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Middle east

Hariri's proposed cabinet rejected by Hezbollah-led opposition

Video by Lucy FIELDER

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-09-09

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah (photo) has rejected the cabinet line-up proposed by prime minister-designate Saad Hariri, saying that the "inadequate" coalition proposal would only complicate the political situation in the country.

AFP - Fears of a new political crisis in Lebanon have resurfaced after the Hezbollah-led opposition openly rejected prime minister-designate Saad Hariri's proposed cabinet line-up.
   
Hariri submitted a 30-seat coalition cabinet to President Michel Sleiman on Monday, more than three months after his alliance won a general election, but the opposition, which is backed by Syria and Iran, rejected the move.
   
Later the same day, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah slammed Hariri for proposing a line-up that he said would only complicate the situation in Lebanon.
   
"I do not believe this way of doing things will lift Lebanon from the crisis over the formation of the new government," Nasrallah said. "It will make the problem more complicated."
   
The Hezbollah chief said the minority opposition would "stand up to this inadequate measure, and in complete solidarity," although he did not elaborate on its next move.
   
Hariri, the son of assassinated billionaire ex-premier Rafiq Hariri and head of the Western-backed parliamentary majority, was named prime minister on June 27 after his camp won a general election earlier that month.
   
Tough negotiations led to a deal on the number of ministers each political camp would have in the 30-seat cabinet, with 15 going to Hariri's alliance, 10 to the opposition and the president appointing the remaining five.
   
A source from the ruling alliance told AFP that Hariri's proposal fails to meet the demands of Michel Aoun, Hezbollah's key Christian ally.
   
A retired general and pivotal player in the opposition, Aoun told local radio on Monday that he expected Sleiman to refuse to sign a decree approving the cabinet.
   
Aoun called on his party members to "resign immediately from any cabinet that includes their names."
   
Beirut newspapers were unanimous on Tuesday in predicting that no government would emerge in the coming days but differed on whether Lebanon would face another political crisis.
   
"The country has entered a very delicate phase," read the front-page headline in Al-Akhbar, a pro-opposition daily.
   
"The imposed government fails politically, Hariri to resign," read the headline in As-Safir, another daily close to the opposition.
   
"The prime minister-designate did it, perhaps after having been given the green light from countries abroad, and threw the ball of fire -- the cabinet formation -- into the hands of the president," As-Safir said.
   
The daily said it expected Hariri to resign should Sleiman refuse to sign the decree.
   
Naming ministers on behalf of the opposition was a step too far, As-Safir said.
   
But papers aligned with the Hariri-led majority were less pessimistic.
   
An-Nahar, a popular pro-majority daily, said Hariri's move "sparks a new round of talks with all parties," while acknowledging the "heavy pessimism" in Lebanon after the opposition slammed his proposal.
   
But analysts said no immediate crisis was in the offing.
   
Oussama Safa, who heads the Beirut-based Centre for Policy Studies, told AFP he expected local political manoeuvres would continue, but no decisive actions would be taken.
   
"It's in nobody's interest for the situation to explode," said Safa. "There's a wait-and-see attitude."
   
Ghassan al-Azzi, a political science professor at the state-run Lebanese University, agreed. "Things have been escalating, but the situation bears no resemblance to past crises," he said.
   
A political crisis erupted in 2006 after all Shiite ministers resigned from the cabinet. It degenerated in May 2008 when sectarian fighting broke out in Beirut, in the worst bloodshed since Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war.
   
The crisis was resolved the same month when Qatar brokered a deal for the formation of a national unity government.
   

Date created : 2009-09-08

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