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Cabinet formation sees positive developments: minister

File - Caretaker Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil speaks during a press conference in Beirut, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Caretaker Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil voiced optimism Sunday that the Cabinet formation process was developing in the right direction as the March 14 group came under heavy criticism for accepting a government with Hezbollah.

Meanwhile, Speaker Nabih Berri met with head of the Progressive Socialist Party MP Walid Jumblatt in the former’s Ain el-Tineh residence where they discussed the ongoing contacts in the formation process.

Jumblatt left without making a statement.

"The formation process is positively developing, discussion is open and contacts are still ongoing whether directly or indirectly,” Khalil, Berri’s adviser, said in a statement.

“The atmosphere is positive to reach a lineup and we are open to any meeting to reach an all-embracing Cabinet that could prepare for the upcoming presidential election,” Khalil, who also attended the Berri-Jumblatt meeting, added.

Meanwhile, former March 14 MP Misbah Ahdab slammed the coalition for making “concessions” and accepting to form a government with Hezbollah, days after a resumption of contacts raised hope for the possibility of an all-embracing Cabinet.

“You are negotiating over a government that you will not have a say in, one that will consider the Sunnis armed terrorists and that would resolve the situation in Tripoli the same way it did in Abra [Sidon suburb],” Ahdab, a Tripoli figure and former MP, told reporters in a news conference.

"The fate of the people in Sidon was left for Hezbollah's Resistance Brigades who violated people's rights, and you [March 14] were the ones who spoke against that,” he added

“What has come up now that led you to accept Hezbollah's participation in the government and to abandon your conditions?” Ahdab asked.

The Cabinet formation process, which has been stalled since Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam was nominated in April, has in recent days seen a flurry of political activity aimed at ending the deadlock.

Berri and Jumblatt recently put forward a Cabinet lineup of 8-8-8 in which the March 14 and the March 8 camps would each get eight ministers with “decisive ministers” allotted for each camp among the remaining eight centrists.

President Michel Sleiman said Friday he received positive signals about the 8-8-8 lineup from former PM Saad Hariri, the leader of the Future Movement.

In his news conference in the northern city, Ahdab said the Lebanese would pay the price once again for what he said were the March 14 coalition’s “weakness, lack of a vision and poor leadership.”

“The March 14 coalition should look for compromises that would protect Lebanon instead of handing it over to the Syrian-Iranian authority once again...in return for some ministerial portfolios that are non-conducive to effective decision-making to address people's problems,” Ahdab said.

“How can you ask the supporters of the Cedar Revolution to follow in your footsteps once again while you make mistakes harming the Lebanese and their aspirations by agreeing to take part in a government imposed by Hezbollah?” he said.

“The supporters will surely reject your concessions once again,” Ahdab added.

The March 14 coalition has not yet made a decision on whether to form a Cabinet based on the proposed lineup, with Future Movement saying that there were questions pertaining to the type of Cabinet that need to be addressed first.

The party is seeking answers to five questions over the 8-8-8 Cabinet line-up: the shape of the next Cabinet; the issue of the blocking third, or veto power; the policy statement; rotation of all ministerial portfolios; and the right of the president and the prime minister-designate to a “fair veto” to reject any name proposed.

The president held talks Saturday with the Future bloc MP Fouad Siniora at Baabda Palace on the formation process.

A Future Movement source told The Daily Star that the meeting served as “an introduction aimed at getting answers” to questions the party had put forward before taking any decision on an 8-8-8 Cabinet line-up.

Ahdab accused the March 14 coalition of backtracking on conditions they had imposed for joining a government with Hezbollah.

“Haven’t you vowed to boycott a government that comprises Hezbollah’s participation unless the latter withdraws from Syria?” Ahdab asked.

“Didn't you say that you will not be intimidated and that you will not settle for less than the removal of Hezbollah’s arms from Lebanon?”

“Haven’t you refused to take part in a national partnership if Hezbollah does not commit to the Baabda Declaration? What kind of stability do you think will arise from a Hezbollah government?”

 

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Summary

Caretaker Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil voiced optimism Sunday that the Cabinet formation process was developing in the right direction as the March 14 group came under heavy criticism for accepting a government with Hezbollah.

Former March 14 MP Misbah Ahdab slammed the coalition for making "concessions" and accepting to form a government with Hezbollah, days after a resumption of contacts raised hope for the possibility of an all-embracing Cabinet.

Berri and Jumblatt recently put forward a Cabinet lineup of 8-8-8 in which the March 14 and the March 8 camps would each get eight ministers with "decisive ministers" allotted for each camp among the remaining eight centrists.

The March 14 coalition has not yet made a decision on whether to form a Cabinet based on the proposed lineup, with Future Movement saying that there were questions pertaining to the type of Cabinet that need to be addressed first.

Ahdab accused the March 14 coalition of backtracking on conditions they had imposed for joining a government with Hezbollah.


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