Lebanon Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri is expected to meet with President Michel Aoun in the coming 48 hours to present him with the Cabinet lineup, Lebanese media reported on Sunday.
“Prime Minister Hariri is waiting for a final answer from the Lebanese Forces to his latest Cabinet offer before he meets with President Aoun either Monday or Tuesday to present him with the first Cabinet lineup that includes the distribution of portfolios among the main blocs, along with the names of ministers,” Baabda Palace sources were quoted as saying
“The Cabinet formation process is on the right track. All signs indicate that the formation of a national unity government will be announced this week after major hurdles have been eliminated,” the sources added
He ruled out the possibility of last-minute snags similar to those over the LF demand for the Justice Ministry that had thwarted the announcement of a Cabinet lineup nearly two weeks ago.
During one of his meetings with caretaker Information Minister Melhem Riachi last week, Hariri was reported to have offered the Lebanese Forces four posts: The deputy prime minister’s position and the Social Affairs, Culture and Labor ministries.
An extraordinary meeting in Maarab at noon Monday that will be chaired by LF leader Samir Geagea is reportedly expected to discuss “latest developments in the Cabinet formation and take the appropriate stances on participation in the cabinet ,” a statement from Geagea’s media office said Sunday night.
LF’s deputy leader MP George Adwan was quoted as saying , in an interview with MTV that the possibility of the LF staying out of the new government exists. “There is a high possibility that the Lebanese Forces will not participate in the government,” he said.
While Hariri insists on the LF participation in the new government, Adwan said caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, was seeking either to “prevent the Lebanese Forces from being represented in the government with its real weight, or prevent its participation.”
Emboldened by the results of the last parliamentary elections in which it nearly doubled the number of its MPs from eight to 15, the LF has been demanding a significant Cabinet share.
The LF and the FPM have been embroiled in a fierce struggle for five months over Christian representation in the government.
Hariri, who was on a one-day a private visit to Jordan Sunday,was quoted as saying:
“The government, God willing, will be formed in the coming days.”
Hariri stressed that there would be no losers or winners in the formation of the new government.
“With this [Cabinet] formation, no one stands to lose. Everyone has sacrificed for the sake of the country. On this basis, the aim is to form a national unity government or a national entente government in which all the parties participate in order to meet challenges facing Lebanon,” he said.
He added that Lebanon is facing “regional challenges, internal and economic challenges that require everyone to be in the government.”
“The notion that there is one political side who lost and another side who won, this is not the principle,” Hariri said, adding: “The principle is that all the political parties be in this government so that we can revitalize the country which really needs the largest political presence in the government, and also to confront difficulties, be they economic or regional.”
Asked if there were still hurdles to the Cabinet formation, the prime minister-designate said: “There is one small obstacle that will be resolved. I don’t want to talk about it.”
MTV news channel reported that Hariri asked Berri to give up the Agriculture Ministry so that it can be allocated to the LF.
A political source said Berri insisted on retaining the Agriculture Ministry, currently held by caretaker Minister Ghazi Zeaiter, a member of the speaker’s parliamentary bloc.
With regards to Hariri’s stance on the appointment of a Sunni minister from outside his Future Movement, a sources quoted Hariri as saying: “If you want to appoint him from my share, then start searching for another premier, but if President Aoun wants to give them a ministerial seat from his share, then this would be up to him.”
Hariri was tasked with forming the new government on May 24. His mission was hampered by political wrangling over shares, especially because Aoun insisted on a presidential share in addition to the share of Free Patriotic Movement which he founded prior to becoming the president.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai commented on the Cabinet crisis, by saying that all the main political parties should be represented in a national unity Cabinet.
He appeared to oppose the LF’s exclusion from the next government.
“If they are talking about a national unity government, this means that it includes all the political parties that will be represented in it. Or else, we cannot call it a national unity government,” the Maronite patriarch told reporters at Beirut airport upon his return from Rome after a pastoral visit to Canada.
“National unity should not be confined to parliamentary blocs that won in the elections.” He said