BEIRUT, (Reuters) – Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri said on Thursday that efforts to form a new national unity government were making progress, though not as fast as he would like.
Hariri indicated there would be no change in an agreement over the division of cabinet seats between his anti-Syria coalition, a rival alliance including pro-Damascus groups and a third bloc of ministers to be chosen by the head of state.
“The government is progressing, perhaps not at the speed that we want, but in the end there will be a government as soon as possible,” Hariri, designated premier more than six weeks ago, said after talks with President Michel Suleiman.
Hariri’s Christian allies have called for a review of the seat-sharing accord in light of a major policy shift by Druze politician Walid Jumblatt, formerly a close ally who has now distanced himself from the anti-Syria “March 14” alliance.
Jumblatt’s policy shift, announced on August 2, redrew Lebanon’s political landscape and diluted a June parliamentary win by Hariri’s coalition over a rival alliance including the heavily armed, Iran-backed Hezbollah.
Hariri, a billionaire businessman with the political backing of Saudi Arabia and the United States, took a one-week holiday after Jumblatt’s announcement, effectively freezing the government talks.
“There is no doubt that the matter of portfolios and names remains,” Hariri said. “We face some difficulties. But I am certain that they will be resolved, God willing, as quickly as possible,” he said, adding that the differences were “natural”.