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MONDAY, 21 APR 2014
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March 8 warning overshadows Cabinet bid
File - Premier-designate Tammam Salam appears during the Arab Women Forum's conference in the Four Seasons hotel in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)
File - Premier-designate Tammam Salam appears during the Arab Women Forum's conference in the Four Seasons hotel in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)
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BEIRUT: Tammam Salam plans to form an all-embracing political Cabinet early next week, sources close to the premier-designate said Friday, despite Hezbollah’s warning that exclusion of MP Michel Aoun might lead to the government’s collapse.

“Salam is expected to announce an all-embracing political government early next week despite [March 8] threats to boycott it,” a source close to Salam told The Daily Star.

“Efforts are ongoing to resolve the row over the interior portfolio within the March 14 coalition as well as the problem over Aoun’s objection to the rotation of ministerial portfolios,” the source said.

Sources familiar with the Cabinet formation talks told The Daily Star that MP Walid Jumblatt, through caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour, would launch an eleventh-hour initiative aimed at overcoming obstacles impeding the birth of the new government.

The initiative will not be based merely on the distribution of the four sovereign portfolios, the Defense, Interior, Foreign and Finance Ministries, but also the division of all portfolios between the March 8 and March 14 coalitions, the sources said.

Abu Faour will shuttle in the next 48 hours between Baabda Palace, Speaker Nabih Berri’s residence in Ain al-Tineh and Salam’s residence in Moseitbeh carrying with him Jumblatt’s proposal to end the current standoff over rotating key ministerial portfolios among sects, the sources said. Details of the proposal were not immediately known.

Aoun has refused to budge on his opposition to the concept of rotating ministerial portfolios in an all-embracing Cabinet based on an 8-8-8 lineup. The 8-8-8 proposal was part a compromise reached last month by the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition, the Future Movement and Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party in a bid to break the 10-month-old Cabinet impasse.

Hezbollah’s mediation efforts have failed to make Aoun drop his demand for retaining the Energy Ministry, currently held by his son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, for his bloc.

Salam has rejected Aoun’s demand, preferring the concept of rotating all ministerial portfolios among sects and parties, which the prime minister-designate has stuck to since he was appointed on April 6.

Given Aoun’s unyielding stance, Salam is expected to go ahead with forming an all-embracing political government even without the FPM leader’s approval.

Aoun and March 8 parties have signaled that they would withdraw their ministers from what they dubbed a fait accompli government.

Hezbollah warned Friday of the consequences of excluding the FPM from the new Cabinet.

“The attempt to be too clever during the [Cabinet] formation process in order to exclude a major component might topple the all-embracing government,” MP Mohammad Raad, head of Hezbollah’s bloc in Parliament, told the audience at a ceremony to honor a number of university professors at a restaurant on the Beirut airport road.

He renewed Hezbollah’s call for forming an all-embracing government in which all the political parties participate “so that it [the government] can confront all political, security and socioeconomic problems.”

The parliamentary Future bloc reiterated its demand for a new government to cope with political, security and economic problems.

It also urged Iran to halt Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria.

“The Future bloc calls on Iran to keep its hands off Lebanon and stop Hezbollah’s further involvement in the Syrian quagmire ... particularly since developments indicate a protracted crisis [in Syria] that will produce no winners.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 08, 2014, on page 1.
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Story Summary
Tammam Salam plans to form an all-embracing political Cabinet early next week, sources close to the premier-designate said Friday, despite Hezbollah's warning that exclusion of MP Michel Aoun might lead to the government's collapse.

Aoun has refused to budge on his opposition to the concept of rotating ministerial portfolios in an all-embracing Cabinet based on an 8-8-8 lineup.

Salam has rejected Aoun's demand, preferring the concept of rotating all ministerial portfolios among sects and parties, which the prime minister-designate has stuck to since he was appointed on April 6 .

Given Aoun's unyielding stance, Salam is expected to go ahead with forming an all-embracing political government even without the FPM leader's approval.
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