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Berri Expels Amal's Ministers in Hariri's Cabinet, Reshuffle Expected
Speaker Berri's Amal movement has expelled two cabinet ministers and one parliament member from its ranks in what was described by the media Friday as the biggest purge in the pro-Syrian political grouping since the 1975-1990 civil war.
The move was seen as a curtain raiser for a shakeup in Premier Hariri's current government that would leave the expelled Amal ministers, Abdul Hamid Baydoun of energy and Ali Abdullah of Agriculture, out in the cold.

In addition to Baydoun and Abdullah, Amal parliament member and former cabinet minister Mahmoud Bu Hamdan was ousted along with three other lower ranking members by Amal's disciplinary court.

"The expulsions were decided within the context of an ongoing accountability drive launched since the movement's last congress in Beirut in summer," the Amal statement said.

"Soon as the statement was made public the bulk of Amal's members contended that Speaker Berri has used the preoccupation of the nation with the war in Iraq to pull the coup of firing his long-time senior aides," An Nahar said Friday.

The expulsions are not expected to bring down the 30-man cabinet, especially in the dark shadows the war in Iraq is casting over the entire Middle East. Political analysts said Berri would seek to bring pressure to bear on the expelled ministers to resign out of their own volition.

If this pressure fails, Berri would certainly steer the parliament to take a no confidence vote against Baydoun and Abdullah, which would clear the way for him to name two new Amal members to the vacant cabinet posts.

Upon the announcement of his dismissal, Baydoun, who still maintains his cabinet post, said "this is a new medal Amal pins on my chest." The defiant remark suggests Baydoun would not quite voluntarily.

Beirut, 28 Mar 03, 10:22
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