Jumblat Backs 24-Minister Cabinet: We Won't Get Involved in Futile March 8 Debates

Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat slammed on Monday the criticism directed against him by some members of the March 8 camp, saying that he will not get embroiled in “pointless debates” with them over the formation of a new government.

He said in his weekly editorial in the PSP-affiliated al-Anba website: “The cabinet that grants eight ministers to the March 8, March 14, and centrist blocs offers the best representation and avoids schemes to obstruct political life in Lebanon.”

“We will not comment on some of the March 8 criticism that is based on conspiracies and accusations of treason,” he continued.

“These media campaigns have been launched by a sick mind that may push Lebanon to the unknown at a time when it needs logic and calm, which we are practicing,” added the MP.

“The PSP rejects the escalatory rhetoric and calls on all sides to exercise patience,” Jumblat said.

He therefore reiterated his support for Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam and President Michel Suleiman's efforts to form a cabinet of national interests.

Last week, Speaker Nabih Berri had lashed out at those who began classifying themselves as centrists while they are “clearly affiliated in the March 14 alliance.”

“Those centrists want a large share of the 24-member cabinet... Maybe I should start classifying myself as a centrist,” Berri said in an indirect reference to Jumblat.

He wondered how several senior officials take firm stances against a certain team then categorize themselves as centrists.

Commenting on Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's latest speech on Thursday, Jumblat said: “If only he had advocated the defense strategy proposed by Suleiman.”

“This strategy spoke in detail about how the arms should be used and where they should be directed,” he added.

“They should strictly serve Lebanon's national interest, as well as the Baabda Declaration that was unanimously agreed upon by all political powers,” said the MP.

“Perhaps this is the best way to avoid having Lebanon once again be transformed into an open ground for settling regional disputes,” he stressed.

During his latest address, Nasrallah announced: “We are ready to receive any game-changing weapons and we're competent to possess and protect such type of weapons and we will use them to defend our people.”

Nasrallah said the shipments of new types of weapons would serve as the Syrian reaction to Israel's recent airstrikes in the neighboring country. Syria has long been a conduit for Iranian weapons bound for Hizbullah.

Suleiman had indirectly responded to the speech on Friday by saying: “The Baabda Declaration and a defense strategy that places the resistance's arms at the will of the army will protect Lebanon against any Israeli assault.”

The Baabda Declaration, approved during a national dialogue session in June 2012, calls for Lebanon to disassociate itself from regional conflicts.

Addressing his trip to Saudi Arabia over the weekend and meetings with Saudi officials and former Premier Saad Hariri, Jumblat said: “They were marked by their usual frankness and served as an opportunity to discuss the latest regional, Arab, and Lebanese developments.”

He said that Saudi officials voiced their keenness on Lebanon's national unity, stability, and peace.

“The kingdom insists on standing at an equal distance from all Lebanese people, who will not forget its support during the civil war and its role in approving the Taif Accord and reconstructing their country,” he said.

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