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Aoun’s Shi’ite Minister Delays Cabinet Birth until after ‘Independence’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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People’s Flag returns to the People’s House/ Dalati Nohra

Beirut-Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri barely removes an obstacle before a new one emerges, obstructing his mission to form a new government before Independence Day, celebrated in Lebanon on Tuesday.

Informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Presidential Palace has surrendered to the idea of postponing the announcement of a cabinet lineup, saying: “Sooner or later, a government will be formed, but not before Independence Day due to the lack of time.”

The sources said that Hariri was racing with time to form his government. However, a planned 10-day trip by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil starting Wednesday will surely postpone its birth.

Bassil is considered the main negotiator in the team of President Michel Aoun and his absence would surely slow the consultations.

Sources close to consultations told Asharq Al-Awsat that Hariri had completed 90 percent of the government line up, asserting that the remaining 10 percent could be solved within minutes but is stopping the birth of the cabinet.

The sources said that Hariri had already divided portfolios among the political parties wanting to become part of the government. Hariri would now ask them for the names of the ministers nominated for the posts.

However, the tug of war between Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri could be the main obstacle facing the government’s birth.

The so-called Hezbollah, the Marada Movement and other March 8 alliance members tasked Berri with leading negotiations on the ministerial shares. Berri insists that Marada chief Suleiman Franjieh gets the Public Works ministry, but despite not being objected by Hariri, Aoun and the Lebanese Forces reject such a move.

The LF insists on getting the Public Works after it made a “major concession” by accepting not to be given a key portfolio.

The other obstacle lies with the request of Aoun to get two Muslim ministers, one Sunni and one Shi’ite. Hariri accepted the president’s demand. Berri did not reject it, but in exchange, the speaker asked to have one Christian minister, further complicating matters.

And while Hariri is positive in facilitating the formation of a cabinet, he insists that his Future party gets six ministers in the new lineup.

The biggest loser is the Kataeb Party, which seems to have left the government lineup, sources said.

Sources close to the so-called Hezbollah said the ministerial obstacles have pushed the formation of the government until after Independence Day with the possibility of having 30 ministers.