Lebanon News

Hezbollah denies role in delaying Cabinet formation

BEIRUT: Hezbollah rejected accusations Sunday that it was delaying the formation of a new government, saying it strongly supported a solution for the Cabinet crisis, which has entered its fifth month with no end in sight.

“In all their political speeches, Hezbollah’s officials have called for a quick formation of the government,” Ibrahim Moussawi, Hezbollah’s media spokesman, told The Daily Star.

“Hezbollah is also exerting political efforts toward this goal,” he said.

He was apparently referring to Hussein Khalil, a political aide to Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who along with MP Ali Hassan Khalil, a political adviser to Speaker Nabih Berri, has been holding talks with Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati since January to try to reach agreement on the Cabinet’s formation.

Moussawi’s remarks came two days after Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt for the first time blamed Hezbollah for the Cabinet deadlock, saying the party did not want the government to be formed soon.

“The allies at Hezbollah are placing General Michel Aoun at the forefront [but it is] they [who] don’t want a government to be formed,” Jumblatt said in an interview with Al-Akhbar newspaper Friday.

Later Friday, Jumblatt issued a statement confirming his remarks, but again warned the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance of the consequences of the continued power vacuum.

In a speech last Wednesday on Resistance and Liberation Day, marking the 11th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal of its troops from south Lebanon, Nasrallah said Hezbollah was pursuing its efforts to break the four-month-long Cabinet impasse through his political aide and Berri’s adviser. Nasrallah also accused the United States of exerting pressure on Mikati in the Cabinet formation process.

But Mikati has strongly denied accusations that he was coming under foreign pressure over the issue.

“The only pressure on me is my conscience and Lebanon’s interest. I have not been exposed to any pressure by anyone. I am working to form a government on the basis of [maintaining] stability, preventing any strife, particularly Sunni-Shiite strife, upholding the Constitution and bolstering and protecting the Lebanese economy,” Mikati said during a dialogue with participants in the Arab Economic Forum in Beirut last Friday.

Mikati, feeling the pinch of the delay in forming a new government, also said that the formation process was not open-ended, hinting that he could make a decision on a Cabinet lineup soon come what may.

Mikati’s remarks came as consultations between him and the March 8 parties are in limbo, amid deepening differences between Mikati and Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun over the distribution of portfolios in a draft 30-member Cabinet lineup.

Mikati was appointed on Jan. 25 by the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance to form a new government, after March 8 ministers resigned from Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Cabinet, forcing its collapse on Jan. 12.

Businessmen, members of Hariri’s caretaker Cabinet and March 14 politicians have sounded the alarm bell about the deteriorating economic conditions in the country, urging a swift formation of a new government to cope with the domestic and regional challenges facing Lebanon.

Aoun, whose tough demands for wide Christian representation have largely been blamed for the Cabinet impasse, again Sunday called on President Michel Sleiman and Mikati to form the new government.

Caretaker Public Works Minister Ghazi Aridi also renewed his call for a quick formation of the Cabinet to deal with the country’s political and economic crisis.

“The country is in dire need for a government amid the proliferation of social, economic and political chaos which leads to clashes,” Aridi said in an interview with LBCI television.

“Lebanon cannot emerge from the crisis with intransigence,” he added.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 30, 2011, on page 2.

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