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Hezbollah slams Mikati, says resignation worsens paralysis

Hezbollah MP Mohammad Raad attends a ceremony in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Friday, Jan. 25, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah slammed Sunday Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati for throwing in the towel, saying the country now faced further paralysis.

Meanwhile, the opposition Future parliamentary bloc reiterated its praise for Mikati, saying his decision was a step toward the reactivation of National Dialogue.

“The resignation was not a surprise to any of us because we had already said, way back during the [government’s] formation, that it would only last until the beginning of the elections,” Loyalty to the Resistance bloc MP Mohammad Raad said.

However, the Hezbollah official still criticized Mikati’s move to step down, saying the Tripoli lawmaker had run out of ways of preserving security.

“The issue was not about the refusing to extend [the mandate] of an employee at an institution but rather the prime minister exhausted what he was able to offer in terms of maintaining stability in Lebanon,” he told a gathering in south Lebanon.

“Or maybe he sensed hurricanes on the horizon and wanted to distance himself from them, given that he is the author of the self-disassociation theory,” he said, referring to the country’s self-avowed policy of remaining neutral on regional development and crises, particularly in Syrian.

Mikati announced the resignation of his Cabinet Friday, citing fallout in the government over the extension of Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi’s mandate as police chief as well as the formation of an elections committee to oversee the upcoming parliamentary polls.

Hezbollah has voiced objections to extending the term of Rifi, who they view as close to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement, which heads the country’s opposition.

The resistance party and its allies in the March 8 coalition also oppose the formation of the elections supervisory body, viewing its approval as a step toward holding the elections under the 1960 law.

Raad was also critical of Mikati’s justification for throwing in the towel.

“The prime minister, who sought to avoid a paralysis at a security institution, has created a political and security vacuum by resigning,” he said.

In a separate speech also Sunday, Hezbollah lawmaker Ali Fayyad warned his rivals in the March 14 coalition not to view the resignation as an opportunity to set conditions, “as that would be a grave mistake that will prevent solutions.”

Mikati’s resignation also drew the ire of Lebanese Democratic Party Talal Arslan, one of President Bashar Assad's closest allies in Lebanon.

"I will not talk today about the result of the disgusting Cabinet resignation where personal interests were combined with the global game which prove the level of recklessness and short-sighted [thinking] of those who were supposed to be at the level of responsibility in the country,” Arslan told visitors.

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, head of the Future parliamentary bloc, reiterated Sunday his praise of Mikati’s decision to step down, describing it as a positive step toward restarting the stalled National Dialogue and the drafting of a new electoral law to govern the upcoming polls.

“The government resigned and paved the way to a return to the Dialogue table but on the basis that the Dialogue's previous decisions are implemented,” Siniora told reporters in Sidon, south Lebanon.

He added that decisions made during previous Dialogue sessions should be carried out in order to encourage politicians to continue in the inter-party talks.

“The president will call for parliamentary consultations [to name a prime minister-designate to form a new Cabinet] and explore the potential of restarting National Dialogue but [we should] implement what we agreed on previously, including the Baabda Declaration ... and agree on a new electoral law that will govern the elections,” he said.

President Michel Sleiman relaunched the National Dialogue committee in June 2012 when rival leaders agreed to the so-called “Baabda Declaration” to keep Lebanon at a distance from turmoil in the region, particularly Syria.

However, the Future Movement suspended its participation in the talks following the October assassination of a top security official and demanded the formation of a “neutral salvation Cabinet” to oversee the polls.

Siniora, who described Mikati’s decision to quit as a “sound” one, said inflexibility on the part of the March 8 coalition had led to Friday’s announcement.

“When he did not find anyone supporting this stance [concerning Rifi], which is a normal result given the nature of this one-party government that does not represent a big part of the Lebanese ... the resignation was the result of [government's] stubbornness in refusing to find the means to guarantee the continuity of this [security] agency.”

He added that Rifi’s term could still be extended once and on an exceptional basis via a petition signed by half of the MPs in order to hold a legislative session and approve the appeal.

“In a new government, we could reappoint Rifi to his post given that he would have become a civilian eligible for that,” he said.

 

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