Hariri talked about the parliamentary electoral law, and said: "The problem is not the law but the mentality and the logic. We went to the "Doha" conference and we agreed on an integrated basket of the controversial issues, including the 1960 law. The last elections happened on the basis of the 1960 law, and we won the elections. Then the law that they called for, no longer pleased them, so they asked to change it. We do not refuse changing the law, and we agreed with the Lebanese Forces and the Progressive Socialist Party on a draft law that combines the proportional system and the majority system, but they refuse to examine it because they are unhappy with this law. And I wonder how some of our allies, who won the elections with us, want to change the law".
Asked if the sons of Beirut are frustrated, and lack enthusiasm to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections, he said: "Some say that we were frustrated and despaired. I personally, with everything I faced since February14th 2005 , did not lose hope and never will. The ones who will lose hope are the ones trying to take the country to where they want, because we will confront them and will make them lose hope. They want to take Beirut and swallow it, but Beirut cannot be swallowed, it is bigger than all of us. At the same time we say, we can only live together."
Hariri received a delegation from the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, headed by Nicole Roselle. Discussion focused on the situation in Lebanon and the Middle East.