BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt refused to comment on the latest developments concerning Cabinet formation efforts, in clear frustration with the outcome of mediation attempts aimed at resolving differences over an all-embracing national government.
“No comment” was Jumblatt’s two-word response to the meetings in his weekly statement to be published in the PSP’s Al-Anbaa online newspaper Tuesday.
Later Monday, when asked by a local TV station for his reaction to the suicide attack in the region of Shoueifat, south of Beirut, the PSP leader repeated the same words: “No comment.”
Jumblatt, through caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour, was heavily involved in mediation efforts to facilitate the formation of a national unity government based on an 8-8-8 lineup, a compromise agreement reached last month by the PSP, the Hezbollah-led March 8 bloc and the Future Movement to break the 10-month-old Cabinet deadlock.
Speaker Nabih Berri, through caretaker Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, and Hezbollah also tried to temper MP Michel Aoun’s objection to the rotation of key ministerial portfolios in a new Cabinet.
The government’s formation has been stalled mainly by Aoun’s insistence on his party retaining the Energy Ministry, which his son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, currently heads.
In previous statements, Jumblatt has underlined the urgent need to form an all-embracing government to cope with the deteriorating security situation. Lebanon has been hit by a spate of deadly car bombings and suicide attacks that targeted Beirut’s southern suburbs and the Bekaa Valley city of Hermel, both areas where support for Hezbollah runs strong.
Jumblatt has also warned against forming a fait accompli Cabinet, vowing not to join any government unless the two main Shiite groups, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, were represented in it.
Jumblatt’s frustration came as Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam looked set to announce an all-embracing Cabinet this week after Aoun’s rejection of his eleventh-hour offer to reserve two key ministerial portfolios for the Free Patriotic Movement in exchange for their relinquishing the Energy Ministry.
Salam has adopted the idea of rotating ministerial portfolios among sects and political parties since he was named prime minister-designate on April 6, a plan backed by President Michel Sleiman.