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Lebanon: Aoun’s Political ‘Confrontation’ with Protesters Takes Center Stage

Lebanon: Aoun’s Political ‘Confrontation’ with Protesters Takes Center Stage

Thursday, 14 November, 2019 - 09:15
Protesters wave flags at a demonstration organized by students during ongoing anti-government protests in Beirut, Lebanon November 12, 2019. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Beirut - Mohamed Choucair
Lebanon ushered in a new political stage after recent statements made by President Michel Aoun in a televised interview, a senior government official said.

The official, who was not identified, noted that the president has entered in a “political confrontation” with protesters, putting the government crisis in second place after it was the main concern of the Lebanese.

The official told Asharq Al-Awsat that Aoun should not have placed himself at loggerheads with anti-government demonstrators, especially since journalists Sami Kulaib and Nicolas Nassif, who conducted the interview, tried to create the appropriate atmosphere for him to address protesters with flexibility.

But, instead, the president’s remarks ignited further street protests and a rally near the Baabda presidential palace.

The official also stressed that resolving the government crisis was no longer a priority at least in the coming hours, adding that contacts on the cabinet formation froze.

He revealed that the president’s remarks did not serve efforts to boost binding consultations that Aoun has yet to call for following the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Oct 29.

The official also emphasized that Aoun’s comments on Hariri did not encourage the caretaker PM to reconsider his decision on his appointment to form the new government.

He noted that he was surprised by recent comments by the head of the FPM, caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, about “positive and encouraging atmospheres” regarding the consultations.

“Where this optimism derives from?” he asked.

He said that Bassil, who is Aoun’s son-in-law, was seeking to send a message to the people that he was still a top decision maker, despite being heavily criticized by the anti-government protesters.

The government official noted that the Shiite duo, formed by the Amal Movement and Hezbollah, was showing flexibility and openness with Hariri. He added that Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s insistence on Hariri’s return to the premiership reflected his understanding with his Shiite ally about Hariri’s key role in dealing with the international community.

The source stressed that Aoun was on an understanding with the Shiite duo that the distribution of ministers between technocrats and politicians must be fair.

Despite his call in the interview for the formation of a cabinet made up of technocrats and politicians, the protesters have stuck to their demands for a government of experts.

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