Middle East

Hezbollah rules out fait accompli Cabinet

File- Hezbollah's deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem speaks in front of students at the LU in Hadath. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah ruled out over the weekend the formation of a fait accompli government and warned its political rivals that a caretaker Cabinet could stay for years if they kept wagering on regional changes.

“We don’t want a fait accompli government neither do we want to make a unilateral decision,” Hezbollah’s deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem told an Ashoura gathering in Baalbek, east Lebanon, late Sunday.

“A comprehensive government is possible if all sides agree, but a caretaker government will stay for months and years if you are waiting for developments in the region,” Qassem said, according to a statement from Hezbollah Monday.

Addressing the Future Movement-led March 14 coalition, the Hezbollah official said: “you will wait for Geneva 2 and Geneva 3 and [the issue] will last much longer,” he said.

“What benefits will they get from paralyzing the country?” he asked, “particularly since all indications point to regional and international stability after the failure of the multinational armed opposition in Syria and the global confusion in the region.”

Qassem stated that Hezbollah welcomes a “cooperative solution,” saying that the party was ready for any solution that would lead to the hand-in-hand approach “not from a weak position but rather out of keenness to maintain the unity of the country.”

“If you want to form an all-embracing government, we are ready; if you want to resume Dialogue to agree on the solutions, we are ready; if you want Dialogue before or after the formation of the government, we are ready,” he said.

Hezbollah’s comments came in the course of President Michel Sleiman’s visit to Saudi Arabia Monday and amid reports on whether he will discuss the Cabinet formation with Saudi officials.

Sleiman, however, said that he would not tackle the Cabinet crisis or the end of his term and that the main themes of his visit would be “Lebanon and the Lebanese expatriates, the situation in Syria and the Iranian-Saudi relations.

Qassem's comments also complemented Hezbollah MP Hasan Fadlallah’s comments over the weekend that March 14’s standing both at the local and regional levels prevents it from setting conditions on the formation of the Cabinet.

“The March 14 party is not in a position, neither at the local nor regional level, to set its conditions [for Cabinet formation]. [Even] when it thought it was in a position to do so [in the past], it could not. Therefore, [how can it do so now], with the changes around us, in Lebanon and the region?” Fadlallah asked during the Hezbollah Martyr’s Day ceremony.

Fadlallah also reiterated his party’s view that Hezbollah should be represented at the level of the government, citing Lebanon’s National Pact.

“The resistance [Hezbollah] is a constant of Lebanon’s National Pact and is central to it and no one can side step it.[Hezbollah's] partnership in the state is not a gift from anyone but it is a central component in Lebanon and a part of the National Pact.”

Fadlallah stressed on the principles of the resistance, “particularly during this stage and circumstances as the resistance has become the fixed formula in Lebanon and there is no room for anyone to side step it and its partnership through the ‘Army, people, and resistance” is its right,” he said.

Fadlallah’s remarks come as part of Hezbollah’s continued campaign against the March 14 coalition and Saudi Arabia, which it blames for stalling the Cabinet formation through its main Lebanese ally the Future Movement.

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Awad Assiri, rejected in remarks Sunday the accusations it was obstructing the formation of a new government in Lebanon.

Hezbollah has called for the formation of a Cabinet that would allot nine seats to the March 8 coalition, nine to the March 14 alliance and six to the centrists. The formula would give the rival sides veto power. The March 14 camp, on the other hand, insists that a non-partisan Cabinet be formed in light of Hezbollah’s continuing role in the war in Syria.

Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, who has struggled to form the government since being nominated in April, said over the weekend Hezbollah’s recent stances against the Future Movement have changed the course of consultations regarding the Cabinet formation process.

Despite the competing conditions, Salam has vowed to continue with his mandate.

Meanwhile, Speaker Nabih Berri warned that the situation in the country could not continue in the absence of a government.

“Basically it’s time that a Cabinet was formed because things can’t go as they are,” he said, in remarks published in An-Nahar newspaper Monday.





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