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Aoun, Hariri Hint of 24-Member Cabinet to Break ‘Ministerial Appetite’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Hariri visited Aoun in Baabda on Monday/NNA

Beirut- The tug of war between Lebanese parties concerned by the formation of a new cabinet had reached an unprecedented level as the unofficial deadline set by President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri to complete the lineup before Independence Day on Nov. 22 has almost reached.

In an attempt to limit the “ministerial appetite,” Aoun and Hariri had lately alluded that 24 ministers instead of previous reports saying it would include 30, will form the next cabinet.

Meanwhile, the Free Patriotic Movement was busy in the last hours helping the Lebanese Forces acquire the ministerial shares its ally had requested. The FPM is repaying the LF for the latter’s support to Aoun during the presidential elections.

Surprisingly, head of the FPM and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said: “In the next government, the question would not be about what the FPM would take, but what the FPM would give.” Bassil asserted that the Lebanese Forces would have a bigger share in the next cabinet.

According to some reports, Speaker Nabih Berri who was accredited by the so-called Hezbollah to lead the party’s negotiations related to the ministerial shares, had told Hariri that the March 8 group refuses that the LF gets a key ministerial portfolio.

Informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the problem was not related to a dispute between the FPM and the LF, because Aoun’s political party had already decided to give up his share in getting one of the four key ministerial portfolios to his ally, the LF. Therefore, the bazaar of the four key portfolios is now as follows: one for the Amal Movement, one for the Future Movement, one for the President and one for the LF. However, the March 8 team, led by the so-called Hezbollah and the Marada Movement still refuse such formula.

On Monday, LF MP Goerges Adwan was clear when he announced that his party was attached to the key ministerial portfolio as a condition to take part in the next cabinet. A source from the LF told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We prefer to have the Finance Ministry or else we will exchange this portfolio with three main ministries: Health, Communication and Pubic Works.”

Meanwhile, Mario Aoun a leading figure at the FPM told Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday that nothing was yet decided concerning the majority of ministerial portfolios. However, Aoun asserted there would be a government before Independence Day.

Also commenting on the government lineup, head of the Democratic Gathering MP Walid Jumblatt said on Monday via twitter, “It seems issues need more deliberations.”