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Effort to form cabinet stalls as Ramadan begins, Hariri travels.

Byline: Elias Sakr

Summary: <p>The start of the month of Ramadan and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri's trip to Saudi Arabia kept the debate over the formation of a cabinet dormant over the weekend.AaA source close to the Future Movement leader toldAa The Daily Star Aaon Sunday that Hariri was not scheduled to discuss the cabinet's formation with Saudi officials during his visit to the kingdom but rather spend time with his family.

BEIRUT: The start of the month of Ramadan and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri's trip to Saudi Arabia kept the debate over the formation of a cabinet dormant over the weekend.AaA source close to the Future Movement leader told The Daily Star on Sunday that Hariri was not scheduled to discuss the cabinet's formation with Saudi officials during his visit to the kingdom but rather spend time with his family.Aa

The source also denied media reports about expected joint Saudi-Syrian efforts to facilitate the formation process and broker a final agreement on the government.Aa

On Sunday, An-Nahar newspaper reported that Syrian-Saudi joint efforts were expected to kick off soon to break the political deadlock.Aa

The paper also quoted March 14 sources saying that they "will not surrender to any kind of blackmail during the ongoing negotiations aimed to form a new cabinet."Aa

While efforts to form the government reached a deadlock with the start of the holy month of Ramadan and Hariri's trip to Saudi Arabia, the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) voiced support for the premier-designate.Aa

Tackling obstacles related to the cabinet's formation, the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat quoted Christian opposition sources in a report published on Sunday saying that the current situation in Lebanon was "similar to the political deadlock prior to the Doha Accord."Aa

The Doha Accord ended two years of political stalemate and led to the election of President Michel Sleiman as well as the formation of a national-unity cabinet which granted the opposition veto power. The accord followed bloody clashes on May 7, 2008 between opposition and pro-government gunmen.Aa

The report stressed that the conflicting stances of the Lebanese political parties led to major difficulties regarding the implementation of the agreement on the 15-10-5 formula.Aa

The 15-10-5 cabinet make-up grants the majority 15 ministers, the opposition 10, and Sleiman five seats, thus guaranteeing the president the tipping vote.Aa

Meanwhile, the PSP conveyed on Saturday a message of support to Hariri aimed at bolstering his role as premier.Aa

PSP MP Wael Abou Faour said on Saturday his party would not allow other groups to exploit the PSP's calls for reform within the March 14 Forces to weaken Hariri, adding that such attempts would hamper efforts to form a cabinet.Aa

On August 2, Jumblatt announced that "his alliance with March 14 was driven by necessity and must not continue," however, he has expressed on several occasions his continued support for Hariri.Aa

Speaking during a dinner held by the Patient Support Fund in the Hasbaya region, Abu Faour stressed that his party remained part of the parliamentary majority and that the PSP's share of three ministers in the next government would be part of the 15 seats allotted to the parliamentary majority.Aa

Abu Faour stressed that PSP leader MP Walid Jumblatt "did not carry out a coup against the March 14 alliance nor on the outcome of the June 7 parliamentary elections."Aa

He added that Jumblatt, while still committed to the principles of Lebanon's independence and sovereignty, "came forward with new proposals to be discussed among March 14 Forces since the coming period necessitated a new political approach."Aa

Separately, Tawheed Movement leader Wiab Wahhab criticized Hariri on Saturday for "directing his annoyance from Jumblatt toward [Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel] Aoun," adding that he feared for the former general's life since he opposed the naturalization of the Palestinians.Aa

Wahhab also slammed Hariri "for only taking action according to a foreign agenda," adding that the Syrian-Saudi accord on the cabinet formula was still valid despite the Egyptian attempts to obstruct it.Aa

Wahhab called on Hariri to "contact Saudi Arabia and demand from them to quickly resolve the complication."

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Aug 24, 2009
Words:715
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