French FM Kouchner 'worried' at Lebanon's failure to form cabinet

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner (pictured) has urged Lebanon's feuding parties to step up efforts to form a government four months after the country held elections.


AFP - France is "worried" by Lebanon's failure to form a cabinet four months after elections and fears the void could undermine security in the country, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Friday.

"Five months after elections, perfect elections recognised the world over, there is no government in Lebanon," Kouchner said in Beirut, where he is to meet top officials on a day-long visit.

"It is not up to France to form your government and we have not come to give lessons, but we are worried.

"You cannot continue this way. You are promoting all the most dangerous trends in the region ... At stake are your security and the unity and freedom of Lebanon," he said

Saad Hariri, son of slain ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, has tried without success to form a government since June, when his US- and Saudi-backed coalition won a general election over a Hezbollah-led alliance backed by Syria and Iran .

The stalemate was largely blamed on tension between the two camps' regional backers, but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Saudi King Abdullah seemed to have buried the hatchet at a meeting earlier this month and jointly called for a unity government.

Kouchner said the two former foes had had a positive influence on Lebanon that the time had come for feuding parties to bear responsibility for their inability to form a government.

A major point of contention among rival parties in agreeing on a cabinet make-up has been the distribution of portfolios and the choice of ministers.

"External influence (on the cabinet formation) is rather positive, especially from Saudi Arabia and Syria," Kouchner said in response to a question.

"It is necessary that on both sides, Lebanon's friends do what they can to influence (the formation)," he added. "But every Lebanese is responsible.

"You are now a democracy in the Middle East, one of few, so you have responsibilities," he said, adding that France was ready to "help in every way."

Kouchner held talks with top officials, including the president, speaker of parliament and foreign minister, and is to meet with Hariri, Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun and a Hezbollah official before returning to France later on Friday.

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