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Aoun: My bloc is ready to attend Cabinet sessions

Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun. (The Daily Star)

BEIRUT: Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun announced Tuesday that his bloc will participate in any new Cabinet session, but a source close to the prime minister ruled out a new session before agreement is reached on a solution to the crisis.

In recent days Aoun and his bloc’s ministers have launched a fierce campaign against President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati, accusing them of forming “an obstructive bloc” within the mainly March 8-dominated government.

Cabinet meetings were suspended by Mikati in a session last week after Aoun’s ministers aired their grievances over administrative appointments.

Mikati Tuesday visited Sleiman at the Baabda Palace in a bid to resolve the impasse.

While Aoun said his ministers would attend any future session, he accused Mikati for violating the Constitution by not calling for a new Cabinet session.

“The prime minister has exceeded his prerogatives, he wants to impose his opinion on others, and he has also violated the Constitution,” said Aoun at his residence in Metn’s Rabieh.

Aoun said he expects Mikati to abide by Article 65 of the Constitution, which stipulates that executive authority is vested in the Cabinet.

“We ask the prime minister: On what basis did you stop the Cabinet sessions? It is shameful to play with the articles of the Constitution as if they are of no value at all,” Aoun said.

In response to Aoun, the anonymous source close to Mikati told The Daily Star that the premier has the right to adjourn a session if he finds out that “obstructive attitudes” are hindering the work of the government.

“When there are such attitudes within the Cabinet sessions, the prime minister has the right to adjourn a session to find solutions for such problems,” the source said.

According to the source, the reason the Cabinet has still failed to convene is due to the refusal of Aoun’s ministers to discuss all possible candidates who could be appointed to fill public administrative posts.

“They want to deal with the appointments without listening to the opinion of others in the Cabinet ... this has to change, the Cabinet has to make the appointments in a professional way,” said a source close to Mikati.

“Everyone has the right to propose names to become candidates for administrative posts, ministers, as well as the prime minister ... all names should be discussed,” the source explained.

Since Mikati suspended Cabinet sessions last week, Aoun and Mikati’s ministers have blamed each other for the paralysis and its failure to make appointments to fill hundreds of vacant administrative and diplomatic posts.

Although behind-the-scene contacts aimed at resolving the crisis have already begun according to a senior Hezbollah official, the source close to Mikati says a wide-ranging agreement is crucial for the resumption of sessions.

“We should agree on a certain framework that would guide the Cabinet through the phase of appointments of these posts in a fully professional way,” said the source adding that “it’s not acceptable to deal with appointments as if they are simply shares.”

But Aoun accused Mikati and Sleiman of being the force behind the Cabinet paralysis. “They [Mikati and Sleiman] don’t want us to reach higher positions in the state,” said Aoun.

Officials in the opposition Future Movement criticized the government for neglecting their responsibilities toward the people and negatively affecting the country’s economy.

“What is happening today within the fabricated March 8 government is an attempt to divide shares between ministers and the prime minister to make political gains,” said a statement read by the Future Movement official and Western Bekaa MP Ziad Qadri.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 08, 2012, on page 3.

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