BEIRUT: Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati, feeling the pinch of the delay in forming a new government, said Friday that process of forming a government was not open-ended, insinuating that he could make a decision on a Cabinet lineup soon come what may.
Meanwhile, Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader Walid Jumblatt blamed Hezbollah for the first time for the four-month-long Cabinet deadlock, saying the party did not want the government to be formed soon.
Mikati, who has come under fire recently from both the March 8 and March 14 camps for failing to form a new government to replace caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s toppled Cabinet, said he was working to set up a government capable of maintaining stability in the country and preventing Sunni-Shiite strife.
“I am working to form a government quickly because it is an additional and important element for stability, especially in the light of what is happening in the region and their repercussions on the Lebanese arena. My aim is that the new government must consolidate stability, rather than be a new divisive element,” Mikati said during a dialogue with participants in the Arab Economic Forum which began in Beirut Thursday.
“It is easy to form a government and announce it. But I am trying to form a government capable of achieving stability … especially since the time needed for forming the government is not open-ended. I will take the right decision at the right time to put things in order,” he said.
Mikati said the prime minister-designate’s role according to the Constitution is to listen to the demands of all the parties and select suitable demands in order to draw up “a homogeneous and productive government” lineup in cooperation with the president, “especially since it is impossible to meet all the demands of parliamentary blocs.”
Despite the major difficulties he is facing, Mikati vowed to spare no effort aimed at accelerating the government’s formation.
Asked to comment on calls on him to form a de facto Cabinet, Mikati said, “There is an understanding between me and the president on forming a government in the manner we deem fit. But I am trying to remove all the obstacles before taking such a step despite the knowledge that there are many difficulties and obstacles.”
Mikati strongly denied accusations that he was coming under foreign pressure in the Cabinet formation process.
“The only pressure on me is my conscience and Lebanon’s interest. I have not been exposed to any pressure by anyone. I am working to form a government on the basis of [maintaining] stability, preventing any strife, particularly Sunni-Shiite strife, upholding the Constitution and bolstering and protecting the Lebanese economy,” he said.
Mikati’s remarks came as the Cabinet stalemate has entered its fifth month with no solution in sight, amid deepening differences between Mikati and Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun over the distribution of portfolios in a draft 30-member Cabinet lineup.
Mikati was appointed on Jan. 25 by the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance to form a new government, after March 8 ministers resigned from Hariri’s Cabinet, forcing its collapse on Jan. 12.
Businessmen, members of Hariri’s caretaker Cabinet and March 14 politicians have sounded the alarm bell about the deteriorating economic conditions in the country, urging a swift formation of a new government to cope with domestic and regional challenges.
Meanwhile, Jumblatt said in an interview published Friday that Hezbollah did not want a new Cabinet to be formed despite the urgent need for a government.
“Sometimes, my allies use a different logic than I do, and I don’t understand it,” Jumblatt told Al-Akhbar newspaper. “The allies at Hezbollah are placing General Michel Aoun at the forefront [but it is] they [who] don’t want a government to be formed.”
Aoun’s tough demands for wide Christian representation have largely been blamed for the Cabinet impasse. Jumblatt did not underline reasons behind Hezbollah’s alleged refusal to form the Cabinet, but emphasized the importance of a government to Hezbollah and its main ally Syria.
“The government is necessary for the resistance, necessary for Syria, and necessary on the economic and social level to overcome what the country is facing, especially given that $4 billion has been taken out of Lebanese banks,” he said.
Later Friday, Jumblatt issued a statement confirming his remarks in Al-Akhbar, but again warned the March 8 alliance of the consequences of the continued power vacuum. Jumblatt said his remarks were meant to stress that the country should not remain without a government “amid the economic slowdown, the flight of deposits and capital out of the country, the unchecked inflation, administrative failures, industrial, agricultural and tourist decline, the pound’s falling purchasing power and attacks on public property.”
Referring to Thursday’s incident involving caretaker Telecoms Minister Charbel Nahhas, who was denied access with ministry technicians by members of the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch to a building affiliated with his ministry, Jumblatt sounded the alarm bell about major problems facing Lebanon which cannot be addressed in the absence of “a Lebanese government capable of confronting political, economic and social challenges.”
“The current state of stagnation, paralysis and obstruction should not be allowed to continue because their dangers and repercussions are catastrophic for Lebanon, the resistance and all national achievements accomplished since the  Taif Accord and until today,” Jumblatt said.