Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri announced on Thursday that he stepped down after weeks of consultations to form a national unity cabinet with the opposition, the country's official National News Agency reported.
Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman (L) meets with prime minister-designate Saad al-Hariri at Beiteddine palace in Beiteddine village, Mount Lebanon September 10, 2009. Hariri announced on Thursday that he stepped down after weeks of consultations to form a national unity cabinet with the opposition.[Xinhua]
Hariri made the announcement after his meeting with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman. Hariri said for 73 days he exerted efforts to form a national unity cabinet and conducted necessary consultations to present a government formula.
"I did not know my commitment to forming the cabinet would reach a deadlock," said Hariri. "I, therefore, announce I will step down from forming a cabinet, hoping my decision will help launch necessary dialogue and consultations to form a government."
Hariri added that the conditions set by the opposition sought to undermine the entire election.
Lebanese president's media bureau issued a statement after Hariri's step-down announcement, appreciating his efforts and considering these incidents as being democratic.
The statement said Suleiman will call for new parliamentary consultations according to constitutional norms, in a bid to name a new prime minister.
Lebanon has seen no new cabinet since Hariri was designated as prime minister on June 27, following his West- and Saudi-backed March 14 Alliance won the June 7 parliamentary elections over Iran-and Syria-backed Hezbollah-dominant March 8 Alliance.
Saad Hariri, the assassinated former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri's second son, said after being designated that he would form a national unity government which would include the opposition; however, the endless bargaining on portfolios in the new cabinet stalled his mission for more than two months.
"After a final round of negotiations, it became clear to me that some (parties), with their impossible demands, are in no way going to allow the proposed cabinet lineup to pass," Hariri said in a conference after his announcement, possibly referring to Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun's insistence on reappointing his son-in-law, telecommunications minister Gebran Bassil, and being granted the interior ministry.
Lebanon's prime minister-designate Saad al-Hariri speaks during a news conference after meeting with Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman at Beiteddine palace September 10, 2009.[Xinhua]
Hariri's cabinet lineup proposal presented to Suleiman on Monday was quickly rejected by the opposition, as he did not meet the Aoun's demands.
The local Now Lebanon news website reported after Hariri's step-down statement that an opposition source voiced regret over Hariri's decision. However, the source said the opposition refuses to beheld responsible for Hariri's resignation.
The source stressed the opposition will remain open to dialogue to help form a new cabinet.
Hezbollah member, Labor Minister Mohammad Fneish told Al-Markaziya news agency that Hezbollah regrets Saad Hariri's decision to step down from his post, saying that the issue could have been resolved in another approach through dialogue, since allparties have agreed on forming a national-unity cabinet.
"Hariri's resignation will bring about a new round of consultations," Fneish said, adding that a coalition government is the only possible solution in light of the political and sectarian balances in Lebanon.
However, Fneish stressed that no party can ignore the opposition's demands, "which are based on a coalition government."
While Bassil, who was assigned by Aoun to be the party's representative while he is abroad, said that the "real reason" behind Hariri's resignation is his inability to form a national-unity cabinet, adding that "everybody should know that no one can marginalize or exclude a party (that represents) a major faction of the Lebanese."
(Xinhua News Agency September 11, 2009)