Hariri Rejects ‘Blackmail’ in Re-appointing him to Form New Lebanese Govt.
An hours-long meeting was held in Beirut on Monday between caretaker Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Foreign Minister and Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil.
The meeting was the first between them since the eruption of massive anti-government protests in the country on October 17.
The meeting could pave the way for a series of others aimed at facilitating the formation of a new government.
Hariri stepped down last week, yielding to the protesters that have been calling for a complete overhaul of Lebanon’s political system and ruling elite, whom they accuse of personal enrichment, economic mismanagement and rampant corruption. Bassil has been a target of ridicule among the demonstrators.
Neither Hariri no Bassil made an official statement after their meeting.
Sources from the Mustaqbal Movement denied that they discussed the sharing of key ministerial portfolios.
Criticism has been mounting in the country after President Michel Aoun failed to call for binding parliamentary consultations to name a prime minister-designate, who would form the cabinet.
Lebanese sources said Aoun would not set a date for the consultations before concerned parties make progress in their efforts to agree on the name of the next premier.
The sources said that March 8 forces, which hold a parliamentary majority, are trying to impose conditions on Hariri before renaming him as PM.
“Hariri does not beg anyone and would not accept to be blackmailed,” sources close to the resigned PM told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Meanwhile, parliamentary sources were surprised that Aoun had still not set a date for the consultations, particularly since protests have not abated since their eruption last month.
“There is an attempt to impose the form of the new cabinet before naming the prime minister,” the sources said, in clear violation of constitutional norms that demand that the prime minister-designate be appointed and he in turn comes up with a cabinet lineup. The draft lineup would then be submitted to the president for approval.
Several political figures condemned on Monday Aoun’s delay in setting a date for the consultations, saying parties were agreeing on a draft lineup before naming a premier.
Former Interior Minister Nohad Mashnouq denounced it as a constitutional violation.
Head of the Phalange Party MP Sami Gemayel said the country needed a neutral government and ministers who can manage the country and organize early elections.
The protesters have been demanding the formation of a technocratic government devoid of any of the current politicians in power.
“As an opposition, we see that Lebanon needs an impartial and efficient government. Take six months and rest. After six months, let's head to the elections," Gemayel said.