Cabinet Could be Formed Next Week After Reported Deal on Interior Ministry Portfolio

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Premier-designate Najib Miqati and other officials were mum on Friday on the progress made in the government formation process despite media reports that the cabinet line-up could be announced soon following a deal on the controversial interior ministry portfolio.

Miqati headed to the north to take part in Friday prayers there and meet with personalities in the port city of Tripoli. He returned the same day.

Sources following ongoing consultations to form the government told An Nahar daily that Miqati has overcome several obstacles and could announce the cabinet line-up at the end of next week.

Miqati’s circles told As Safir newspaper that the countdown for the formation of the cabinet would start at the beginning of next week because the premier-designate will intensify contacts with all leading political factions.

He would most probably hold a meeting with Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun.

The positive atmosphere came as a source close to Miqati said an agreement was reached on not diminishing the role of President Michel Suleiman, or that of the prime minister-designate. The informal deal respects Aoun’s demands for Christian representation, the source told The Daily Star.

FPM sources confirmed that contacts have taken place in the past few days between top officials from Hizbullah and Aoun’s 27-member Change and Reform bloc to resolve the dispute over the interior ministry portfolio, by granting it to a figure who is acceptable to Aoun, and not opposed by Suleiman, along with granting the FPM leader a number of portfolios that matched his representative weight in parliament.

The bickering between Aoun and Suleiman on the portfolio was one of the major obstacles hindering the government formation process.

Among those favored for the ministry were former Minister Naji Boustani, and retired army brigadiers Michel Harrouq and Fares Soufia.

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