BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah warned Wednesday that forming a fait accompli government would be a “big mistake” and ruled out the formation of a neutral Cabinet in Lebanon.
“A fait accompli Cabinet would be a big mistake for the country. Such a Cabinet would mean they are canceling half the country,” Nasrallah said in an interview with Al-Mayadeen television.
Nasrallah denied his party was stalling the Cabinet’s formation and said the conditions put forward by Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam and the March 14 coalition to exclude Hezbollah from the lineup were delaying the formation of a new government.
“The conditions of Salam and his call for power rotation and for a neutral Cabinet indicate he does not want a Cabinet formed,” Nasrallah said.
“There is no such thing as neutrality in Lebanon ... there is sharp political division and all people are classified as either March 8 or March 14,” he said.
Nasrallah said both local and international forces were pushing for the exclusion of Hezbollah from the Cabinet.
“The United States and some Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, as well as local parties do not want Hezbollah in the government,” he said.
Nasrallah’s remarks came after Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam said his Cabinet would not see the light of day soon, but that he would intensify his deliberations to form the new government.
“There is an impression that a Cabinet will be formed today, tomorrow or after tomorrow, but actually, this impression is inaccurate,” Salam told reporters after discussing efforts to form his government with President Michel Sleiman at Baabda Palace.
“I don’t want to take chances or rush things, but I’m interested in doing something beneficial for the country.”
Salam said he sought only to form a government of “national interest.”
“All governments are political, and political groups are offering their [own] descriptions of governments [that might be formed]. I only see a government of national interest in front of me,” he said.
Salam reiterated the criteria that would govern the formation of a Cabinet. He said he would not give veto power to any group, adding that he still supported rotating key ministerial portfolios among sects and rejected the inclusion of any provocative figures in his Cabinet lineup.
The prime-minister designate said that he remained open to discussions with all parties over the Cabinet formation, adding that Speaker Nabih Berri was among the figures he would hold intensive talks with over the issue.
“Deliberations are ongoing with all groups,” Salam said, adding that the conditions and counter-conditions being put forward by the March 8 and March 14 coalitions were obstructing efforts to form a government.
“One group is saying it won’t participate in the Cabinet if the other group is represented, and others are saying: ‘We don’t accept the formation of any government unless we’re in it.’ These conditions and counter-conditions have actually impeded the Cabinet formation process and continue to impede it. But for how long?” Salam said.
“At a certain time and moment, we will face reality. We will face it by forming a government that reflects reality, not a fait accompli government,” Salam said.
However, Salam’s efforts are expected to slow down for the rest of the month, as Sleiman and his wife are leaving the country on Aug. 18 for vacation. Meanwhile, Berri is on vacation outside Lebanon.
Separately, Nabatieh MP Mohammad Raad, the head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, called the Baabda Declaration “stillborn.”
“The Baabda Declaration is stillborn, because the other side has sent all its weapons and gunmen to the neighboring country [Syria] through its smugglers and through harbors that received ships loaded with arms,” Raad said, in a statement carried by the National News Agency. “This rendered the Baabda Declaration mere ink on paper.”
The Baabda Declaration, which was endorsed last year by rival political leaders during a National Dialogue session chaired by the president at Baabda Palace, calls for distancing Lebanon from regional conflicts, particularly in Syria.
But Hezbollah announced its involvement alongside the regime in the Syrian war in May, accusing its rival the Future Movement of sending gunmen and arms to Syria since the start of the conflict in March 2011.
Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat said after visiting Patriarch Beshara Rai that the head of the Maronite church supported forming a neutral government.
“It’s certainly a good idea, because by doing so we won’t be isolating any political group. All rival political parties will be outside the government and its [the government’s] stance will be patriotic and serve the interest of Lebanon,” Fatfat said.