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FRIDAY, 25 APR 2014
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Fait accompli Cabinet loses steam
Prime Minister designate Tammam Salam, right, receives U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly in Beirut, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)
Prime Minister designate Tammam Salam, right, receives U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly in Beirut, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)
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BEIRUT: The option of forming a fait accompli government Cabinet looks to have lost momentum following Thursday’s blast in Beirut’s southern suburb of Haret Hreik and in light of warnings issued from key groups, political sources told The Daily Star Friday.

Both Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt and Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai expressed reservations over the exclusion of any group from the new government.

According to sources close to President Michel Sleiman, he and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam are unlikely to announce a new government within the coming days and will hold off for now to give a new opportunity for a national unity government.

Sleiman has insisted on the formation of a new government before he leaves office on May 25.

The sources went on to say that the nature of the government would not be known until Sleiman, who is on a private holiday abroad, returns to Beirut Saturday and evaluates the overall situation with Salam and others, including Rai.

Rai has urged Sleiman to ensure that the election for the next head of state takes place on time.

The sources also spoke of the prominent role played by Jumblatt in terms of bringing opposing views together to agree on a compromise formula that will take into consideration the demands and conditions of rival parties, keeping in mind that he is proposing several formulas regarding the makeup of the Cabinet and its policy statement.

There is a movement among political mediators on reducing conditions set forth by both parties regarding the formation of a Cabinet; otherwise a neutral government would remain the lesser of two evils, the same sources added.

A formula had been outlined by Speaker Nabih Berri in coordination with some political powers, including Jumblatt, but it has been rejected by March 14.

Berri has joined Hezbollah in warning against forming a neutral, nonpartisan Cabinet, saying such a government would be toppled by a no-confidence vote in Parliament.

According to Salam, rival political factions still have some chance to agree on the formation of a transitional Cabinet that would pave the way for the presidential election.

“The new Cabinet will be transitional because it will pave the way for the presidential election and will change after the election. Probably, its role will be to facilitate a consensus on the election of a new president,” Salam told As-Safir newspaper in remarks published Friday.

“Therefore, we will give the political parties some chance to agree on the formation of a Cabinet that can pull the country out of the current predicament,” he said. He added that taking more time to form a new Cabinet was harmful for the country.

He also met with United Nations Special Coordinator to Lebanon Derek Plumbly Friday, and the two discussed the latest developments in Lebanon and the region.

Salam, who was appointed premier-designate on April 6, said he was waiting for the return of Sleiman to discuss with him the shape of the next Cabinet.

Salam’s attempts to form a new Cabinet have been stymied by conflicting conditions set out by the March 8 and March 14 parties over the role and shape of the government.

Given the nine-month stalemate, 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 after the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition has warned against 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 deadlock.

Hezbollah MP Ali Fayyad said Friday that a neutral, nonpartisan government would result in more tensions and expose Lebanon’s security.

“A fait accompli or neutral Cabinet will open the doors to more security and political exposure and open the doors to additional tensions,” he said in a televised comment.

“How can [a Cabinet] be neutral if its head is a March 14-affiliate,” Fayyad added.

He also said there should be no boycotting of the Cabinet and no delay in the presidential polls, adding that political differences should be dealt with through the democratic process of forming a government and addressing pending issues.

He said nothing could justify turning the dispute of Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria into the boycotting of the Cabinet.

Future MP Ahmad Fatfat, for his part, emphasized that Lebanon was in dire need of a Cabinet as further delay would harm the country.

“The terrorist explosions need to hasten the formation of a Cabinet since the country’s security has become exposed,” he said.

Also Friday, head of the Future bloc Fouad Siniora met with American Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale, in the presence of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s advisers, and discussed the latest developments in Lebanon and the region.

No statements were issued after the meeting.

Sheikh Nabil Qaouq, the deputy chairman of Hezbollah’s executive council, called Friday for the formation of a unity government that takes into account “effective partnership” at the height of political tension, and not a government of provocation and division.

Echoing Fayyad’s comments, Qaouq said a neutral government could not be formed if it was headed by a March 14 political figure.

Qaouq was speaking at a dinner held in honor of Hussein Moussa Barakat, who was killed in fighting in Syria’s Deir al-Zor city of Husseinieh.

“Lebanon today is at a crossroads. A Cabinet can either take it toward the path of security and stability and fortify national unity, or toward a path filled with mines,” Qaouq warned, stressing the need to agree on a national unity government that does not exclude or provoke any party.

He said that the March 14 coalition was aiming to form a government that would exclude Hezbollah, and that “the reason behind the obstruction has become clear.”

For his part, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said that in terms of the presidential election, it was necessary to wait for the constitutional period, which begins on March 25.

Mikati noted the impediment in forming a new Cabinet, adding that “every party is hanging on to its own judgment, and is not looking at the situation realistically.”

The prime minister cited the dangers facing the country and the need to find a solution rather than impose conditions and excluding the other.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 04, 2014, on page 2.
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