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Will Hariri, Jumblatt meet in Paris amid tension between two sides?

  • File - Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri meets with President Barack Obama,, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

BEIRUT: Will a new political rift between former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and MP Walid Jumblatt be mended in a hospital in France?

The Central News Agency, citing what it called “well-informed sources,” said that Hariri would undergo a surgery Tuesday to remove an iron rod from his leg planted during an operation he had after suffering fractures to his left leg during a skiing incident in the Alps last year.

Meanwhile, Jumblatt, who arrived in France two days ago accompanied by former MP Ghattas Khoury, will be receiving treatment for his back pain.

The presence of the two leaders in France has raised the possibility of bringing them together amid tension between the two sides caused by Jumblatt’s latest stances on the Cabinet formation and the crisis in Syria, which drew a harsh response from the Future Movement.

The agency quoted the sources as saying that no date has been set for a meeting between Hariri and Jumblatt, while sources in Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party called for keeping the possibility of a meeting between the two leaders away from the media.

However, sources in the March 14 coalition said the chances of holding a meeting between the PSP leader and the head of the Future Movement were not high because of Jumblatt’s latest fiery statements against the March 14 stances, the agency said.

It quoted the sources as saying that the March 14 coalition was greatly annoyed with Jumblatt’s adoption of the March 8 proposal to form a Cabinet based on the 9-9-6 formula, even though he had promised Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam to try to persuade the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance to accept the 8-8-8 formula.

The March 14 sources said Jumblatt’s support for the 9-9-6 Cabinet proposal was sufficient not to hold a meeting between the PSP chief and Hariri.

Political sources familiar with the Cabinet formation efforts said that regardless of whether a Hariri-Jumblatt meeting was held, it would not change anything in the Cabinet formation, which has already foundered on the conditions and counter-conditions set by the rival factions.

Hariri’s Future Movement has blasted Jumblatt, accusing him of abandoning his centrist position and aligning himself fully with the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance.

In an interview with As-Safir newspaper Friday, Jumblatt voiced support for the March 8 alliance’s proposal for a 9-9-6 Cabinet lineup, saying the 8-8-8 Cabinet proposal had collapsed.

This was viewed as a major about-face because Jumblatt had initially proposed the 8-8-8 formula, with ministers equally divided between the March 8 and March 14 parties and centrists, as a way to break the Cabinet stalemate. The centrists refer to President Michel Sleiman, Salam and Jumblatt.

Jumblatt, a supporter of the Syrian opposition, said the March 14 parties had intervened in the Syrian conflict before Hezbollah did.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 15, 2013, on page 3.
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