Berri: I Don't Want to be Unjust to Suleiman

Speaker Nabih Berri said that President Michel Suleiman has not discussed with him about the extension of his mandate, expressing confidence on the formation of a new cabinet before the end of his term.

Several local dailies quoted Berri as saying on Friday that he hadn't heard or received a signal from Suleiman that he is after the extension of his six-year mandate, which expires in May next year.

“I don't want to be unjust to him unlike what is being said about the issue,” the speaker said.

Berri warned to several officials visiting him on Thursday that the country would enter a “dangerous and difficult stage” if the current government deadlock remained.

He reiterated that the formation of a cabinet in which the March 8 and 14 alliances would get nine ministers each and centrists six was the only solution.

“There is still time to form it,” he said, adding however that “the more the formation is delayed, the more the time factor diminishes and the formation becomes difficult.”

Al-Joumhouria said Friday that serious efforts were being exerted to come up with a line-up but Premier-designate Tammam Salam was facing the same conditions and counter conditions set by the rival parties.

The March 8 alliance is holding onto the 9-9-6 formula and rejecting a fait accompli cabinet, while March 14 is calling for a neutral government.

Al-Joumhouria quoted Suleiman's sources as saying that the president would not take any step that would affect stability or the ties between the country's different factions.

Their remarks came over fears that he would announce a de facto government along with Salam.

Berri reiterated that Lebanon has become “a battleground for jihad,” warning that the assaults on the army should compel all parties to support the military institution.

The army has come under several assaults in the southern city of Sidon and the eastern district of Baalbek.

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