BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea denied Saturday any rift in the March 14 coalition after MP Saad Hariri voiced readiness to share power with Hezbollah in a national coalition Cabinet, and said his party would refrain from joining any Cabinet lacking the Baabda Declaration in its policy statement.
“Hariri’s declaration that he will take part in a Cabinet with Hezbollah as a political party is a good will gesture from Hariri’s side but it does not reflect any [political] division within the March 14 coalition,” Geagea told reporters after meeting a French delegation at his Maarab residence.
“There are no disparities or contradictory decisions in these forces [the March 14 alliance],” he added.
Geagea’s comments were echoed Sunday by Future Movement MP Nuhad Mashnouq who told MTV station that Hariri’s stance was a “positive good will gesture and should only be dealt within such limits.”
The Future Movement MP also said that there should be a consensual and united decision over the March 14 coalition’s participation in the next Cabinet.
“Any Cabinet that will be formed should be backed by the political consensus of the March 14 forces and should have a prior and clear formulation of the ministerial statement,” he said.
“I do not think Hariri will talk about a government that does not include his March 14 allies,” he said.
Geagea’s comments come in light of reports of a row between the LF and the Future Movement, two key elements in the March 14 alliance, over participation in a government with Hezbollah.
In an interview with Reuters Friday, Hariri, who heads the Future Movement, said he was ready to share power with Hezbollah in a national coalition government to help stabilize Lebanon as it faces growing threats to its security from the war raging in Syria.
Hariri’s remarks are expected to seal a political deal on an all-embracing Cabinet based on 8-8-8 lineup which would break the 10-month government deadlock.
The deal, suggested by Speaker Nabih Berri and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt, will most likely involve the Future Movement, the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance and Jumblatt's parliamentary bloc.
Future Movement MP Mohammad Hajjar said Sunday the shift in the Future Movement’s stance was the result of changes in Hezbollah’s position over the Cabinet formation.
“The dangers surrounding the country and the region as well as Hezbollah letting go of previous stances it once considered a red line in the Cabinet formation process ... all these factors made us ready to discuss proposals put forward by the other side [March 8 coalition],” he told OTV television.
Hajjar also stressed that once a decision in the March 14 coalition is made over the Cabinet formation, all of its members would abide by it.
Geagea said Saturday that the March 14 coalition should refrain from taking part in a national unity Cabinet if the Baabda Declaration – a pact to distance Lebanon from the Syria crisis – is not included in the next government’s ministerial statement.
“There is no need to take part in the next government if it does not secure the minimum level of political change that can reflect positively on the country,” Geagea said.
“The minimum [level of political change] is that the Baabda Declaration serve as a basic political clause in the ministerial statement,” he said.
Earlier this month, Berri, a key figure in the March 8 coalition, suggested the policy statement of the next Cabinet be agreed upon after the formation.
The LF leader also repeated his objection to integrating “the Army, resistance, people” trinity in the ministerial statement.
“In the event a political national unity Cabinet is not formed, President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Designate Tammam Salam have a chance to form a neutral Cabinet until the end of this month,” Geagea said.
Geagea’s comments came after a meeting with Emmanuel Bonne, French President Francois Holland’s political adviser for North Africa, Middle East and United Nations. French Ambassador to Lebanon Patrice Paoli was also part of the delegation.