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mikati hariri 2009 victoryCaretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Sunday that former PM Saad Hariri contacted him after his resignation to congratulate him on his “bold step.”

Mikati added that he has set his own conditions for accepting renomination to the premiership.

“I have conditions to accept my nomination to premiership. We should know the nature of the next government and from whom it will consist. It should be useful and positive,” Mikati told the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat.

He noted that he will carry out his caretaker duties at the Grand Serail and denied rumors that he intends to leave the country.

“I might leave on a personal vacation during the Easter holidays but I will return to carry out my tasks,” he stressed.

Mikati’s cabinet collapsed when Hezbollah and its allies blocked the creation of a body to supervise the upcoming parliamentary elections and refused to extend the term of Internal Security Forces chief Ashraf Rifi.

Mikati announced his resignation on Friday at the Grand Serail following the last cabinet session at the Baabda palace.

On Saturday, President Michel Suleiman accepted Mikati’s resignation and requested him to continue in his role at the head of a caretaker government until a new one is formed.

There is a lot of speculation on why Hezbollah did not cooperate with Mikati over Rifi’s issue, specially since they are both from Tripoli and such an issue is very important for Mikati if he intends to run in the upcoming elections. But it appears that Hezbollah refused to extend Rifi’s term with the aim of installing Maj. Gen. Ali Hajj as his replacement in oder to have complete control of the security of the country.

In fact , Hajj the former police chief who was arrested and later freed by the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon ( STL) probing the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri said Saturday that given his rank, he was entitled to replace Rifi once he retires as the acting commander of the Internal Security Forces.

“The law governing the Internal Security Forces is clear and it states that the highest-ranking officer runs the directorate, and that person would be me,” said Hajj in an interview with New TV.

Late last year, the government appointed Brig. Gen. Roger Salem as deputy commander of the police, a promotion that means he will serve as acting commander of the ISF in the absence of Rifi whose term ends on April 1.

Hajj and three other security and military officials were arrested in 2005 at the request of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon for their suspected involvement in the assassination of Hariri, although no charges were ever filed against them. STL chief at the time stressed that their release did not mean they are innocent.

Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt warned Friday, shortly after the Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced the resignation of his Cabinet, that there was a plan of replacing Rifi with Hajj .

“Although he was technically considered innocent of the killing of Rafik Hariri, we do, however, consider him politically involved in the assassination,” Jumblatt told LBCI television on Friday.

Rifi’s officers were involved in the investigation that led to the indictment by STL of four Hezbollah members for their alleged role in the murder of former premier Hariri in 2005.

Reaction to Mikati’s resignation

The Hezbollah led March 8 alliance slammed Mikati for resigning, while the March 14 opposition welcomed the move .

Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc leader MP Mohammad Raad slammed Mikati and accused him of paralyzing the country .

“The resignation was not a surprise to any of us because we had already said, way back during the [government’s] formation, that it would only last until the beginning of the elections, ” raad told a gathering in south Lebanon , adding: “The issue was not about the refusing to extend [the mandate] of an employee at an institution but rather the prime minister exhausted what he was able to offer in terms of maintaining stability in Lebanon.”

Raad was also critical of Mikati’s justification for the resignation

“The prime minister, who sought to avoid a paralysis at a security institution, has created a political and security vacuum by resigning.”

Free Patriotic Movement Leader MP Michel Aoun, Hezbollah’s main Christian ally slammed both the president Mikati over the resignation of the government, accusing the president of being a dictator and calling the motives behind the PM’s resignation ‘silly’.

“The reasons behind Mikati’s resignation are silly and Suleiman behaved like a dictator in trying to impose the formation of the committee to supervise the upcoming elections,” he told Sawt al-Mada radio station on Saturday.

Lebanese Democratic Party leader MP Talal Arslan also criticized the resignation of the cabinet calling it disgusting .

“The cabinet’s resignation is disgusting. Selfish and personal interests have become intertwined with [politics],” Arslan, a close ally of Syria and Hezbollah said in a statement issued by his press office on Sunday.

Asked about the March 14 reaction to the move Mikati quoted former PM Hariri as telling him:

“I congratulate you on your brave move.”

Former PM and current Future Movement bloc leader MP Fouad Siniora reportedly held talks on Saturday night with Mikati at the Grand Serail.

An Nahar said that Siniora hailed Mikati’s decision, pointing out that it “should have happened long time ago.”

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