Lebanon News

Hezbollah, Aoun demand Cabinet reflect weight

File - FPM leader Michel Aoun speaks during a press conference in Rabieh, Tuesday, July 17, 2012. (The Daily Star/Charbel Nakhoul)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah said Wednesday the Cabinet should be formed quickly, reiterating its position that political parties should be represented in the new government in proportion to the number of seats they occupy in the Parliament.

“We, along with Gen. [Michel] Aoun, still insist on the necessity of forming a Cabinet, and we agree that the representation of groups [in the government] should match their size in Parliament and in the country. We call for the speedy formation of the Cabinet,” said Hussein Khalil, a political aide to Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah.

Speaking to reporters after meeting Free Patriotic Movement leader Aoun at his Rabieh residence, Khalil said political groups that were linking their stance on the government to outcomes of the potential U.S. strikes on Syria were now disappointed, in reference to the March 14 coalition.

“We have to build a state in Lebanon and we are interested in having a government in Lebanon, along with stability. People should agree with each other over launching dialogue, rather than tying Lebanon’s fate to regional developments,” Khalil added.

Wafiq Safa, a senior Hezbollah security official, accompanied Khalil on his visit.

Khalil said that agreements between regional and international powers would reflect positively on Lebanon.

He said that the meeting with Aoun showed that ties between Hezbollah and the former Army commander were excellent, saying that their “views converged” on most of the issues discussed.

Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, who was nominated in April, has failed to pull together a government due to the irreconcilable conditions set by rival political parties.

The March 14 coalition, spearheaded by the Future Movement, calls for a neutral Cabinet to address the public’s pressing needs, amid a deteriorating socio-economic and security situation. But Hezbollah and the rest of March 8 parties insist on a national unity government in which all parties are represented proportionally to their size in Parliament, giving the March 8 coalition veto power in the new government, a demand strongly opposed by March 14 rivals.

Beirut MP Atef Majdalani, from the Future parliamentary bloc of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, said that the March 8 alliance was obstructing the Cabinet creation process and was blaming the March 14 parties for its actions.

“Lebanon is witnessing deteriorating socio-economic conditions, and procrastination over the formation of the government is unacceptable,” Majdalani told a local radio station.

“Hezbollah’s insistence on having veto power [in the new government] and the formula of the ‘Army, people, and resistance’ [in the Cabinet’s policy statement] are demands that we can’t accept,” Majdalani added.

Hezbollah argues that the policy statement of the new government should include a clause stating that Lebanon has the right to liberate its territories from Israeli occupation through its ‘Army, people and resistance,’ which would legitimize Hezbollah’s arsenal.

Meanwhile, lawmakers attending the weekly meeting of Speaker Nabih Berri with MPs quoted him as saying that his initiative to break the political crisis in the country aimed at facilitating, rather than obstructing, the Cabinet formation.

“He is waiting for the committee [he tasked with meeting representatives of political groups] to finish its tour, after which he will assess the results,” one MP said.

Berri said that his initiative was backed by several political groups, the lawmakers said.

On Aug. 31, the speaker proposed a five-day conclave of National Dialogue sessions attended by leaders from the March 8 and March 14 coalitions, in addition to Salam, to address divisive issues, including the makeup and policy statement of the new Cabinet, a national defense strategy, means to end Lebanese intervention in Syria and a new electoral law.

The Future Movement dismissed the initiative, saying it infringes on the powers of the president and the prime-minister designate.

A delegation of MPs from Berri’s bloc continued holding meetings with parliamentary bloc representatives to explain the speaker’s initiative.MPs Michel Musa, Ali Bazzi and Yassin Jaber paid visits to Lebanese Democratic Party leader MP Talal Arslan, Marada Movement leader Suleiman Franjieh and representatives of the Tashnag Party.

“I told the delegation that visited me today that my support for the initiative was certain,” Arslan told reporters after meeting the three MPs.

“I call on all political groups to stop wasting opportunities provided by Speaker Berri to escape the crises resulting from internal, regional and international polarization. It is no longer acceptable for any group to drag the country into the abyss,” Arslan added.

“The meeting was very positive, and there was full support for Speaker Nabih Berri’s initiative. We rely on [the speaker’s role], particularly during this crisis period in the country, because he is trying to look for possible exit strategies,” said a statement from the Marada Movement.

Metn MP Hagop Pakradounian, from the Tashnag Party, said that Berri’s initiative was welcomed. He highlighted the need to resume Dialogue sessions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 19, 2013, on page 1.




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