BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s Cabinet runs the risk of becoming a resigned government in the next few days if the March 14 coalition fails to make concessions over the resistance clause in the ministerial statement, Speaker Nabih Berri warned in comments published Wednesday.
“The Cabinet has until midnight Monday [March 17] to finalize its policy statement. We should exert all efforts to finalize the statement within this timeframe,” Berri told As-Safir newspaper.
“If this deadline passes without the policy statement having been finalized, I will inform the president Tuesday morning that as far as I am concerned the Cabinet has become a resigned one,” he added.
Berri stood firm in his support for the resistance.
"Isn’t this government a government of national interest?" he asked lawmakers during his weekly meeting Wednesday.
“This [national] interest should be embodied in our commitment to the resistance in order to protect our wealth as well as to deter attacks and [safeguard] national sovereignty,” he stressed.
"We will not let go of any letter of this golden word [resistance],” Berri added.
Although the one-month constitutional deadline for the Cabinet to draft its policy statement before a vote of confidence in Parliament ends on March 17, MPs and legal experts are split over the fate of the government if no agreement is reached within the timeframe.
Berri said he would inform President Michel Sleiman that new parliamentary consultations to name a new prime minister-designate would be required if the deadline was exceeded.
“In case the president does not agree with my views, he will have to bear the consequences of his stance,” Berri added.
The committee drafting the Cabinet’s ministerial statement met Tuesday for a 10th time but failed to reach a deal over the clause relating to the resistance. The issue was referred to the Cabinet.
The March 14 coalition wants the resistance to be under state authority. The rival March 8 coalition insists on a clause in the policy statement that stresses the right of the Lebanese to liberate remaining Lebanese territories by Israel and resist any Israeli attack, effectively legitimizing Hezbollah’s arms.
Berri, Hezbollah’s ally in the March 8 coalition, said the onus was on the March 14 coalition to make concessions over the resistance clause in order to reach a “consensual” ministerial statement.
“The objections over the resistance clause are becoming farcical: Whoever thinks we will make concessions over the resistance under the pressure of deadlines is delusional,” Berri said.
“We went along with you, now it’s your time to do the same,” Berri said, addressing the March 14 coalition.
“Know that our flexibility ends when it comes to our deeply-rooted principles that we cannot compromise on.”