Lebanon News

Jumblatt calls for including Hezbollah in new Cabinet

Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt leaves the Parliament in Beirut, Tuesday, July 5, 2011. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah should be included in Lebanon's next government, Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt said in remarks published Saturday, as politicians look for ways to reboot the Cabinet formation process and tensions over the Syrian conflict simmer.

“I believe in the principle of Hezbollah's participation in the government, whether directly or indirectly, since it is not possible to isolate anyone or abolish anyone,” Jumblatt told the daily As-Safir.

“Forming a new government has become highly necessary in order to move differences from the streets and tackle them on the Cabinet table,” he added about recent clashes around the country.

After caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati stepped down in March, attempts to form a new Cabinet were put on hold as lawmakers discussed a new election law.

Elections were delayed, Parliament's term extended and government negotiations have been put on hold again as lawmakers await the outcome of a constitutional challenge of the extension of Parliament’s mandate.

Sharp divisions between the rival March 8 and March 14 camps have surfaced over the new Cabinet lineup, and some March 14 officials have called for excluding Hezbollah from the government because of the party's intervention in Syria against the uprising there.

Hezbollah has have called for a Cabinet that includes all parties and the party has previously called for holding veto power in it.

Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam has called for a non-political government made up of technocrats.

Salam has made little headway in forming a new government since his designation in April, as the war in Syria and wrangling over elections pushed the political scene to a standstill.

After failing to agree on a new electoral law to hold parliamentary elections in June, 97 members of Lebanon’s 128-member Parliament endorsed a law last month to extend the legislature’s four-year mandate.

Parliament's mandate, which was set to expire June 20, has been extended for 17 months and the elections have been delayed until November 2014.

Salam suspended his attempts to form a Cabinet at the end of last month after President Michel Sleiman, who strongly opposed the extension of Parliament’s term, as well as MPs from Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, filed a challenge with the Constitutional Council against the extension.

The prime minister-designate said he is awaiting the decision of the council to proceed with his efforts.





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