Hariri: Hizbullah will join next gov't

Lebanese PM-designate says Shi'ite guerrilla group will be part of Cabinet "whether Israel likes it or not."

saad hariri 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
saad hariri 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hizbullah will be part of the next Lebanese government "whether Israel likes it or not," Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Sa'ad Hariri was quoted as saying Wednesday. "The national unity government will include the [ruling] March 14 alliance, and I also want to assure the Israeli enemy that Hizbullah will be in this government whether it likes it or not because Lebanon's interests require all parties be involved in this cabinet," AFP quoted Hariri as saying. Speaking during a Ramadan meal on Tuesday night, Hariri reiterated his determination to "include all factions" in the government. Hariri's comments followed a warning by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last month that Lebanon would be blamed for any strikes on Israel if it allowed the guerrilla group to join the government. "If Hizbullah joins the government, it will be clear that the Lebanese government will be held responsible for any attack coming from its territory against Israel," Netanyahu had said. Hariri, the leader of the parliament majority, has been struggling for two months to cobble together a national unity government following the June 7 elections in which his Western-backed coalition retained a majority in the 128-seat legislature and fended off a strong challenge from Hizbullah and its allies. So far, Hariri has managed to agree in talks with Lebanese factions that the 30-member Cabinet will have 15 ministers from his coalition, while Hizbullah and its allies would have 10, and the remaining five seats would be appointed by Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, likely from independent candidates. This formula would guarantee the president the tipping vote, denying both Hariri's side an absolute majority and Hizbullah and its allies the strength to veto government decisions. But Hariri's attempts to form the Cabinet were stymied by Christian leader Michel Aoun's demand for the Interior Ministry and also his insistence that his son-in-law remain on as telecommunications minister. Hariri was reported to have rejected these demands. Aoun is a key ally of Hizbullah. Hariri's efforts were further complicated when a key ally, Druse leader Walid Jumblatt, earlier this month bolted out of the Western-backed coalition, to go independent.