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March 14 prepares to present unified face.

Byline: Elias Sakr

Summary: <p>Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri said on Sunday that the March 14 Forces still hold the majority of seats in Parliament, adding that the alliance was ready to team up with its national partners for the welfare of Lebanon.AaSpeaking during an iftar banquet at his residence in Qoreitem, Hariri said the March 14 Forces are to hold a large-scale meeting also on Monday.

BEIRUT: Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri said on Sunday that the March 14 Forces still hold the majority of seats in Parliament, adding that the alliance was ready to team up with its national partners for the welfare of Lebanon.AaSpeaking during an iftar banquet at his residence in Qoreitem, Hariri said the March 14 Forces are to hold a large-scale meeting also on Monday to discuss pressing issue on the Lebanese political scene.Aa

"Our meeting tomorrow is aimed at showing the March 14 Forces remain a unified parliamentary majority, which is extending its hand to all other groups in the country," he said.Aa

"Lebanon should be our main priority, Lebanon comes first," he addedAa

A total of 71 MPs of the parliamentary majority will hold a meeting on Monday at 3 p.m. in Qoreitem to voice support for the prime minister-designate, and stress the unity of the March 14 coalition, a parliamentary majority source told The Daily Star on Sunday.Aa

The source said the meeting aims to remind that the March 14 alliance has won the majority of seats in Parliament during the June 7 polls.Aa

However, the source added that the statement to be issued following the talks would emphasize that the parliamentary majority "adopts a policy of openness and highlight that the alliance will reach out to opposition groups for partnership in the next cabinet."Aa

Monday's meeting, which will be attended by Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt, will also attempt to "resolve to the lingering impact of the May 7 events," the source said.Aa

On May 7, 2008 bloody clashes between pro-government and opposition groups erupted in Beirut and the Chouf mountainous region following the Cabinet's decision to dismantle Hizbullah's telecommunication network and sack Beirut airport's security chief.Aa

The clashes came to an end with the Doha accord that led to the election of President Michel Sleiman and the formation of a national-unity cabinet headed by current caretaker Premier Fouad Siniora.Aa

Hopes of reaching an agreement on the formation of a new national unity cabinet were revived over the weekend after reports that Hariri would soon meet with Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun.Aa

Well-informed sources told The Daily Star on Sunday that the Hariri-Aoun meeting was likely to take place on Monday. However, the sources did not disclose the time and location of the meeting.Aa

The awaited meeting is likely to take place at the Baabda presidential palace, which is regarded as a neutral location for Hariri and Aoun to hold talks after the latter rejected a lunch invitation by the premier-designate last week, saying he would not meet with Hariri before Future Movement MPs "refrained from attacking him in the media."Aa

During an iftar on Friday, Hariri expressed readiness to meet with Aoun at Baabda or at the Parliament and informed Sleiman and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri of his decision.Aa

"Lebanon's interests are above any politician personal interests," Hariri said, adding that he hoped that his initiative would be met positively by Aoun.Aa

On Sunday, FPM MP Alain Aoun said a meeting between both leaders would be the "ideal" approach to reach a breakthrough over the cabinet deadlock, adding that his party would not hamper the formation process but rather "had several demands."Aa

However, he added that even despite a successful outcome, several complications would still face the formation process.Aa

"We did not tackle the issue of portfolios that the March 14 politicians would handle," Alain said.Aa

Meanwhile, Aoun's opposition ally, Hizbullah's politburo member Mahmoud Qomati, denied claims during an iftar on Saturday that his party had encouraged Aoun to obstruct the formation process. Qomati added that the 15-10-5 formula which guaranteed real partnership remained the valid political framework for a national-unity cabinet.Aa

The 15-10-5 formula grants March 14, 15 ministers, opposition groups 10 and the president five seats. March 14 and the opposition would both be denied an absolute majority and veto power while Sleiman would be guaranteed the tipping vote.Aa

Echoing Qomati, Hizbullah's Loyalty to Resistance bloc leader MP Mohammad Raad stressed that a national-unity cabinet was the only guarantee to stability and civil peace, adding that remarks on a parliamentary majority and a minority were "behind us."Aa

Another initiative is also expected to get matters moving; media reports on Sunday said Speaker Nabih Berri would launch a new initiative to break the government impasse. Berri is due to deliver an address on Monday to mark the 31st anniversary of the disappearance of Imam Musa Sadr.Aa

However, a source close to Berri would neither confirm nor deny the reports, adding that "the event did not take place yet."Aa

Meanwhile, speaking on behalf of Hariri during an iftar Saturday night, Future Movement MP Amar Houri said the premier-designate's "efforts aimed to form a harmonious government capable of accomplishing real work."Aa

Houri stressed the need to" allow some time to form a cabinet that would not collapse due to internal conflicts since it would reflect negatively on the country."

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Aug 31, 2009
Words:933
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