BEIRUT: Caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil claimed in remarks published Friday he was being “politically targeted” and vowed to challenge what he said was a ploy after prime minister-designate rebuffed his desire to keep his post.
“This is why I decided to confront [politicians] with all my might, and I certainly have great potential [to challenge them],” he told Al-Joumhouria daily, noting that he was being “politically targeted.”
Bassil said his confidence stemmed from being a Christian and given that the Free Patriotic Movement, headed by his father-in-law MP Michel Aoun, was a party with strong Christian support.
He warned the various political leaders not to underestimate the power of the FPM’s choices, saying decisions would be taken at the right time.
Bassil’s comments come after progress in the formation of the next government was hit with a set-back over the rotation of ministerial portfolios, a key demand set by the March 14 alliance for its participation in an all-embracing Cabinet. In his weekly news conference Tuesday, Aoun rejected the demand.
A senior political source told The Daily Star Thursday that Salam has strongly rejected Aoun’s demand that Bassil retain his post as energy minister in the new government. Aoun is adamant that Bassil retain the Energy Ministry and that his bloc be given another sovereign ministerial portfolio, the source added.
Bassil met Salam Monday to convey Aoun’s opposition to the idea of rotating ministerial portfolios. But Salam’s response was firm, saying that he cannot reserve the energy portfolio for Bassil, the source said.
However, Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt described as “positive” a recent meeting with Bassil.
“We have agreed on the principle of rotation of ministerial portfolios, and thus there are no conspiracies or hidden deals against anyone or at the expense of anyone,” Jumblatt told the local As-Safir newspaper in comments published Friday.
He said political leaders were looking into “some details” about the formation of a new government, hoping that they would soon find a solution to these issues.
If Salam announces an 8-8-8 Cabinet lineup without Bassil retaining the energy portfolio, Aoun is expected to withdraw his ministers, the political source told The Daily Star.
He said this would cause a problem of Christian representation, since Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea has announced that his party would not join a Cabinet unless the policy statement included the Baabda Declaration which calls for distancing Lebanon from regional conflicts, particularly the Syria war.