THU 21 - 3 - 2019
Date: Jun 7, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
Upbeat Hariri wants ‘consensus’ Cabinet
Hussein Dakroub| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Unruffled by the uproar over a presidential decree that seeks to grant citizenship to over 300 people, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri remained upbeat Wednesday about forming a new government to face economic challenges, carry out reforms and fight corruption in the public administration.

Hariri also pleaded with rival political parties to come forward with proposals to facilitate the formation of a “national consensus” government in order to send a message to the world that Lebanon deserved to be supported.

Thursday marks two weeks since Hariri, who has been prime minister since December 2016 and served his first time from 2009 to 2011, was designated for the third time with an overwhelming parliamentary majority to form a new government.

“I am optimistic about forming a governmental work team that puts the interests of the country before personal and partisan interests. The economic challenges, the risks of regional engagement and the burden of the displaced Syrians do not give any of us the right to waste time, exercise political luxury or display force,” Hariri said in a speech at an iftar held by the Future Movement in honor of its private professions sector at the Seaside Pavilion (formerly BIEL) Wednesday night.

“The formation of the government is a direct responsibility for President Michel Aoun and me. The political forces should submit their proposals and facilitate the formation and a national consensus formula able to achieve administrative reforms, fight all kinds of squandering and corruption and send a message to all brothers and friends around the world, that Lebanon deserves to be supported,” he said, according to a statement released by his media office.

Hariri said the Lebanese are fed up with words and slogans and they wanted to see action in providing public services. “The Lebanese want work and want to see that the state is responsible for their security, dignity and services. The work that we used to do in two or three months, we can do in one or two weeks,” he said.Referring to factions’ demands for a big share and key ministerial posts that could delay the formation of the government, Hariri said: “The talk about shares is the last concern of the people because in the end, all parties, leaders and sects, are all part of the country’s share and our work is to serve the citizens and the state and not be a burden on the citizens and the state.”

Hariri’s speech came as the country was reeling under a widening outcry over the naturalization decree recently signed by Aoun, Hariri and Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk that would grant citizenship to 260 Christians and 115 Muslims, rekindling a sensitive issue due to its implications on the country’s delicate sectarian balance and demographics.

In a bid to stem widespread public and political criticism as well as plans to challenge the decree by the Lebanese Forces, the Kataeb Party and the Progressive Socialist Party, Aoun has tasked General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim with vetting the listed names.

Although the names listed in the naturalization decree have not been made public, Ibrahim promised to publish the names Thursday on the website of the Directorate General of General Security.

Hariri took responsibility for the Future Movement’s weak showing in the May 6 parliamentary elections. The Future Movement has lost one third of its 32-member bloc it had held since 2009, winning 20 parliamentary seats.

“The elections revealed to everyone the shortcomings and weaknesses and drove us to review the past period. The problem was not in the results of the elections. The problem was in the management of the elections and the absence of essential groups from this management,” Hariri said.

“In this regard, I have to tell you that I take the first responsibility, because what I did during the month that preceded the elections, I should have done a year or two years ago. Also, the electoral machine should have started working six months ago and not three months ago, and the accountability that we did two weeks ago should have been done two months before the elections,” he said.

Nevertheless, Hariri said the Future Movement was still in the safety zone and its supporters all over Lebanon showed “loyalty that makes me say that the results of popular support for the Future Movement were better than the results of the elections. And this is important for the Future Movement, despite all the difficulties and problems it faced.”

Earlier in the day, a key political adviser to Hariri, caretaker Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury, struck an upbeat note on the government formation, saying he expected a 30-member Cabinet lineup to be announced after Eid al-Fitr.

Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the holy Muslim month of fasting of Ramadan, falls either on June 15 or 16, depending on the sighting of the new moon.

Khoury said the “complications” over the Cabinet formation revolved merely around the rival factions’ shares and demands for key ministerial posts, and were not politically motivated.

Meanwhile, Speaker Nabih Berri criticized calls for Hezbollah and Iran to withdraw from Syria. “Iran is present in Syria at the request of the Syrian government, just as the Russian presence there was requested by the Syrian government,” Berri said during an interview with Sputnik, a Russian news agency.

Defending Hezbollah’s presence in Syria, Berri said that had the Iranian-backed party “not been present there, Daesh [ISIS] would have reached” Lebanon. He ruled out an imminent withdrawal of Hezbollah from Syria, saying that this would happen only once “Syria is liberated and its territories are united.”

Berri said that the Syrian crisis would not be solved without negotiations between international and regional powers.

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