BEIRUT: Hezbollah’s criticism of Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s speech at the annual Arab League summit is unlikely to cause a new crisis in Cabinet, Information Minister Ramzi Joreige said Tuesday.
“There will be a Cabinet session tomorrow, and maybe Hezbollah ministers will raise the issue, but I don’t think the [objection] will be echoed by other ministers,” Joreige told Al-Arabiya TV.
The objection to Salam’s speech before the summit only came from two Hezbollah ministers, the information minister said, noting that the party’s main allies in government do not share the grievance.
The Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah’s main coalition partner, has welcomed Salam’s comments as indicated by its representatives in Cabinet - Education Minister Elias Bou Saab and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil - who attended the summit alongside the premier, according to Joreige.
Joreige also dismissed claims that Salam’s speech did not represent Lebanon’s official position on the crisis in Yemen, saying that the constitution stipulates that the premier “represents the government and speaks in its name.”
Signs of a new crisis within Lebanon’s Cabinet emerged Monday after a Hezbollah minister criticized Salam’s speech at an Arab League summit, arguing that it justified “aggression on Yemen and its people.”
Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan, one of two ministers representing Hezbollah in the 24-member government, said Salam’s speech at the Arab summit did not represent Lebanon’s official position and was not discussed by the Cabinet. He said he would raise Hezbollah’s objections to Salam’s speech at the next Cabinet session scheduled for Thursday.
At the end of their two-day summit held in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh Sunday, Arab leaders voiced support for the Saudi-led military intervention against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen and agreed to the creation of a joint Arab force.
In his speech at the summit, Salam avoided taking a clear stance either supporting or rejecting the Saudi-led campaign, in a move apparently designed to avert a split within the Cabinet, but said Lebanon supported “the formation of a joint Arab force to fight terrorism and safeguard pan-Arab security.” This was viewed as implicit support for the Saudi military action.