Lebanon News

PM tenders Cabinet resignation, EU ‘concerned’ over Lebanon

President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati at Baabda Palace on Saturday, March 23, 2013. (The Daily Star/DalatiNohra)

BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman requested Saturday Prime Minister Najib Mikati stay on as caretaker prime minister after accepting the government’s resignation, as the European Union voiced concern over the deteriorating situation in the country, particularly after Mikati stepped down.

Meanwhile, sources close to Baabda Palace said Sleiman would set a date next week for launching parliamentary consultations over naming a prime minister-designate.

“Prime Minister Najib Mikati handed President Michel Sleiman [Saturday] at Baabda Palace the letter of resignation of his government and [Sleiman] asked him to continue as caretaker until the formation of a new government,” a statement from the president’s office said.

Following the meeting, Mikati reiterated that his decision was a personal one aimed at paving the way for National Dialogue that would lead to a “salvation Cabinet.”

“I did not consult any side before taking the decision to step down from my position: My decision was a personal one,” Mikati, who formed his 30 member Cabinet in June 2011, told reporters at Baabda Palace, where he formally handed his resignation to Sleiman.

According to the statement from Sleiman’s office, the president expressed gratitude to both Mikati and his government and requested the Tripoli lawmaker continue as caretaker prime minister.

Mikati’s decision Friday came shortly after Hezbollah and its March 8 allies foiled attempts during a Cabinet session to create a body to supervise the June 9 parliamentary polls and rejected the premier’s proposal for the extension of the police chief’s term.

At the news conference following his talks with Sleiman, Mikati reiterated his hope that his resignation would pave the way for a solution to end the political deadlock in the country.

Asked whether he would be willing to head any future Cabinet, Mikati replied: “I have said this before: It is too early to address such an issue.”

“What is more important is that the Lebanese come together and that the National Dialogue recommence and a salvation government be formed during this difficult period,” he added.

Meanwhile, the European Union voiced concerns about the deteriorating situation in Lebanon, “particularly after the decision of PM Mikati to step down.”

In a European Union statement, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton voiced also regret over the political stalemate that led to Mikati’s resignation and expressed concern over security incidents undermining stability in the country.

"The EU will pursue its support to the institutions, to the security forces and to the people of Lebanon to respond to the current challenges in the spirit of our long-standing partnership," Ashton said.

Her comments come a day after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all parties in Lebanon to remain united to maintain calm and stability following Mikati’s resignation.

“At this challenging time for the region, the secretary-general calls on all the parties in Lebanon to remain united behind the leadership of President Sleiman,” a statement from Ban’s office late Friday said.

Ban also urged political parties to work with Sleiman to reach a solution to the impasse.

“The Secretary-General urges all concerned to engage positively with the President to agree the way forward in accordance with Lebanon's constitutional requirements and with full respect for the democratic process,” the statement said.

The UN chief also called on parties to remain committed to “Lebanon’s policy of disassociation consistent with their commitment in the Baabda Declaration.”

Although receiving praise from the March 14 coalition Friday, Mikati was heavily criticized Saturday by Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, a leading figure in the March 8 alliance which enjoyed a majority of seats in the government.

“The reasons behind Mikati’s resignation are silly,” Aoun, who heads the Change and Reform parliamentary block, told Sawt al-Mada radio station.

The FPM leader also launched a stinging attack on Sleiman, saying he had “behaved like a dictator in trying to impose the formation of the committee to oversee the upcoming elections.”

After accepting the resignation of the prime minister and appointing him as caretaker, Sleiman sets a date for the launch of parliamentary consultations for the naming of a new prime minister-designate.

Sources close to Baabda Palace said Sleiman would set a date for the launch of parliamentary consultations for the naming of a new prime minister-designate upon his return next week from Qatar, where he will attend an Arab League summit Tuesday and Wednesday.





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