BEIRUT: Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri maintained Monday the importance of the swift formation of a Cabinet that brings together parties from across the political spectrum.
Hariri’s comments came after his meeting with President Michel Aoun at the Baabda Presidential during which he proposed an initial draft of the structure of Lebanon’s new Cabinet.
“Everyone is looking to form the new Cabinet as soon as possible and we came up with a proposal about how shares are allocated,” he said, noting that he opposes the "exclusion of major parties" from the Cabinet, in a veiled reference to the Lebanese Forces.
The LF's demand for a significant share of portfolios in the Cabinet has been fiercely disputed by the Free Patriotic Movement, the party founded by Aoun and currently led by his son-in-law caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.
The LF have expanded their parliamentary bloc to 15 MPs in the recent parliamentary elections, however, the FPM remain the biggest Christian coalition along with their allies after capturing 29 seats.
Bassil has also called for his bloc to be awarded the Ministry of Interior, a post which has been recently reserved for Sunnis and currently occupied by Nohad Machnouq, a close ally of Hariri.
Bassil and Machnouq have also traded barbs in recent days after the Foreign Minister suspended Friday the residency application process for the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) until further notice.
Speaking on Saturday, Machnouq argued that all policies pertaining to the UNHCR should be decided by the Cabinet and not the Foreign Minister.
Bassil’s move came in response to the perceived UNHCR campaign to dissuade Syrian refugees from returning to their homeland by “intimidating those who wish to return voluntarily.”
“Our procedures against UNHCR begin tomorrow, and they will escalate to the maximum extent that sovereign Lebanon can achieve toward an organization which acts against (Lebanon’s) policy of preventing naturalization and returning the displaced to their homeland,” Bassil said in a series of tweets published Thursday.
Lebanon’s political parties, across the board, have been pushing for the return of those displaced to areas deemed “safe,” in a bid to alleviate the burden the 1.5 is currently posing on the country infrastructure and ailing economy.
During his meeting Monday with U.S ambassador Elizabeth Richard, Machnouq reiterated the importance of their “return in line with international standards,” while Kataeb MP Nadim Gemayel took to Twitter underscoring that this process “may require direct coordination with the Syrian government.”
Last week, the head of Lebanon’s General Security Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim announced that communications with Syrian authorities to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees are ongoing, signaling the start of a broader arrangement between both countries.
Hariri also criticized a top Iranian general for comments he reportedly made recently in which he praised Iran-backed groups for making gains in last month's parliamentary elections after Hezbollah and its allies gained more than half the seats of the 128-member parliament in the May 6 parliamentary elections.
Local media aired a video posted on social media showing Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite fighting Quds Force, saying that Hezbollah's victory came at a time when some Arab countries labeled it and its leaders as terrorists.
Hariri told reporters later Monday that the comments are "regrettable," adding that interfering in Lebanon's internal affairs is "not in their (Iran's) interest, nor those of Lebanon or the region." - With AP
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