Beirut: Lebanon’s Economy Minister Alain Hakim has said that relations with Gulf countries cannot return to their previous stage as a result of the presence of the so-called Hezbollah in Syria.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper published Monday, Hakim said there is a price Lebanon will pay as a result of the intervention of Hezbollah in Syria.
“And, contrary to what many people think, this price would be political and not economic,” Hakim added.
While describing Lebanon’s relations with Riyadh, Hakim asserted that the majority of the Lebanese people possess brotherly relations with Saudi Arabia.
“Saudi Arabia has not left Lebanon, even during its worst crises. I personally visited the UAE and Saudi ambassadors, who both denied the presence of any intention to sack Lebanese workers in the Gulf,” Hakim said.
When asked about the last municipal elections, Hakim said the Phalange Party, which he represents in the Lebanese government, has “proved it was capable of confronting the Christian duo” -the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement- and therefore, asserts his party is now a difficult equation, not easily beaten.
Hakim revealed that there were $72 million worth bribes during the municipal elections. However, he said that holding the polls brought down claims that elections could not take place due to the fragile security situation.
Therefore it is now a must to hold the parliamentary polls based on a new electoral law that considers Lebanon a single district, the minister said.
Hakim said the Phalange Party refused to hold parliamentary elections based on the old 1960 law or to extend the term of the current Parliament. “Any extension of Parliament’s tenure would hurt the credibility of Lebanon and its economy,” he said.
“Many crises would have been swiftly resolved had the seat of the presidency not been vacant.”
Hakim said the current government faces a sad reality: On one part, the cabinet could not resign in the absence of a President, and on the other hand, it cannot achieve much amid deep political divisions.
“Lebanon cannot anymore bare the burden of the presidential vacuum which has very negative consequences on the work of the constitutional institutions,” Hakim said. He added that the current government would survive until the election of a new president, which according to the Lebanese constitution, should take place before the parliamentary elections.
The economy minister accused the so-called Hezbollah party of causing the presidential void.
He said although Hezbollah has two presidential candidates from the March 8 alliance, it is refusing to head to the Parliament and elect a president.
According to Hakim, the “vacuum remains the best candidate for Hezbollah,” which has been maneuvering on regional developments, particularly what in Syria.
Hezbollah thinks it could have an advantage in Syria if the tide of the war turned in the Syrian regime’s favor, he said.
Hakim stated that relations with Gulf countries are solid and extremely precious, hoping they would help revive investment and tourism activities in Lebanon.