The formation of a Cabinet in Lebanon appeared imminent as mediators move to iron out the final details of President Michel Sleiman's appointees, Lebanon's Daily Star reported Friday.
The push for the Hizbullah-dominated government to finalize the Cabinet after a five-month deadlock comes as Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, under international pressure over his own internal woes, presses for the swift birth of a friendly government in Beirut.
Assad made the call during a meeting in Damascus Thursday with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt, according to a statement by the party. He predicated his call for a speedy resolution to Beirut's deadlock on shoring up 'stability' in Lebanon.
Assad is facing a serious challenge to his 11-year rule from a broad popular uprising in Syria which has evoked world condemnation of his regime over the violent crackdown on protesters.
Assad's call for a break in Lebonon's political stalemate came shortly after speculation in western media outlets that a political failure in Beirut could lead to US intervention in Lebanon.
Most observers consider US intervention in Lebanon highly unlikely.
Maronite Minister at Heart of Deadlock
“President Michel Sleiman has endorsed the latest 30-member Cabinet lineup draft. An official announcement of the new Cabinet makeup is expected soon,” a source close to the Cabinet talks told The Daily Star.
The source said Sleiman has yet to name his second Maronite minister in the new Cabinet, after agreement was reached on allotting the Interior Ministry portfolio to retired police Brig. Gen. Marwan Charbel. Sleiman’s share also includes a minister of state.
In the latest flurry of contacts and consultations the two key mediators, MP Ali Hassan Khalil, a political adviser to Speaker Nabih Berri, and Hussein Khalil, a political aide to Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, met Thursday with Sleiman at Baabda Palace.
The two mediators sought to find a solution to the rift between Sleiman and Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun over the candidate for the second Maronite minister. Aoun has insisted that the minister should not be from the Christian heartland of Kesrouan for electoral reasons.
The two mediators asked Sleiman to name his candidate for the second Maronite minister, but Sleiman refused and was considerably upset with Aoun for trying to impose a candidate for the position on him, the source said. The source quoted Sleiman as telling the two mediators: “I am the one who names the second Maronite minister.”
This week's Cabinet formation efforts gained momentum Wednesday after an “icebreaker” meeting held in Parliament.
Also, leaders of the new Parliament majority, or the Hizbullah-led March 8 alliance, met in Parliament Wednesday on the sidelines of a legislative session that failed to materialize for lack of quorum.The leaders resolved difficulties related to the telecommunication and energy and water resources ministries with parties agreeing for the FPM to retain the two portfolios.
Military Demands Balanced Government
Meanwhile, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea warned against the formation of a one-sided government and called for a Cabinet of technocrats as the only solution to end the power vacuum.
“Lebanon is in dire need for a government. The only possible solution for the present problems lies in the formation of a government of technocrats to take care of the economic and social problems,” Geagea told reporters attending a press conference at his residence in Maarab. “A one-sided government will make the situation worse than it is now. A national unity government will lead to nowhere. A national salvation government must include all the parties.”
The March 14 coalition has decided to boycott the government.