Naharnet

Final Hours ahead of Govt. Announcement Surprise Majority, Force Arslan to Resign

The final hours before announcing the long-awaited cabinet line-up witnessed intense contacts and a surprise meeting at the Baabda Palace between President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Najib Miqati.

After 30 minutes, Speaker Nabih Berri joined the meeting after he was invited “urgently and without previous notice,” Al-Manar television reported.

After about an hour, he left the presidential palace without speaking to reporters, in what sources interpreted as a sign of disappointment with the Cabinet lineup.

Following his departure, reports said that a “de facto” government or even a technocratic one was going to be formed.

However, Miqati announced after the Cabinet formation: “It would not have been formed had it not been for Berri’s sacrifices, so how can he have reservations on it?”

“Some last minute changes were made,” he revealed.

Sources from the new majority were quoted as saying that they were “surprised” with the Baabda meeting seeing as the obstacles had not been resolved.

They said: “Had Miqati announced the new Cabinet lineup without the settlement of disputes, then it would have been a one-sided announcement.”

The most important amendment in the lineup took place over the naming of the sixth Maronite minister and the appointment of the Sunni opposition minister, which centered on Faisal Karami and Ahmed Karami, the president’s ally.

This second dispute was resolved by Berri’s relinquishing of a Shiite portfolio for Faisal Karami, therefore creating a precedent of a having a government comprised of seven Sunni ministers and five Shiite ones.

In the past, the two sects were each given six portfolios.

The dispute over the sixth Maronite minister centered on nominating the president’s son-in-law, Wissam Baroudi, who was replaced during the surprise meeting with the president’s advisor, Nazem al-Khouri, who hails from Byblos and whose nomination was previously opposed by Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun.

However, the meeting failed to overcome the third obstacle – MP Talal Arslan’s rejection of a state ministry portfolio.

Shortly after the cabinet’s line-up was announced, Arslan held a news conference to announce his resignation from the new government, lashing out at Miqati and accusing him of “conspiring against national unity and practicing deception.”

Before the press conference, LBC television reported that Arslan’s angry supporters blocked the al-Hasbani road that connects the southern area of Marjeyoun with the Bekaa.


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