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Hariri-Bassil at Loggerheads over Lebanon’s Public Sector Appointments

Hariri-Bassil at Loggerheads over Lebanon’s Public Sector Appointments

Monday, 18 March, 2019 - 09:00
File photo. Hariri meets Bassil (NNA)
Beirut - Mohamed Choucair
Recent tension between Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil was caused by disagreements on the shares of Christians in public sector jobs, a cabinet member told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The minister, who refused to be identified, said that unlike previously thought, the differences between Hariri and Bassil were not caused by the Foreign Minister’s rejection not to join the delegation headed by the premier to a donor conference on Syria that was held in Brussels last week.

According to the source, Bassil has insisted that members of his Free Patriotic Movement get the full share of Christians when the government makes a new round of appointments for public posts.

The source said that the dispute between them rose during a meeting held prior to the PM’s trip to Brussels.

According to the minister, Bassil has claimed that tension with Hariri, who also heads al-Mustaqbal movement, was caused by differences on ways to resolve the Syrian refugee crisis.

But in reality, the officials argued on the upcoming public sector appointments.

The source said Hariri rejects Bassil’s insistence to allocate the entire share of Christians to his FPM, which only represents 32 percent of Christians.

The PM does not want to put himself on a path of confrontation with the rest of the Christian parties that have the right to oppose Bassil’s unilateral request, the source said.

The dispute mainly lies on the appointment of four new Military Council members, in addition to four new deputies to Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh.

According to the source, Hariri and Bassil also discussed the country’s electricity crisis during their tension-filled meeting.

The PM demanded the swift establishment of the Electricity Regulatory Authority, in addition to a new board of directors for Electricite du Liban state-run power company.

But Energy Minister Nada Boustani, who is one of FPM’s representatives in Hariri’s government, opposes such demands, a position that the PM fears would pose a major threat to the pledges made at the CEDRE conference in Paris last April.

Donors want to see Lebanon commit to long-stalled reforms before releasing the funds pledged at the conference.

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