Naharnet

Jumblat Proposes Giving Foreign Ministry to Aoun but Bassil Throws Ball in Salam's Court

A new proposal has been made to grant the foreign ministry portfolio to the Change and Reform bloc in the all-embracing government although caretaker Energy Minister Jebran Bassil said his party hasn't been officially informed about it.

Media reports said Thursday that Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat, who has been mediating the negotiation process, made the proposal to make the foreign ministry, which is a so-called sovereign portfolio, as part of the share of MP Michel Aoun's bloc.

But the reports said that such a suggestion collides with the rest of the “sovereign” shares of Maronites in the all-embracing 24-member government.

Aoun, who is the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, has rejected a deal struck between the country's rival parties on the formation of a cabinet based on the 8-8-8 formula and the rotation of portfolios.

He has been sticking to his demand to keep the energy and telecommunications portfolios as part of his share in the new government despite a mediation by its ally Hizbullah to resolve the deadlock.

This last obstacle, which is hindering the agreement on the line-up, has pushed Hizbullah to ask for an additional 48 hours to resolve it.

But Bassil, who is Aoun's son-in-law, has stressed that no official proposal has been made to the FPM in the past ten days or months.

Premier-designate Tammam Salam hasn't made a clear stance on the portfolios “so that we give a negative or positive opinion about it,” Bassil told As Safir newspaper.

The suggestion to give the FPM the foreign ministry portfolio is part of several proposals made by mediators and friends, he said.

“As if the PM-designate is not the person who should be discussing the cabinet formation with us and the rest of the parties,” Bassil added.

“Salam is mistaken if he thinks that he awaits a certain answer from us because he is asked to provide clear answers to us and not the other way around,” he told As Safir.

“So the problem is with him and not us,” Bassil stressed.


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