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Cellis hits out at Lebanese government

The operators at the centre of the Lebanese mobile fiasco have struck back at government claims that they only have themselves to blame.

Cellis, one of the Lebanese mobile operators at the heart of the contract cancellation scandal, has claimed that a high-ranking member of the government lied, broke a verbal agreement and contradicted a decision made by the cabinet.

Laying the blame for the shock cancellation firmly at the feet of post and telecommunications minister Jean-Louis Qordahi, a Cellis spokesman accused him of lying to the press about the events leading to the termination.

"It is not true, as the minister has claimed, that we stuck to our position and refused to negociate," said the spokesman.

"It is not true that the number of cellular subscribers exceeds 800,000 because the total that the ministry gave to each operator is 400,000 lines."

Cellis claims that the company had entered into negociations with the government to convert its BOT license into a full one, and that Qordahi promised to confirm terms of the transfer by the 11th of June.

"But regrettably, we were surprised when the minister, like former minister Issam Naaman, went back on his agreement with us and terminated our contract without advance notice."

Meanwhile, the second operator LibanCell looks set to ignore a Shura Council ruling that it cannot seek international arbitration over the controversy.

A council committee said it was revoking article 30 of the BOT contract, which allows for arbitration outside Lebanon, because most of the company's shares are held in the country.

The ruling does not apply to Cellis - 69% of the company is owned by France Telecom, which is preparing to take legal action against the government over the issue.

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