Lebanon News

Hariri insists on Hizbullah participation in unity cabinet

BEIRUT: Premier-designate Saad Hariri stressed Tuesday Hizbullah would be part of the national-unity cabinet despite recent Israeli threats warning against the party’s participation. “Hizbullah will be part of the government since the country’s interests necessitate the party’s participation,” Hariri said during an iftar at his residence in Qoreitem. 
“The national-unity cabinet will include both the March 14 Forces and Hizbullah whether the Israeli enemy wanted or not,” Hariri said. 
Tackling the country’s security situation, Hariri hailed the efforts of the Lebanese Army and other security forces to preserve Lebanon’s stability. 
Hariri stressed that alongside Israeli threats Lebanon faced social and economic challenges which necessitated the collective efforts of Lebanese political parties. 
“We face many challenges which no party can handle on its own,” Hariri said. 
However, he added that national unity “should not marginalize the principles of democracy and freedom. 
“We won in the [June7] parliamentary elections and then we reached out to all Lebanese groups based on our awareness of the size of the challenges and the threats to be addressed,” Hariri said. 
Earlier on Tuesday, Hizbullah also expressed its readiness to cooperate with Hariri in order to expedite and facilitate the formation process. 
Caretaker Labor Minister Mohammad Fneish urged the “swift” formation of a cabinet through dialogue “without trading accusations in the media.” 
Concerning Hizbullah’s role in the cabinet-formation pro­cess, Fneish said his party was “taking initiative” in cooperaing with Hariri to end political disputes and guarantee a calm atmosphere for dialogue in order to reach a “satisfying” conclusion to the process. 
Speaking to reporters following a meeting with President Michel Sleiman, Fneish called on Hariri to pursue his efforts to reach a fair compromise on the cabinet issue, and said Hizbullah made efforts to reach a general accord on the government, a reference to the 15-10-5 formula. 
The formula grants the majority 15 ministers, the opposition 10 and the president five seats which guarantee him the tipping vote; both March 14 and the opposition would respectively be denied absolute majority or veto power. 
Media reports said on Tuesday that Hariri held talks Monday night with Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s political assistant Hussein Khalil. The reports added that Khalil informed Hariri of Hizbullah’s support for the demands of their ally Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader MP Michel Aoun. 
Aoun insists that his son-in-law be reappointed for a second term as telecommunications minister. Aoun is also demanding that his party gets a “sovereign” ministry. Sovereign ministries include the defense, interior, finance and foreign affairs portfolios. 
Sleiman urged political leaders on Tuesday to “tone down the sharpness of political rhetoric in order to re-start the necessary deliberations and break the political deadlock.” 
Also on Tuesday, a source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri denied to The Daily Star a report by the Central News Agency (CNA) claiming that Berri was expected to disclose on August 31 the parties responsible of obstructing the formation process. 
The CNA said Berri would tackle in detail the cabinet issue during a speech to mark the anniversary of Imam Mousa al-Sadr’s disappearance, if no breakthrough was reached by that time.
The CNA also reported on Tuesday that Syrian-Saudi contacts concerning the formation of a cabinet slowed down while Lebanese parties awaited new regional political developments to conclude an agreement on the next cabinet. 
During an iftar at his residence in Qoreitem Monday, Hariri said: “Each party is entitled to take its own stances and submit its proposals, but nevertheless the formation process is constitutionally associated to the premier-designate in collaboration with the president.” He added that discussions on the cabinet’s formation did not call for public statements but rather dialogue among political parties. 
“I see a need for dialogue since matters that bring us together are far more than what divides us,” Hariri said, adding that he fulfilled his duties “by deliberating with all groups.” The premier-designate stressed that he was “keen to form a cabinet as soon as possible through calm dialogue among all political groups.” 
“We seek a national-unity cabinet to strengthen the country and put into action the promises we made to the Lebanese citizens during the June 7 parliamentary elections,” Hariri said. 
The Future Movement leader highlighted the need to meet people’s everyday needs with regard to health care, power and water supplies as well as education. 
Hariri also emphasized that “political disagreements should remain part of the political framework,” adding that national-unity guaranteed the country’s stability. 
Echoing its leader, the Future Movement stressed on Tuesday the need for all parties to respect the Lebanese Constitution with regard to the powers allotted to the premier-designate and the president when it comes to the formation of a cabinet. 
Following a meeting headed by Caretaker Premier Fouad Siniora, the Future Movement bloc stressed its commitment to the Taif Accord as well as Lebanon’s Arab identity and its democratic sovereign regime. 
The bloc described “obstacles deliberately established” by certain political groups to delay the formation of the government as “unconstitutional maneuvers.” 
The Future Movement also condemned “foreign public rhetoric,” which further hampered the formation process, a reference to remarks published on Sunday by Al-Baath, a Syrian state run newspaper that criticized Hariri’s visit to Saudi Arabia. 
It called on Hariri to “steadily” continue his efforts to form a national-unity cabinet based on calm dialogue so as to resolve differences among the Lebanese away from controversial rhetoric.

 

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