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Jumblatt says ready for new Lebanon government

PSP leader Walid Jumblatt attends a press conference in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, July 1, 2011. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt said in remarks published Wednesday that he was willing to participate in a new government to replace Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Cabinet but with certain conditions

When asked about the possibility of forming a new government in an interview with An-Nahar, Jumblatt said: "I am personally ready if the appropriate conditions are met for such a proposal which is up to the Lebanese political parties.”

He did not, however, specify the conditions.

“My message to everyone is clear and to the Lebanese first. I refuse to throw the country into a vacuum,” he added.

The PSP leader's remarks come as President Michel Sleiman began consultations with various political leaders to decide the fate of Mikati's government after the latter offered his resignation in the wake of the assassination of a top intelligence official.

The head of the Internal Security Forces Information Branch, Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, was killed in a car bomb last week, prompting the March 14 coalition to pile pressure on Mikati to step down.

March 14 has accused Syria of being behind the assassination and held Mikati’s government responsible for the killing.

Future Movement, one of the March 14 opposition's main parties, decided Tuesday to boycott parliamentary work and not participate in any National Dialogue session under Sleiman until the current government resigns.

In their weekly statement, the bloc also called for the establishment of a “neutral salvation government – whose members won’t be from the March 14 or 8 coalitions – that will work to shift the nation from a state of simmering tension to a state of stability in a step toward restoring the balance to national partnership in Lebanon.”

The statement came after Sleiman met with the head of the Future parliamentary bloc Fouad Siniora. The president is expected to meet Wednesday with Hezbollah MP Mohammad Raad.

Sleiman has decided to hold a National Dialogue session to discuss the possibility of forming a new Cabinet.

The State Department said Tuesday the U.S. believed it is time for the Lebanese people to choose a government that will counter the threat posed by the civil war in Syria, but it also warned against any leadership changes leaving the country with a power vacuum.

Meanwhile, EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton held talks with Lebanese leaders Tuesday, praising efforts to maintain stability through National Dialogue

The slain intelligence official was known for his pivotal role in major security investigations, including the probe into Hariri’s assassination and the recent terrorism charges brought against former Information Minister Michel Samaha.

 

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