BEIRUT: The Future Movement dismissed Monday Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah’s call on the March 14 coalition to accept a 9-9-6 Cabinet, saying the party should first withdraw from Syria before “any all-inclusive government can be formed.”
The Future Movement’s response came shortly after Nasrallah said Lebanon faced the choice of either a prolonged Cabinet deadlock and Parliament paralysis, or agreement to form a 9-9-6 government in which both the March 8 and March 14 parties enjoy veto power.
The 9-9-6 Cabinet formula, proposed by the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance, calls for allotting nine ministerial posts to each of the March 8 and March 14 camps, and the remaining six portfolios to centrists. The centrists refer to President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam and MP Walid Jumblatt. The Future Movement has rejected the 9-9-6 formula and called instead for a neutral, nonpartisan government.
“The formation of any Cabinet that brings together all the parties can only be based on the Baabda Declaration and Hezbollah’s military disengagement from Syria,” Mohammad Shatah, a political adviser to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, told The Daily Star.
Commenting on Nasrallah’s call on the March 14 coalition to accept the 9-9-6 Cabinet proposal, Shatah said: “In fact, the numbers game and forming the Cabinet is much less important.”
Nasrallah urged March 14 parties to accept the 9-9-6 Cabinet plan before it was too late and to stop wagering on developments in Syria’s war to improve their political standing in Lebanon.
In a televised speech marking the Silver Jubilee of the Rasoul al-Azam (Great Prophet) Hospital in Beirut’s southern suburbs, Nasrallah also accused Saudi Arabia of seeking to derail the Geneva II peace conference on Syria, saying the kingdom had become enraged over recent military developments that worked in the Syrian regime’s favor.
“Everyone feels that the country is crippled. The gateway to end the obstruction, according to March 14, is to form a Cabinet before going to the Dialogue table and that a Cabinet should be formed before legislation [in Parliament]. March 14 sees that the formation of a Cabinet is the only way to stop the paralysis in the country,” Nasrallah said, speaking through a giant screen via a video link to a crowd of supporters gathered at a complex on the Beirut airport highway.
“We have accepted the 9-9-6 [Cabinet formula], but they [March 14] did not accept it,” he said.
He added that the formation of a 9-9-6 Cabinet would help defuse political tensions in Lebanon, the rival factions would talk to each other at the Dialogue table and Parliament would resume its sessions to discuss draft laws that concern the people’s interests.Sleiman chaired a meeting Monday of a committee to prepare for National Dialogue, stalled since September 2012. The committee discussed current political and security developments in conformity with the Baabda Declaration approved by the National Dialogue Committee.
Nasrallah said bets by the Future Movement and its March 14 allies on the collapse of Syrian President Bashar Assad have failed as the latest military developments had strengthened the regime’s position.
“I call on the March 14 side and the Future Movement not to wait and not to be late [in accepting the 9-9-6 proposal] because a delay will improve the circumstances and position of the other [March 8] side,” he said. He urged March 14 to seize the opportunity of accepting the 9-9-6 Cabinet formula before it was too late.
Shatah criticized Nasrallah’s remarks on internal Lebanese issues and the war in Syria. “What Sayyed Nasrallah said is that he completely ignored a major divisive issue in Lebanese politics, which is Hezbollah’s military involvement in Syria and the implications of this involvement on Lebanon’s security and political stability,” Shatah told The Daily Star.
He said that in Nasrallah’s speech, there was a talk about the Lebanese state and the goals of the Lebanese state and what the state needs to do.
“But the credibility of Sayyed Nasrallah’s words is compromised by Hezbollah’s continued usurping of the state’s own responsibility and authority, especially security responsibility,” Shatah said.
He scoffed at the Hezbollah chief’s claim that the war was going in favor of the Assad regime. “The war in Syria is far from over and even though it has become a bloody armed conflict which may continue for a long time, what is also clear is that the current regime in Damascus will not be able to restore the status quo ante.”
“So if the message is that the Syrian regime has won over its own people, we do not believe that this is the case or that it will ever be the case,” he added.
In his speech, Nasrallah advised Hariri to return to Lebanon via Rafik Hariri International Airport rather than wait for the Assad regime to collapse and return via Damascus airport. Hariri has been living out of Lebanon for more than two years for security reasons.
“He who wants to return [to Beirut] via Damascus airport means that he wants to stay where he is. It’s better for him to reconsider and return via Beirut airport,” Nasrallah said, adding: “Beirut airport is open to all the Lebanese. [Former] Prime Minister martyr Rafik Hariri airport welcomes all Lebanese returning to Lebanon.”
Turning to the conflict in Syria, Nasrallah accused Saudi Arabia of seeking to scuttle attempts to convene the Geneva II peace conference on Syria. He said the kingdom was furious over what he claimed were military developments in favor of the regime. “The world has come to an understanding that a military solution [in Syria] is no longer valid and the only acceptable solution is a political one via an unconditional dialogue,” Nasrallah said.
“But there is one country ... the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which is still very angry over the prospects of a political solution in Syria,” he said.
Nasrallah said the kingdom had exhausted all available means to force the collapse of the Assad regime, such as bringing in tens of thousands of fighters from various countries to fight in Syria and arms at an estimated cost of $30 billion.
“The opposite side that aimed at toppling the regime in Syria and controlling the country did all it could at all levels but failed to achieve any results,” he said.
Nasrallah spoke about the recent discovery of rigged vehicles in Lebanon, saying the state failed to adopt pre-emptive measures to prevent the bombings.
Lebanon has been rocked by four car bombings in the past three months: two in Beirut’s southern suburbs, a Hezbollah stronghold, and twin attacks in Tripoli targeting mosques and Salafist sheikhs. Preliminary investigations linked the Tripoli bombings to Syrian intelligence and a pro-Assad Lebanese party.
“The state knows about these cells and the locations of rigged vehicles ... but it has not done anything yet,” Nasrallah said.