Hariri Launches Consultations: Berri's Bloc Urges 'Fair' Line-Up, LF Demands 'Sovereign Portfolio'

Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri began on Friday consultations with the parliamentarians, which will continue over a two-day period, to form the new cabinet after being nominated to the post by 112 out of 126 members of parliament.

Hariri kicked off the consultations with a meeting with Speaker Nabih Berri at the parliament. He later held talks with caretaker Premier Tammam Salam, who said following the meeting that the “atmosphere in the country is positive and things are going in the right direction. We will have a government soon.”

Mustaqbal bloc head MP Fouad Saniora told reporters that Lebanon needs a speedy government formation and that everyone must cooperate to facilitate the mission instead of hampering it.

The PM-designate then held talks with Deputy Speaker Farid Makari, who said that he called on Hariri to form a coherent government to restore the people's confidence in their State while stressing that “it must not include an 'obstructing third'.”

MP Anwar al-Khalil of the Development and Liberation bloc of Berri meanwhile said that the bloc did not request any specific government portfolios but asked for a “fair” government formation.

Later on Friday, MP Ibrahim Kanaan called on all political forces on behalf of the Change and Reform bloc to “benefit from the positive moment at the local and foreign levels to facilitate formation so that we can have a government as soon as possible.”

“This is not the time to talk about ministerial portfolios, but we demanded the representation of minorities in the government and we raised the issue of portfolio rotation,” Kanaan added.

As for the ministerial policy statement, Kanaan noted that Aoun's oath of office “enjoyed the support of all parliamentary blocs with the points it carried.”

Lebanese Forces bloc MP George Adwan meanwhile said the LF bloc demanded “a sovereign ministerial portfolio, a services-related portfolio and a mid-caliber portfolio.”

“We want a government in which all parties would abide by its decisions without boycotting or obstruction. Those who want to practice obstruction or opposition are free to stay outside Cabinet,” Adwan added.

“The government must be harmonious and united,” the MP went on to say, noting that the new government must submit a new electoral law to the parliament and must also approve a state budget.

Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel said Hariri asked the Kataeb bloc to take part in the government and that it promised to study this matter.

“We will deal positively with PM-designate Hariri and we will maintain communication,” he added.

Lebanese Democratic Party chief MP Talal Arslan meanwhile said he called for an inclusive cabinet that contains all parties and requested that his party be represented.

Independent MP Mohammed Safadi of Tripoli meanwhile called on all blocs to “facilitate the mission of forming the new government” in order to cater to people's needs and “contribute to securing the success of the new tenure as soon as possible.”

Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh said the Marada bloc demanded “a key ministerial portfolio.”

“If we are not offered a portfolio that befits us we will not take part in the cabinet,” he noted.

“We will keep coordinating with Speaker Berri and PM-designate Hariri,” Franjieh added.

Speaking on behalf ex-PM Najib Miqati's bloc, MP Ahmed Karami of Tripoli urged a speedy cabinet formation, saying the issue of those detained in connection with Tripoli's clashes was raised with the PM-designate.

MP Assem Qansou of the Baath Party meanwhile said the Baath bloc called for a national unity government.

“Should we have a place in this government, we demand the social affairs ministerial portfolio, because of what it can offer to the Syrian refugees,” added Qansou.

Head of the Democratic Gathering bloc MP Walid Jumblat meanwhile said his bloc requested “the minimum of demands.”

“We must seize this historic moment that is represented in the election of General Michel Aoun as president and the nomination of Saad Hariri as Prime Minister-designate, because it is a positive chance for Lebanon,” Jumblat said.

“We hope there will be a speedy government formation,” he added.

The consultations will continue on Saturday.

Former prime minister Hariri was nominated Thursday to form Lebanon's next government.

Hariri's key support had contributed to the election of Free Patriotic Movement founder and ex-army chief Michel Aoun as Lebanon's 13th president on Monday, which ended around two and a half years of presidential and political vacuum.

Hariri's nomination and Aoun's election have raised hopes that Lebanon can begin tackling challenges including a stagnant economy, a moribund political class and the influx of more than a million Syrian refugees.

In a sign that Hariri's task ahead might not be easy, Hizbullah's MPs declined to endorse him for the prime minister post, even though his nomination was all-but-assured.

Hariri is likely to struggle with his government's policy statement, which will have to make reference to Israel, as well as the war in Syria, both potential flashpoints with Hizbullah.

The process of forming a government could take months, with horsetrading likely to revolve around the distribution of key posts like the interior, defense and energy ministries.

Source: Naharnet

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