Berri: Hariri will not resign in response to Cabinet obstruction

Since Hariri was appointed on October 22 to form a new government, he and Future Movement officials have accused Aoun and his son-in-law Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement, of blocking the formation of the government by insisting on a blocker. a third plus one [veto power], something the Prime Minister-designate has pledged not to grant to either side.

Future officials have also accused Aoun and Bassil of seeking, with their difficult cabinet-forming conditions, to push Hariri to resign.

Even Berri, in a rare, dazzling rant against Aoun last week, accused the president of seeking to impeach Hariri as prime minister-designate contrary to the legislature’s designation and of violating the Constitution by insisting on appointing two Christian ministers in the new government.

In remarks published on Tuesday by the An-Nahar newspaper, Berri said he would not back down from his latest move to break the Cabinet formation deadlock which lasted for several months despite Aoun and Bassil’s rejection. .

The initiative calls for the formation of a 24-member cabinet of non-partisan specialists without blocking a third party plus one [veto power] to any side. He seeks to end the political stalemate that, for more than 10 months, has left Lebanon without a fully empowered government to deal with multiple crises, including an unprecedented financial downturn that threatens the Lebanese with poverty and hunger. .

An-Nahar quoted Berri as saying that his initiative to facilitate Cabinet formation “is still in place and he will not withdraw unless there is another acceptable initiative.” [to all the parties]. “

Berri said he maintains his support for Hariri as prime minister designate “because he enjoys the support of his sect, Dar al-Fatwa [the seat of the Sunni Grand Mufti], the club of former prime ministers and won the support of MPs during the [binding] consultations. “

“They [Aoun and Bassil] don’t want him [Hariri]. But for the aforementioned reasons, we support it, “Berri reportedly said, adding:” In exchange for the absence of a government [by Hariri], he will not resign.

Hariri has suspended his decision to resign for the time being in response to Aoun and Bassil’s continued obstruction of his attempts to form a non-partisan specialist cabinet project to enact reforms and save the country from total economic collapse. He said resigning was a “serious option”.

When asked if Hariri could possibly step down once Berri said his initiative had collapsed, the speaker replied: “The wait [for Hariri to quit] will be long.

Berri warned of the dire consequences for the ailing economy and the country’s fragile stability if Hariri were forced to resign. “If Hariri resigns, there will be a total collapse,” Berri said, expressing fears for the security of the country.

Asked to comment on Berri’s position that in return for obstructing government formation, Hariri will not resign, Future Movement MP Mohammad Hajjar told the Daily Star: “[Berri’s position] is the insistence on making every effort to facilitate the formation of the Cabinet. Resignation remains one of Prime Minister Hariri’s options. But Hariri is now giving President Berri a chance, who says that his initiative is continuing and that he is making efforts to ensure its success.

Berri said Hariri, who initially proposed a cabinet of 18 non-partisan specialists, accepted his initiative to increase the number of ministers to 24 and agreed to a mechanism for appointing ministers. He added that Bassil, after meetings between him and political advisers to the president and head of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, accepted the provisions of the initiative before declaring last Sunday in a televised speech that he was not aware.

Berri mocked Bassil’s argument that the speaker’s initiative was a “masked tripartite system” that divides power between Christians, Sunnis and Shiites. The 1989 Taif Accord, which ended the 1975-90 civil war, stipulated an equal sharing of power between Muslims and Christians. Berri’s Cabinet proposal divides the 24 suggested ministers into three non-veto groups: eight ministers for Aoun, eight ministers for Hariri and his allies, and eight ministers for the Amal de Berri movement, Hezbollah and their allies.

“President Michel Aoun will be the only one to have more than eight ministers, while there will be only five Shiite ministers and the allies” [ministerial] the seats are theirs, ”Berri said.

Socialist Progressive Party leader Walid Joumblatt, meanwhile, reiterated his appeal to Aoun and Hariri to reach a compromise on the government formation crisis.

“Unfortunately, they [Aoun and Hariri] disagree on the blocking third party [plus one] as the country collapses. It is a hollow pretext. I call for a compromise. A political compromise is essential, ”said Joumblatt during a meeting with Druze sheikhs in the mountain town of Aley, the stronghold of the PSP.

He recalled that after the assassination during the civil war of his father, Kamal Joumblatt, the founder of the PSP, a crime attributed to the Syrians, he made a compromise and shook hands with Syrian President Hafez Assad in 1977 for the well of its Druze community.

“I have remained an ally of Syria for 29 years and I am not at all ashamed of it. Therefore, you influential leaders must come to a compromise, ”added Joumblatt, who supported Berri’s initiative.

The new government would be responsible for implementing a series of essential reforms in accordance with the French initiative aimed at pulling Lebanon out of its worst economic and financial crisis and avoiding a much feared social implosion. The implementation of long overdue reforms is seen as crucial to unlocking billions of dollars in promised foreign aid to the cash-strapped country.

Lebanon is in the throes of a crippling economic and financial crisis, posing the most serious threat to its stability since the civil war. The Lebanese pound has been in free fall since October 2019, losing more than 90% of its value, plunging more than half of Lebanon’s six million people into poverty and unemployment.

The Lebanese also face the threat of total darkness due to fuel shortages and lack of funds to purchase fuel, and soaring prices for food and other essentials under government plans. interim aimed at removing subsidies on basic commodities, such as fuel, wheat and medicine. The removal of subsidies on these items would further aggravate the misery of the Lebanese.

Meanwhile, France and its European Union partners are considering possible sanctions against Lebanese politicians involved in corruption and accused of obstructing the formation of a new government.

The EU Foreign Affairs Committee is currently meeting in Luxembourg to discuss the Lebanese situation, including European sanctions, and hear a report from EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell after his two-day visit to Beirut last week. Borrell berated Lebanese politicians for delays in forming a new cabinet, warning that the EU could impose sanctions on those who block a solution to the political impasse.

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