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THURSDAY, 17 APR 2014
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Sleiman won’t back fait accompli Cabinet
File - President Michel Sleiman speaks during a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)
File - President Michel Sleiman speaks during a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)
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BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman has no intention to sign the decree of a fait accompli government following the New Year holiday, a source close to the president told The Daily Star Thursday.

“If a new Cabinet is formed, it will take into account all the parties’ balance of power in the country,” the source said.

The source said that Sleiman insisted on giving more time for consultations with political leaders and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam with the aim of forming a Cabinet that satisfies all the parties.

Political sources said that given the soaring political tensions in the country, Sleiman was unlikely to add further tension by forming a fait accompli government.

Speaking to Al-Manar TV station in the aftermath of the suicide bombing that claimed the lives of five civilians in Beirut’s southern suburbs, Hezbollah’s deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem warned against the formation of a fait accompli Cabinet, reiterating that unilateral decisions would plunge the country into chaos.

Qassem called for the formation of a national unity government because “only solidarity will spare the country more terrorist schemes.”

Speaker Nabih Berri has joined Hezbollah in warning against the formation of a neutral, nonpartisan Cabinet, saying such a government would be toppled by a no-confidence vote in Parliament, according to visitors to the speaker’s residence in Ain al-Tineh.

Berri said that the formation of a neutral government was basically aimed to exclude Hezbollah.

“If this government is formed, as they say, from neutral and nonpartisan [figures], the aim and the outcome of this action will be to exclude Hezbollah from the government and nothing else,” Berri was quoted as saying by the visitors.

Berri warned that a neutral, nonpartisan Cabinet would be toppled in Parliament. He pledged to oppose any attempt to exclude Hezbollah from the government, recalling that his Amal Movement and its leader, the missing Imam Musa Sadr, stood against the isolation of the Kataeb Party in 1975.

“A decree on the formation of this government will be issued on Jan. 7 or 8 as they say,” Berri was quoted as telling visitors. “Then [this government] will take time to draft its policy statement after which it will go to Parliament to debate it and seek a vote of confidence. But this government will collapse as it will not win a vote of confidence in Parliament,” he added.

He said lawmakers from his parliamentary Liberation and Development bloc as well as from MP Walid Jumblatt’s bloc would not give a confidence vote to a neutral government that would exclude Hezbollah.

Berri’s remarks come as Sleiman was reported to have agreed with Salam to seek the formation of a neutral Cabinet before Jan. 25.

The move is likely to throw the country into further turmoil given stern warnings by the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition which strongly opposes such a government. Hezbollah and its allies have demanded a 9-9-6 Cabinet formula representing all the political parties as a way out of the nine-month Cabinet deadlock.

The Future Movement and its March 14 allies have rejected outright the 9-9-6 Cabinet formula which would give veto power to the March 8 and March 14 camps. Instead, they have demanded the formation of a neutral, nonpartisan government to oversee the presidential vote in May.

Berri reiterated that his proposal for a 9-9-6 Cabinet lineup was the best formula for the March 14 parties because it would grant them veto power, in addition to the ministerial portfolios of the prime minister and centrists.

“What’s the worst about such a [neutral] government is that it will deepen differences. I had hoped to reach a consensus on a new Cabinet according to the formula I had proposed,” he said.

In remarks published by As-Safir newspaper, Berri warned that a fait accompli government would lead to “dangerous consequences” and scuttle the presidential election scheduled in May. He said that taking the choice of a neutral Cabinet requires that Salam step down because he is part of the March 14 coalition and that new parliamentary consultations be held to name a new prime minister.Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai urged Sleiman to ensure that the election of a new president take place on time. “You [Sleiman] took an oath before Parliament to be loyal to the homeland and the Constitution. And you, yourself, declared, more than once, that you would hand over the [presidency] to the newly elected president before May 25,” Rai said in his message during the World Day of Peace Mass in Bkirki Wednesday.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 03, 2014, on page 1.
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