Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Hopes of a breakthrough in Lebanon’s fraught attempts to form a new government have been dashed, with several issues remaining unresolved, according to observers.
Prime minister-designate Tammam Salam and his opponents have reportedly failed to reach agreement on the presence of Hezbollah in government, which is opposed by the March 14 alliance. The issue of the distribution of cabinet seats and veto power in the country’s parliament has also proven to be contentious.
Each each side blames the other for the disagreements.
Michel Aoun, the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, said that the conditions set by prime minister-designate were impossible, adding that the formation of the government will be delayed by months.
“The strategic understanding with the resistance will not change,” despite the fact that “there are internal issues which have to be resolved,” Aoun stated, adding that he will not be part of a government that excludes Hezbollah.
Aoun’s party is one of the largest parties in Lebanon’s parliament and a senior partner of the Change and Reform Bloc.
However, Aoun hinted on Saturday that prospects for reconciliation between the Future Movement and the Change and Reform Bloc had not vanished completely.
“We welcome any rapprochement with [former] Prime Minister Sa’ad Al-Hariri and others, and we will use it for the benefit of all Lebanese people,” he said.
Despite the continuing deadlock in efforts by Lebanese President Michel Suleiman to form a government, sources say attempts will continue.
A source with knowledge of the process told Asharq Al-Awsat that prime minister-designate Salam was still waiting for the results of negotiations by parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri, as well as decisions by the Shi’ite parties aligned with Amal and Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, Future Movement deputy Mohamed Hajjar expressed his wish that the March 8 alliance, which is led by Hezbollah, “would act instead of throwing accusations around and blaming others.”
“Things are clear,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat. “Salam has previously announced a road map for forming a government, and one of its most important parts was for the government to be coordinated and consisting of people who are not party members. He [Salam] rejected the idea of giving the veto power to any party, and this is what we, the March 14 forces, agree with and support, while the other side is still insisting on the veto, insisting not only on the veto power, but on nine ministers, or even 10, with Amal Movement and Hezbollah demanding five ministerial positions, and Aoun another five.”
In response to reports about rapprochement between Future Movement and the Change and Reform Bloc, Hajjar said “we have never closed the door to anyone. Our priority is the state and the institutions, and to end all forms of armed presence outside the state’s framework.”
He said he had no information on the truth behind this rapprochement, and said the problem with Aoun will end if he changed his view on the state project, Hezbollah’s possession of arms, and its participation in the fighting in Syria.
Another Future Movement deputy, Jean Oghassabian, said reports of the breakup of the March 8 group were political manoeuvers, linked on the one hand with the formation of government and, on the other, with representing Aoun as a moderate.
While the March 14 group insists on Hezbollah’s non-participation in the government, Hassan Fadlallah, deputy for the Loyalty and Resistance Bloc, accused the Future Bloc and March 14 bloc members of being responsible for the disruption.
He said: “We still want the prime minister-designate to succeed in his mission, but the other side is hindering the formation of the government by making big demands which cannot be delivered, and we know these demands are not from the inside, but from outside.”
Fadlallah said “imposing demands will not get them anywhere, they should not exert themselves in attempts to make demands and impose them on the Lebanese, and if they wanted to take time, let them, and any delay will be a burden on the prime minister-designate and on the situation in the country for a while.”
Another deputy agreed with Fadlallah. Ali Khrais, deputy for the liberation and Development Bloc, said that the “Amal Movement and its allies are serious in working on the formation of an effective government which ends this vacuum and carries out its tasks, especially at this critical stage. However, others have to abandon the mentality of exclusion, which proved to be futile and a failure during the Lebanese civil war.”
Meanwhile, the minister of displaced in the caretaker government, Alaeddine Terro, expressed his hope that “a government is formed as soon as possible to deal with the serious issues on the table, and to be a balanced government representing everyone.” He added that “we prefer at this time to form a government of national unity or a partnership government representing everyone until the next parliamentary elections are held, when according to the results of the elections, a new government can then be formed by one party or another.”