Hariri fails to form cabinet, resigns

Lebanese PM-designate tells Suleiman Hizbullah bloc "had no wish to advance one step forward."

Saad Hariri and Nabih Berri 248.88 (photo credit: AP Photo/Lebanese Parliament Media Office, HO)
Saad Hariri and Nabih Berri 248.88
(photo credit: AP Photo/Lebanese Parliament Media Office, HO)
Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Sa'ad Hariri said Thursday he is abandoning efforts to form a new government after the Hizbullah-led parliament minority rejected his list for a national unity Cabinet. Hariri's move, two days after his proposed 30-member cabinet list was turned down, takes Lebanon into more political uncertainty, with President Michel Suleiman now forced to start consultations with lawmakers from scratch over naming a new premier. It also highlights the continuing deadlock between Lebanon's US-backed camp headed by Hariri and the pro-Syrian bloc led by the militant Hizbullah, despite the June parliament elections in which Hariri's coalition won a slim majority. The Western-backed bloc fell short of the needed number of lawmakers in parliament to rule on its own. And while the Hizbullah camp also is not in a position to run the country, the two factions have not found a way to work together. "I declare to all Lebanese, that today, I apologized to his excellency the president about [not being able to] form the government, hoping that this decision will be in Lebanon's interest," Hariri said after a meeting with Suleiman. Hariri has unsuccessfully tried to form a government since his bloc's victory in the parliament elections, but disputes over the distribution of top ministries scuttled his efforts. After making no headway with rival factions, he named his own picks for the cabinet posts. Hizbullah and its allies denounced this, saying they must be allowed to name their own members in the unity cabinet, which is to be made up of rival Lebanese factions. Hariri said Thursday the conditions set by the Hizbullah-led bloc sought to undermine the entire election, clearly won by his coalition. The Hizbullah-led coalition "had no wish to advance one step forward," Hariri said, adding his rivals proposed "impossible conditions." The only thing the factions agreed on during the negotiations over a cabinet makeup was a formula that gave Hariri's parliament majority 15 seats, the Hizbullah-led minority 10 seats, while Suleiman got to pick the remaining five government members, likely from among independent politicians. One of the most contentious points during the negotiations was the demand by Hizbullah and its allies that Jibran Bassil, of the Hizbullah-ally Christian Free Patriotic Movement, stay on as communication minister. Hariri rejected this, reportedly choosing a politician closer to his own bloc for the post, Ghazi Aridi of the Druse politician Walid Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist Party. Hizbullah considers the ministry of telecommunications a particularly sensitive post because of security reasons and wants it held by one of it allies. The constitution requires that Suleiman consult with lawmakers again before choosing another prime minister. He is expected to meet with representatives of the parliament blocs to sound out their proposals in the coming days. The president s unlikely to turn to the Hizbullah-led coalition for a second choice for premier and is expected to seek a more neutral candidate for the post.