Berri confirms cracks within March 8 alliance


berri aoun lets make a deal-Lebanon Speaker Nabih Berri, who also heads up the Amal Movement confirmed on Wednesday that the Hezbollah led March 8 alliance which includes the militant group, Amal and the Free Patriotic Movement is no longer a unified group able to negotiate jointly on internal issues stressing that FPM will separately negotiate its share in the upcoming cabinet .

“Each will negotiate on their own terms, that is, the March 8 group which includes Hezbollah, the Amal Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement is no longer a unified group able to negotiate on internal affairs.”

“We agree with Michel Aoun that there are different points of view within March 8 concerning internal matters, especially those related to government formation,” Berri said in remarks published by Al-Joumhouria newspaper on Wednesday.

“We are still in agreement with FPM leader MP Michel Aoun over strategic issues concerning resistance and the struggle with Israel, but when it comes to internal matters we each have our own priorities.” He added

The speaker also said that the Amal Movement and Hezbollah will negotiate over ministerial seats with Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam “separately” from the FPM.

“We are simply asking for five ministers in a 24-minister cabinet and six ministers if the cabinet will include 30 ministers.”

No veto power
“The concept of the ‘guaranteeing third’ ( or veto power) is not valid anymore… since it has no justification now that the decision has been taken that each March 8 faction will stick to its choices concerning government formation.” Berri said.

It appears from Berri’s statement that Aoun was behind the demand for veto power .

The PM-designate has not yet been able to form a cabinet due to the demand for a veto power by March 8 alliance . Salam has been trying to form a cabinet of 24 ministers with equal share of 8 seats for each of the 3 blocs ; March 14 , March 8 and the centrists which include the PM designate , president Michel Suleiman and PS leader MP Walid Jumblatt who defected from March 14 following the 2009 elections.

Extending retirement age

Addressing the issue of the possible extension of the terms of the country’s security top officials and the demands made by the March 14 coalition for the reinstatement of Internal Security Forces chief General Ashraf Rifi, Berri said: “If they want him to be back they should put forward their request during an urgent cabinet meeting.”

“I do not object to that and I have no reservations concerning the extension of the term of the army commander. But If they don’t agree among themselves on these issues, parliament will take care of this portfolio… this is an exit route that I am proposing to them.”

FPM confirms rift
Change and Reform bloc MP Nabil Nicolas responded on Wednesday to Berri”s remarks by voicing his relief over Speaker’s statement regarding relations inside the March 8 coalition.

“Berri’s statement was a relief for the Change and Reform bloc, which calls to be represented in the cabinet proportionally to its seats in the parliament,” Nicolas told Sawt al-Shaab radio station

Nicholas’s call for proportional representation in the cabinet confirm that FPM is behind the demand for a veto power in the cabinet that Salam is trying to form

The issue of the extension of Lebanese army commander Jean Kahwaji’s term as well as that of the mandate of the parliament have also widened rifts with the March 8 alliance.

Nicolas also said that his bloc will boycott the parliament session scheduled for July 15 if the conditions of the previous session remain unchanged , a possible reference to the issue of the extension of Kahwaji’s term.

Aoun expressed his opposition last week to the extension of Kahwaji’s term and propsed instead the appointment of his son-in-law Shamel Roukoz as Kahwaji’s replacent .

Shamel Roukoz is the commander of Lebanon’s Commando Regiment that led the recent operation against Sheikh Ahmad Assir and his supporters in Sidon’s Abra.

Berri adjourned the parliament’s plenary sessions until July 15, 16 and 17, but kept the same items on the agenda.