Paoli Expresses Fear over Ongoing Cabinet Crisis, Urges Officials to End Standstill

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French Ambassador to Lebanon Patrice Paoli warned on Friday against the ongoing cabinet crisis in Lebanon, urging officials to assume their responsibilities and end the political standstill.

“The Lebanese must be aware of the imminent danger and resolve their booming political and economic woos,” Paoli said in an interview with As Safir newspaper.

He said that “it's not his country's duty to form the Lebanese government,” noting that the “Lebanese are not carrying out their responsibilities due to the situation in the region.”

“We can offer the diplomatic and political aid if they would resume dialogue among each other,” the French diplomat said, pointing out that politicians “still don't have the needed will to form the government.”

Endeavors are ongoing to end the cabinet deadlock as Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam continuously said that conditions and counter-conditions set by the rival sides have brought his efforts to form a cabinet to a stalemate.

Since his appointment to form a cabinet in April, Salam has been seeking the formation of a 24-member cabinet in which the March 8, March 14 and centrists camps would each get eight ministers.

Concerning the extension of President Michel Suleiman's term, Paoli said that “France rejects the extension... All constitutional processes must be respected.”

However, he pointed out that the “decision is local and France doesn't interfere in any process.”

Suleiman's six-year term ends in May 2014. But there are fears that differences and lack of consensus among rival political parties would prevent the parliament from meeting and would lead to a vacuum in the presidency.

Asked if France would cooperate with the Islamic Republic of Iran and its close ally Hizbullah to confront Terrorism, Paoli said that “Iran as a sovereign state should act against terrorism, but Hizbullah isn't a state and Paris only cooperates with states and governments.”

He described the double suicide bombing that target the Iranian Embassy last month as a “dangerous development.”

“It indicates that the turmoil in the neighboring country Syria is spilling over into Lebanon,” the diplomat said, rejecting to link the bombing with Hizbullah's interference in the battles in the war-torn Syria.

“The bombing targeted the Iranian mission in Lebanon and not Hizbullah.”

Paoli said that France opposes any “intervention by Lebanese side in Syria... Hizbullah's deep involvement was a mistake.”

“France doesn't want to boycott any Lebanese party that has a representation... We are keen to resume dialogue with all sides, including Hizbullah through political channels.”

The European Union designated in August Hizbullah's so-called military wing as a “terrorist” organization.

Hizbullah has dispatched fighters to battle alongside the Syrian regime against rebels seeking the overthrow of President Bashar Assad.

The conflict, pitting a Sunni-dominated rebel movement against Assad, has raised sectarian tensions in Lebanon and Lebanese Sunni fighters have also been killed while fighting alongside Syrian rebels.

Lebanese parties are sharply divided over the crisis in Syria as the March 8 alliance continuously expresses its support to Assad, while the March 14 camp voices its support for the popular revolt.

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