Lebanon News

Premier will not resign until new Cabinet agreement reached

Prime Minister Najib Mikati speaks during an interview with The Daily Star at the Grand Serail in Beirut, Monday, July 2, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati will not resign until an agreement on the next Cabinet is reached, political sources close to the premier and the ruling March 8 coalition told The Daily Star Sunday.

The sources added that neither the country nor external powers can endure the chaos that could result from Mikati’s immediate resignation.

An agreement between rival groups should be reached in the country before the prime minister resigns, the sources also added.

“The suitable settlement will be forming a technocrat Cabinet or amending the makeup of the current Cabinet,” said one of the sources, who did not rule out any possibility regarding the future composition of Cabinet.

The sources said that the country, along with foreign powers, could not endure the chaos which might occur in Lebanon should Mikati resign immediately, given the regional turmoil, particularly the Syrian uprising and fears that it might spill over into Lebanon.

The sources stressed that no settlements could be made under street pressure by the March 14 coalition.

Meanwhile, other political sources said that Mikati leaves to Saudi Arabia Monday to perform pilgrimage, delaying any potential settlement for several days, as he is not expected to return before Saturday.

France’s Ambassador to Lebanon Patrice Paoli, Britain’s envoy Tom Fletcher and U.S. Ambassador Maura Connelly have urged Mikati not to resign, the sources added.

The premier is coming under strong pressure from the opposition to resign in light of Friday’s assassination of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, who served as the head of the Internal Security Forces Information branch and kept close ties with opposition leader and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Hasan and at least two others were killed in a car bomb attack which rocked the Ashrafieh neighborhood of Beirut, the first such attack since 2008.

The March 14 coalition holds Mikati personally responsible for the assassination of Hasan and has urged him to resign immediately.

Formed on June 2011, Mikati’s Cabinet is dominated by Hezbollah and its other March 8 allies.

Mikati said Saturday he suspended a decision to resign at the request of President Michel Sleiman.

“The president has asked for a period of time to allow him to consult with the members of the National Dialogue Committee,” Mikati told reporters after attending a special Cabinet session chaired by Sleiman at Baabda Palace.

He warned that the country is experiencing a crisis period and said that, with Hasan’s assassination, his Sunni sect is feeling vulnerable, a situation Mikati said he could not accept.

Mikati said he cancelled a Cabinet session scheduled for Monday, adding that he would move to his house in the Beirut neighborhood of Verdun and not stay at the headquarters of the government in the Grand Serail.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 22, 2012, on page 1.




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