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Lebanon News

Salvation Cabinet could save the country: sources

Prime Minister Najib Mikati, center, heads a Cabinet session at the Grand Serail in Beirut, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)

Domestic and foreign groups are apprehensive about Lebanon’s current state: Swinging from crisis to stagnation, it is sometimes reminiscent of the calm before a storm.

Sources say that one way to stop the country’s looming political collapse would be an agreement between the opposition March 14 coalition and the Cabinet to form a “salvation Cabinet” to supervise the 2013 parliamentary elections. The members of this Cabinet would be excluded from running in the elections.

These sources believe the majority of political leaders would support such a proposal, with the exception of Hezbollah. The group wants to hold on to Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government, given the difficult circumstances of its ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Hezbollah holds on to this opinion despite the conviction of Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri that the current Cabinet has exhausted its capabilities and can no longer resolve any security, economic or social issues.

The sources cited two separate meetings that the FPM held with Hezbollah and the Amal Movement last week to discuss the Cabinet. During the meeting with Hezbollah leaders, one of Sayed Hasan Nasrallah’s political advisers told FPM delegates not to forsake the Cabinet, as the alternative would be a power vacuum.

However, Amal leaders were open to alternatives, the sources report.

According to these sources, Hezbollah recently sent a message about its power through the kidnapping spree carried out by the Meqdad family and its military wing. They say the kidnappings were a response to pressure on the group about its weapons and the Syrian crisis.

The sources deemed the message less forceful than the events of May 7, 2008, but more forceful than the “black shirts” incident of 2011.

Should March 14 and March 8 agree on a neutral, technocratic or national unity Cabinet headed by a Sunni leader from a long-standing political family, the sources believe this would serve as a solution to Lebanon’s current problems.

However, they believe it is still early for the viability of this option, as it was only alluded to during March 14’s meetings this week.

In the meantime, the relationship between March 8’s Cabinet members and the Cabinet’s centrists is strained. March 8 parliamentary sources have said that the opposition’s ideas have seeped into the Cabinet, especially through Mikati, President Michel Sleiman and Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt.

The sources say that Sleiman’s stances have changed noticeably since his Army Day speech, moving from a policy of neutrality and consensus to an alignment with a particular group, albeit unofficially.

The March 8 sources criticized the trio’s stances, especially after the arrest of former Minister Michel Samaha and the president’s criticism of Syria. They believe that rather than taking what they consider biased stances, Sleiman should act in accordance with agreements of cooperation signed between Lebanon and Syria.

As for Jumblatt’s positions, his support for the Syrian revolution has had an effect on the Cabinet. The sources question whether it is in the government’s interest to make an enemy of Syria, and make friends with the U.S. and the West.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 05, 2012, on page 3.

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