BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri and Future parliamentary bloc leader MP Fouad Siniora sounded upbeat Monday over the formation of the next government.
“I would like to say a few words about the meeting [with Berri]: It was good and helpful. We will continue consultations and we are advancing on the right tracks,” Siniora told reporters at Ain el-Tineh, the speaker’s Beirut residence.
Minutes after the news conference, the local NBN television station quoted Berri as endorsing Siniora’s remarks that the meeting between the two officials had been a positive one.
Siniora’s remarks raise hopes that a new government can be formed soon after rival groups agreed to make compromises and move forward with a 8-8-8 government lineup, initially proposed by Berri and MP Walid Jumblatt.
The proposal would give the March 8 and the March 14 coalitions each eight ministers, with “decisive ministers” allotted to each side from the remaining eight ministerial portfolios designated for centrists.
Although the Future Movement and its allies in the March 14 alliance have yet to decide on the proposed lineup, Siniora said Sunday the Cabinet formation attempts were moving on the right track.
Before agreeing on the proposal, the Future Movement wants answers to a series of questions centering mainly on the government’s policy statement, a March 8 demand for veto power and the rotation of ministerial portfolios.
Berri told a local daily in remarks published Monday that he supported Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam’s proposal for the rotation of ministerial portfolios by parties and sect.
He also praised former Prime Minister Saad Hariri for his “tremendous efforts” in eliminating obstacles obstructing the formation process.
President Michel Sleiman has said that he along with Salam would form a neutral government if rival groups fail to reach a consensus on a new Cabinet, setting Jan. 20 as a deadline.
Sleiman Monday urged rival leaders to speed up the negotiations over the formation of a new government, saying those who obstruct the ongoing contacts should be held accountable.
“[Sleiman] hoped that the occasion of the Prophet's birthday would be a signal to continue the efforts to reach a consensus on the formation of a new government and overcome minor details,” his office said in a statement.
“[Rival groups should prevent] the erosion of socioeconomic conditions [and] decline of state institutions by forming an all-embracing government as soon as possible because time is running out,” Sleiman warned.
The formation of a new executive branch, the president added, required “pure intentions” and concessions for the sake of the country.
“However, those who obstruct the ongoing efforts to form a government should be held accountable and responsible for the failure,” he said.
“No one should believe that they can grow at the expense of the state and its logic because the state embraces everyone,” Sleiman added.