BEIRUT: The parliamentary Future bloc called Tuesday for a swift formation of a new Cabinet before it was too late to deal with serious security challenges threatening to undermine stability in the politically divided country.
However, political sources ruled out the formation of a new Cabinet this month as the rival factions upheld their conflicting conditions over the makeup and role of the government.
Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, who returned to Beirut Tuesday from a three-day private visit to Geneva, is expected to meet President Michel Sleiman in the next two days to assess proposals for the formation of a new Cabinet that can gain support from the March 8 and March 14 parties.
The Future bloc warned that the continued breakdown in the security situation and the absence of a Cabinet decision to halt the deterioration would further exacerbate the worsening socio-economic conditions.
In a statement issued after its weekly meeting chaired by former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, the bloc cited last week’s kidnapping of two Turkish pilots by gunmen near the Beirut airport and Sunday’s armed ambush that killed one man and wounded three in the Bekaa Valley town of Arsal, including its mayor, among the latest security threats facing the country.
The bloc called on Sleiman and Salam “to exercise their constitutional duties and rights by forming a new Cabinet before it is too late.”
“The continuation of the current situation in the absence of an effective [Cabinet] decision will undermine the fragile stability in the country and expose it to dangers which it is unable to face,” the statement said.
It added that the current security deterioration, if left unchecked, would expose “Lebanon’s existence and its state to great danger.”
The bloc accused Hezbollah of subjugating “the political and security decision and the issue of the Cabinet formation to pressure of terrorism and the domination of arms.”
This week’s meeting between Sleiman and Salam comes against the backdrop of mounting calls, mainly by the March 14 coalition, for the formation of a neutral or fait accompli Cabinet after Salam’s attempts to set up a government of rival politicians stumbled on conditions and counter-conditions set by the rival camps.
“Sleiman and Salam will meet in the next two days to evaluate the parties’ stances on the Cabinet formation and try to reach a common vision on a specific choice,” a source close the premier-designate told The Daily Star.
“If an agreement on a Cabinet in which all the main political parties are represented remains elusive, this choice could be a neutral government to handle the people’s affairs,” the source said, adding that a neutral Cabinet would not include representatives of the political parties.
Sleiman underlined Monday the urgency for the formation of a new Cabinet, saying the Lebanese could no longer endure their country left without a functioning government. He indicated that if a government embracing all the political parties could not be formed, the alternative was a neutral Cabinet.“The Constitution grants the president of the republic and the prime minister the power to form a Cabinet as they see fit the country’s interest. ... The Cabinet must be formed in the nearest future. This is what I say to everyone,” Sleiman said in a speech Monday on the occasion of his transfer to the presidential summer residence in Beiteddine in the Chouf mountains.
The source close to Salam said Sleiman’s remarks indicated that he is “aware of the gravity of the situation and of the negative impact” on the country’s security and stability as a result of the delay in the Cabinet formation.
Meanwhile, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun accused Sleiman and Salam of seeking to form a one-sided, fait accompli government.
“There is an attempt to form a Cabinet irrespective of the others’ views, that is a fait accompli Cabinet,” Aoun said in an interview with the FPM’s OTV station, adding that there were no contacts between him and Sleiman on the Cabinet formation issue. “We have no problem with the one-party government. ... It seems there are those who wanted from the beginning to form a one-party government and were looking for the reasons.”
Aoun last week warned against forming a neutral or fait accompli Cabinet, saying such a government would lead Lebanon to ruin.
Hezbollah and its March 8 allies have also warned against a neutral Cabinet, insisting that all parties be represented in proportion to their seats in Parliament.
The March 14 coalition, which has demanded a neutral, nonpartisan government, has rejected Hezbollah’s participation in the Cabinet while it fights in Syria.