Lebanon News

Hezbollah stresses support for Mikati efforts

BEIRUT: Hezbollah said Sunday it upheld its support for Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati to form a new government as Speaker Nabih Berri ruled out the possibility of an imminent solution to break the nearly four-month-long Cabinet stalemate.

Further dimming hopes for an early formation of the government was the absence of consultations between Mikati and the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance, while Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun renewed his accusation that the prime minister-designate did not have any intention to form a Cabinet.

Hezbollah MP Nawaf Moussawi reiterated support for Mikati, saying his party would continue its efforts to overcome the obstacles blocking the government’s formation.

“We will continue eliminating the obstacles with a view to reaching the government’s formation. We realize there are some who are betting on pushing the prime minister-designate into stepping down. We insist that Prime Minister Najib Mikati form the new government,” Moussawi told a ceremony to inaugurate an electricity project in the southern city of Nabatiyeh.

Apparently referring to some March 14 politicians who have lashed out at Mikati for failing to form a governmentand calling on him to step down, Moussawi said: “We also realize that there are some who are betting that if he [Mikati] is pushed into stepping down, it will be possible to take the situation backward. We will stand firmly against any attempt to take matters backward.”

“We and the brave parliamentary blocs have carried out a Cabinet change. We had no doubts that the change process is hard because corruption was deeply rooted due to the practices of the previous governments. But we are determined to accomplish the Cabinet change process to its successful conclusion,” Moussawi said.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Cabinet was toppled on Jan. 12 following the resignations of the ministers of Hezbollah and its March 8 allies in a long-simmering dispute over the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is probing the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The new Parliament majority, made up of the March 8 alliance and Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt’s parliamentary bloc, backed Mikati against Hariri to form the new government.

Hezbollah’s support for Mikati came at a time when he has been harshly criticized by Aoun, the party’s key ally, and also by March 14 parties for failing to form the government. It also came amid gloomy prospects for the Cabinet’s formation as deep differences remained between Mikati and the March 8 parties over the distribution of portfolios.

In an interview with Al-Jadid TV Saturday, Berri said: “Matters concerning the government’s formation have been complicated. There is no government on the horizon.”

Berri, known for his sarcastic remarks, said if no government is formed next week, he will call the Parliament for a legislative session to discuss the conditions of prisoners, “at the forefront of whom are the ministers who are trapped in the cycle of formation.”

There have been no contacts between Mikati and representatives from the FPM, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement led by Berri since last Wednesday’s meeting failed to iron out differences over the distribution of portfolios among the March 8 alliance and others, including President Michel Sleiman’s share. A source close to Mikati said he was still waiting for answers to “some specific but essential points.”

Meanwhile, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai renewed his call for a quick formation of the government, warning that any further delay would plunge Lebanon into disorder.

“The delay in the formation the government will plunge [the country] into further disorder, fueling the demolition of the state as well as suppression of the citizens because there are those who are suffering at the social and economic levels, while the work of the state is paralyzed,” Rai told reporters at Beirut airport before leaving on a visit to the Vatican.

“I seize this opportunity to also issue this appeal from the heart. Enough slowness and enough paralysis in our Lebanese life. We are sitting on the top of a volcano because of what is going on in the Arab world,” he added, referring to the wave of popular uprisings in the Arab world.

Aoun again accused Mikati of having no intention to form the government. “There is no intention to form the government because the path followed by the formation process cannot lead to any result,” Aoun told supporters who visited him at his residence in Rabieh, north of Beirut, Saturday.

He again said that Sleiman should not be allotted any portfolio in the new Cabinet because he does not have a parliamentary bloc. “No one has the right to have ministers unless he is represented in the Parliament. Since the president does not have a parliamentary bloc, therefore, he has no right to have ministers,” Aoun said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 16, 2011, on page 2.

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