Two Weeks or Bust in Lebanon
Lebanon's government will collapse unless its governance plan is published by July 13. Cabinet deadlocked over coming Special Tribunal indictments.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 6/29/2011, 6:45 PM / Last Update: 6/29/2011, 8:52 PM
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati's has been warned he has until July 13 to draft a formal program for his government or it will be disbanded by law.
"According to the Lebanese constitution, when you form a cabinet you have 30 days to present a policy statement to parliament," a staffer in Lebanese parlimentary spokesman Nabih Berri's office told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"If that does not take place, the cabinet automatically collapses," he added.
The deadline for Mikati's newly formed government comes after months of stalled talks to form a cabinet due to tensions between Hizbullah lawmakers and other parties. It also comes as the rift over the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon deepens.
A drafting committee has held six meetings to try to finalise the government program, but has repeatedly ducked the divisive issue of cooperation with the STL, tasked with investigating the 2005 assassination of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.
The court is expected to issue indictments for the assassination against five members of Hizbullah in the coming days. The terror group, which leads the majority bloc in Lebanon's parliament, wants Mikati's government to cut all ties with the STL. Lebanon's previous government, under Hariri's son Saad, collapsed amidst a feud over the court.
Insiders say that Mikati, a billionaire businessman, has balked at Hizbullah's demand.
Berri, a known Hizbullah ally, said the constitution requires parliament would have to begin consultations on naming a new prime minister if the Mikati government failed to publish its program by the July 13 deadline.
Mikati responded Wednesday saying his cabinet must "take into account the interests of Lebanon without neglecting international resolutions," adding he would take "the necessary action," should his government fail to meet the deadline.
"I will not get involved in arguments over the constitution," Mikati told reporters.
"What is certain is that if we do not finalise the ministerial statement by the constitutional deadline, I will take measures that reflect my respect for the constitution and the nation."