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Mikati vows to stay on until extraordinary Cabinet is agreed

Prime Minister Najib Mikati, left, speaks with Youth and Sports Minister Faisal Karami during a Cabinet session at the Grand Serail in Beirut, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati responded Wednesday to Speaker Nabih Berri, who accused him of not wanting to govern, by saying he would continue to bear his responsibilities until an extraordinary government is agreed.

“We continue to shoulder our responsibility until conditions, following the National Dialogue session in Beiteddine, are ripe to agree on an extraordinary government,” he said.

President Michel Sleiman set Sept. 20 as the date for a new session of all-party talks to discuss a national defense strategy.

In remarks published Wednesday by the local Al-Akhbar newspaper, Berri criticized Mikati, saying the premier “does not want to govern, because when he formed the government, he – like us – did not know that Syria would witness [an uprising],” Berri said.

Berri added that he would remain in his position because he was sure of his “political calculations.”

“Mikati, however, found himself in new circumstances that do not match his calculations,” Berri argued.

Mikati refused to respond to Berri’s remarks and said there were things he could not talk about.

“Never before did I accept to respond to opponents, so how will I respond to a friend and a brother – Mr. Berri,” he said in remarks published Wednesday by the state-run National News Agency.

“Governing in Lebanon is not something done by the prime minister, but by [governmental] institutions ... and Mr. Berri is a partner as [leader of] a political party and as Parliament speaker,” he added.

Mikati also said the speaker was aware of the “weight of the burden on my shoulders.”

“But I do not neglect my responsibilities and I do not hesitate to make the right decision at the right time,” he added, while praising Berri for saying he would punish any who block the airport road.

Turning to Tripoli, Mikati said he feared that the city’s gunbattles were a new attempt at dragging Lebanon into the Syrian unrest. “The bloody events taking place in Tripoli are, in some respects, a new attempt to push Lebanon into a conflict on a large scale,” he said.

Meanwhile, parliamentary sources speculated that the country had entered “a dark tunnel connecting it to the Syrian crisis.” According to the sources, neither Arab states nor the West would like to see Mikati resign because such a step would create “a dangerous vacuum in Lebanon.”

“For these reasons, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt’s ministers won’t resign from the government and because the government would be able to appoint other Druze ministers in case they do,” the sources added.

The sources also said that the current security situation in the region did not ensure the proper atmosphere to hold parliamentary polls in 2013 or presidential elections in 2014. “In light of these circumstances, Parliament will likely propose an extension for its term beyond 2013 and an extension for the president’s term as well as the term of the Army commander,” the sources predicted.

Mikati, meanwhile, would remain prime minister for another two years as long as there was no resolution to the Syrian crisis, the sources said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 23, 2012, on page 1.

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