THU 14 - 11 - 2019
Date: Nov 16, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
Berri confirms he proposed solution to Sunni MP issue
Joseph Haboush| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Six Hezbollah-backed Sunni MPs who have demanded representation in the next Cabinet are sticking to their guns, having rejected a compromise from Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil, political sources said Thursday.

Bassil’s initiative, which was supported by Speaker Nabih Berri, had called for a compromise Sunni candidate to be named as a minister in the new Cabinet. The candidate would be part of President Michel Aoun’s share and acceptable to both the six MPs and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri.

Bassil, who is also the caretaker foreign minister, suggested that the MPs themselves submit a list of candidates for Hariri to choose one.

“But they refused, and insist that one of the six is named a minister,” a political source told The Daily Star.

Even though the Sunni MPs rejected the compromise, hope remains: Berri has reportedly also put forward a solution.

But, the source said, “Berri would not reveal what his offer involves, and he supports Bassil’s proposal too.”

The six MPs will meet Friday at 4 p.m. at the residence of MP Walid Sukkarieh, a member of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, in Beirut’s Wata al-Museitbeh neighborhood.

Bassil’s proposal was the culmination of his recent efforts to solve the latest hitch in the government formation process.

Bassil met with Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai in Bkirki Thursday night. Following the meeting, Bassil told reporters he wanted to “get the blessing and opinion of the patriarch” in trying to find a breakthrough to the government impasse.

“We took the blessings of the patriarch after the blessing of the mufti. ... No one benefits from a [political] clash,” Bassil said, referring to a meeting he held Wednesday with the Sunni religious leader in Lebanon, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel Latif Derian.

Earlier Thursday, Bassil met with MP Adnan Traboulsi, one of the six pro-Hezbollah lawmakers.

He also met with former Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi, who expressed hope that the FPM leader’s efforts would succeed, according to a statement from Safadi’s office. In comments made after meeting with Bassil, Safadi said, “All of the current efforts are helping form the government, and we all hope that an agreement is reached and the government is formed as soon as possible.”

When asked whether he himself might be named a minister in the upcoming Cabinet, Safadi demurred, saying the formation was the priority and that “whoever is [named a minister] in it does not matter.” In his comments after meeting with Rai, Bassil said that his flurry of meetings was aimed at more than just finding a solution to the formation. “We do not want to enter a national entente government that has a mentality of winners and losers,” Bassil said.

A source from Baabda Palace echoed what Bassil said about his meetings’ purpose. “There is an attempt to have a positive political climate so the next Cabinet will not witness fierce disagreements and battles among ministers,” the source told The Daily Star.

Asked whether any progress had been made in solving the stalemate, the source said, “There is nothing new yet. We don’t know when we will see the results [of Bassil’s meetings], but his movements are not empty-handed.”

The source also confirmed that neither Aoun nor Hezbollah intended to give up a minister from their respective shares to accommodate the six MPs.

Hariri revealed earlier this week that he and MP Najib Mikati had together agreed on a Sunni minister, and that Aoun would name another one. If Hariri were to give up naming another Sunni minister, something he said he would not do, he would be left with only two in the next Cabinet.

Amid the deadlock, a source close to Hariri said it was clear that “they are all looking for an exit to this problem.” But, the source emphasized, no new developments had taken place.

Berri confirms he proposed solution to Sunni MP issue

The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri confirmed that he has put forward a solution to the crisis precipitated by six pro-Hezbollah Sunni MPs demanding to be represented in the next government, in an interview with local newspaper Al Joumhouria published Friday.

Berri told the newspaper that he was hopeful that ongoing contacts between various politicians on the issue would bear fruit, and said that “I, for my party, put forward a solution, and I hope it will be adopted.”

The interview was published after reports had suggested that Berri might be working on a compromise for the six Hezbollah-backed Sunni MPs who are outside Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s Future Movement.

However, Al Joumhouria said the speaker did not go into details on his plan.

The issues of Sunni representation has been the latest major obstacle keeping a government from forming, almost six months after Hariri was tasked with forming it. Caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil has most recently been involved in an effort to find a solution to the issue, but there have been no immediate results.

Bassil had suggested that the six MPs pick a compromise minister between themselves and Hariri, an initiative Berri supported. However, political sources told The Daily Star Thursday that the six MPs rejected Bassil's offer and are insisting that one of them be named a minister.

Hariri has refused to name any of the six MPs from his share of ministers in the next government. Aoun has supported Hariri’s stance, saying the six MPs’ demand is unjustified given they do not make up a unified political bloc.

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