Lebanon president urges formation of a neutral cabinet


suleiman  chamber of commerceLebanese President Michel Suleiman said on Monday during a speech from Beirut’s Chamber of Agriculture, Commerce and Trade that he is in favor of forming a non-political cabinet, a move strongly opposed by March 8 parties.

“Don’t the Lebanese who are not affiliated with any party have the right to contribute to reviving the country?” Suleiman said in reference Hezbollah led March 8 objection to a neutral cabinet

“If consensus is not reached on a national unity cabinet, does that compel us to remain without a cabinet?” Suleiman added in reference to obstacle facing the formation of a neutral cabinet.

Suleiman went on to separate the issue of government formation from the upcoming presidential elections.

“Does forming a cabinet control the election of a president? No. Citizens are smarter than that.” He said

However, he stressed the necessity of cabinet formation for the boosting of Lebanon’s economy.

“We must create an innovative economic vision to fight unemployment and poverty…and this is impossible without the formation of a cabinet capable of running government affairs.” He stressed.

Suleiman added in a possible reference to the recent bombings in Lebanon:” Have we acted with responsibility that respects the confidence placed in us by citizens? Do we realize that the human remains that fly in a certain blast might be those of a dear person or relative?”

“A cabinet that reassures investors must be formed, a new president must be elected and parliamentary elections must be held.” He stressed.

“The door of consultations is still open and we hope the PM-designate will reach a solution that can pull the country out of its constitutional crisis.” He added.

Following his speech he met Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam at the presidential Palace in Baabda and dispatched his adviser Khalil Hrawi to meet Amal’s Ali Hasan Khalil, who will later visit the Baabda Palace together with Hassan Nasrallah’s aide Hussein Khalil and Minister Wael Abu Faour.

Lebanon has been struggling for months with the formation of a new cabinet since the resignation of caretaker PM Najib Mikati last April. Salam has cited the pre-conditions imposed by the opposing March 14 and March 8 blocs as a reason behind the delays in the process.

Lebanon’s constitution stipulates that the president and premier-designate can sign decrees approving a government, but the parliament holds final sway on its activation with a vote of confidence.

Even if a new cabinet did not receive a vote of confidence, it would replace Mikati’s resigned government as the caretaker cabinet.

The formation of a fait accompli cabinet is likely to prompt a violent reaction from the Iranian backed Shiite group Hezbollah and its March 8 allies, Al-Akhbar newspaper reported last Monday .

“The plan of Saudi Intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan is to form a fait accompli cabinet to drag Hezbollah into a confrontation in the streets,” March 8 sources said in remarks published by the pro-Hezbollah and Syrian regime daily last Monday.

“ The plan is prompted by the illusion that Hezbollah will be forced into withdrawing from Syria to gather its forces to respond to internal security pressure.” Al-Akhbar added

“They do not know that the party is prepared to confront the security challenges if it is faced with such challenges on more than one front.” Al-Akhbar continued.

Recently Hezbollah has been focusing its attacks against Saudi Arabia . The struggle between Iran ( Through its proxy Hezbollah and the Syrian regime ) and Saudi Arabia over the future of Lebanon has reportedly cost former Lebanese finance minister Mohammad Chatah his life on December 27 when he and at least six others were killed in a massive bombing that rocked downtown Beirut.

Hezbollah also witnessed last Thursday another a bomb attack that targeted Haret al-Hreik neighborhood of of its Dhahieh stronghold. 5 people were killed and over 70 were injured in the attack