Suleiman Could Hit the Brakes on De Facto Cabinet Line-up

President Michel Suleiman could postpone signing a decree on the new government line-up that Premier-designate Tammam Salam allegedly intends to announce this week, presidential sources said.

The sources told An Nahar daily published Monday that Suleiman, who “is a partner in the cabinet formation process” and has taken the oath “to preserve the Constitution and the country's security,” would postpone the signature if he saw that the circumstances were not ripe.

The president could agree with the PM-designate on giving consultations more time, the sources said after reports that Salam would announce a fait accompli cabinet that does not include the Hizbullah-led March 8 alliance.

Suleiman's approval is necessary before the parliament gives a vote of confidence to the government.

March 8 has asked for veto power in the new government and sought to name its own ministers despite the rejection of Salam, whose sources said in remarks published in several local and pan-Arab dailies on Monday that the formation of a 14-member cabinet is one of the options.

“The date of the announcement of the line-up hinges on the developments. The PM-designate is in contact with all the political blocs and would take the stance that serves the national interest in light of the consultations,” they said.

The sources said the formation of the14-member cabinet became a possibility after March 8 rejected a proposal for a government of 24 ministers divided equally among the Hizbullah-led alliance, the March 14 coalition and the centrists that include Suleiman and MP Walid Jumblat's Progressive Socialist Party.

“Where is the problem in bringing respectable and trustful people who are capable of working for the interest of all the citizens? Are ministries the properties of certain figures and parties?” Salam was quoted as saying by politicians who have lately visited him.

Meanwhile, the sources did not confirm a meeting that the Premier-designate reportedly held with Jumblat on Sunday night.

Jumblat returned to Beirut Sunday after meeting with al-Mustaqbal movement chief ex-PM Saad Hariri and Saudi officials in Jeddah.

Caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour, who accompanied Jumblat on his trip, said in a statement that the PSP chief will continue his contacts with Suleiman, Salam, Speaker Nabih Berri and the political forces concerned “in a bid to reach consensus over the cabinet formula proposed by PM-designate Salam, which we hope all parties would accept given its balance and accuracy.”

The statement seemed to be hinting that Jumblat had given his consent to the alleged de facto government despite his previous rejections of participating in a government in which not all political parties are represented.

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