Lebanon News

Sleiman firm in opposing blocking power in Cabinet

File - Lebanese President Michel Sleiman speaks during a ceremony in Beirut, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra)

BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman said Tuesday he was confident that a Cabinet representative of all political groups would be formed, but reiterated his opposition to granting veto power to any party.

Sleiman voiced confidence that an all-embracing government would eventually be created to keep up with domestic and foreign developments and repeated his call to all parties to adhere to the Baabda Declaration, according to a statement from his office.

He also highlighted the need for unity and addressing domestic needs.

Speaking to a delegation of graduates from the Lebanese Universities League’s Faculty of Media and Documentation at his Beiteddine summer residence, Sleiman said international sentiments were in favor of distancing Lebanon from regional developments.

Later, Sleiman discussed political developments, efforts to form the Cabinet and developments in the Middle East with MP Mohammad Raad, head of Hezbollah’s Loyalty to the Resistance parliamentary bloc.

A source familiar with the talks told The Daily Star Sleiman reiterated to Raad his support for an all-inclusive government that would win the confidence of all parties. The visit was routine, the source said, as Raad regularly visits the president.

Sleiman said the new government should represent all political groups, including Hezbollah.

The source said Sleiman repeated to Raad his opposition to granting veto power to one political group in the new Cabinet and highlighted the need for all to adhere to the Baabda Declaration.

The declaration, agreed upon by rival parties during a National Dialogue session chaired by Sleiman in June 2012, calls for distancing Lebanon from regional conflicts, particularly the civil war raging in neighboring Syria.

The March 14 coalition, spearheaded by the Future Movement, accuses Hezbollah of violating the agreement when it decided to fight alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future parliamentary bloc said by insisting on having veto power, Hezbollah had ruined recent attempts by Sleiman and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam to form a government.

“It [Hezbollah] is still looking for a [government] formula that allows it to evade adhering to the Baabda Declaration, agreed upon during National Dialogue,” the bloc said in a statement after its weekly meeting chaired by former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, at Hariri’s Downtown residence.

The bloc reiterated its call for Sleiman and Salam to form the new government as soon as possible.

“This is because the situation can no longer endure another delay, as people’s economic affairs and institutions are in a disastrous condition,” it added.

“The new government is the only way out of this crisis, one that is deteriorating in all aspects.”Nominated in April, Salam’s efforts to form a government hit a dead end due to the competing conditions placed by the March 8 and March 14 coalitions.

The March 14 alliance calls for forming a neutral government which focuses on addressing the needs of the people, while referring disputed issues, mainly Hezbollah’s arms, to a National Dialogue table.

But March 8 rivals, particularly Hezbollah, argue Syria’s civil war requires the formation of a national unity government in which all parties are represented.

Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh said in an interview with a local television station that the Baabda Declaration consisted of “mere ideas for discussion” proposed by Sleiman, that were “neither read nor approved.”

Echoing Sleiman, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati called for the formation of an all-inclusive government as soon as possible to address Lebanon’s myriad challenges.

“We hope that a new, all-embracing, and effective government that can confront challenges can be formed,” Mikati said during a ceremony at the Grand Serail in Downtown Beirut. “We call for forming this government soon to keep up with the many challenges our nation faces and to continue implementing projects that benefit all people.”

Separately, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun said that the Higher Defense Council was infringing on the powers of the caretaker government.

“The government, even if it was a caretaker government, should convene when there is a pressing necessity. There is a pressing necessity now, and the caretaker government is still responsible,” Aoun told reporters after chairing the weekly meeting of his Change and Reform parliamentary bloc at his Rabieh residence. “Moving powers from one body to another is illegal.”

Sleiman has chaired several council sessions over the past weeks to address the deteriorating security situation. Around 80 people were killed and hundreds wounded in car bomb attacks in the Beirut southern suburbs and the city of Tripoli last month. – With additional reporting by Antoine Ghattas Saab

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 11, 2013, on page 1.

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