Abou Faour Meets Berri: Jumblat Keen on Consultations with All Sides to Reach Agreement on Govt.

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Caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abou Faour stressed on Monday that Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat is keen on maintaining contacts aimed at forming a new government.

He said after meeting Speaker Nabih Berri: “Jumblat is keen on maintaining consultations with Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, President Michel Suleiman, and all sides to reach an agreement over a new government, which will help avert numerous repercussions.”

He denied claims that Saudi Arabia had ordered officials to halt the announcement of a new cabinet.

“We had productive talks with former Premier Saad Hariri in Saudi Arabia,” he told reporters at Ain el-Tineh.

Asked about Wednesday's parliament session aimed at discussing a new electoral law, Abou Faour said: “We must await the results of the parliament session before issuing stands.”

“We had stated before that the Orthodox Gathering proposal is a danger to Lebanon and we will not vote on it or any other matter that is a threat to the country,” he stressed.

“Our position on the proposal is final. We must wait and see what happens at parliament,” declared the minister.

Abu Faour was delegated by Jumblat to discuss the cabinet formation with Suleiman and Salam, media reports said on Monday.

According to al-Joumhouria newspaper, Abou Faour briefed Suleiman during a meeting at the Baabda Palace about the meetings held by Jumblat in Saudi Arabia with Hariri and Saudi officials in Jeddah.

The newspaper said that Jumblat would rather wait the results of the ongoing consultations before the announcement of the cabinet formation.

Salam had repeatedly said that he advocates the formation of a 24-minister government that sees the equal distribution of portfolios between the March 8, March 14, and centrist camps, whereby each side would be granted eight ministers.

Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) reported that Abou Faour also held talks on Sunday night with Salam.

Al-Joumhouria said that Jumblat's efforts are focusing on an agreement with the March 8 alliance to halt the formation of a de facto government in return the so-called Orthodox Gathering electoral draft-law would not be adopted by the parliament during the upcoming polls.

Jumblat returned to Beirut Sunday after meeting with Hariri and Saudi officials in Jeddah.

Abou 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 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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