Saturday, 15 January 2011

Hariri Returns to Beirut; Opposition Says Will Not Re-Appoint Him

14/01/2011 Only two days after the collapse of his government while meeting US President Barack Obama, Saad Hariri returned to Beirut on Friday ending a week-long tour in the United States, France and Turkey.

Hariri, whose government was declared on Wednesday in caretaker capacity following the resignation of more than one third of its members, was expected to meet with his allies in order to take a final stance of the current crisis.

On Wednesday, 11 ministers resigned from Hariri’s government in protest at his refusal to convene the Cabinet to discuss the Special Tribunal for Lebanon especially after the Saudi- Syrian effort to defuse the STL crisis was presumed dead. One day later, President Michel Sleiman declared the government in caretaker capacity pending the formation of a new government and called for binding parliamentary consultations to appoint a new prime minister on Monday and Tuesday.


The picture, however, is still vague. The opposition said it will definitely not reappoint Hariri again, but did not announce its candidate yet. The head of the Loyalty to the Resistance parliamentary bloc MP Mohamad Raad said in this context that the opposition seeks a premier with "a history of resistance," but stopped short of giving any names.

For his part, member of Change and Reform parliamentary bloc MP Ibrahim Kanaan said the opposition stance is consistent. “We will wait till Monday but we’ll definitely not name Hariri because we have reached a dead end with him,” he told Al-Manar website. His colleague in the Change and Reform bloc, MP Abbas Hashem, said in turn that the decision was not taken yet. "We will meet on Sunday to make the decision we find appropriate," Hashem told AFP. "We respect Saad Hariri's inability to face the crisis, seeing as he himself had said he was not that keen on holding on to premiership."


The other bloc, however, is insisting there can’t be a nominee for premiership other than Hariri himself. "In light of his popularity, Saad Hariri is the sole candidate for premiership," Ghattas Khoury, an adviser to Hariri, told AFP. "All this talk of nominating someone else is a ploy to intimidate Hariri by saying he has competition and pressuring him into meeting the conditions of the rival camp," he said. "Hariri is being demanded to give up the tribunal and reject its indictments even before they are issued. This did not happen and it will not happen," he added.


Meanwhile, a European diplomat in Beirut was quoted as saying that France has proposed the creation of an international "contact group" to negotiate a settlement to the crisis. "The contact group would include Syria, Saudi Arabia, France, the United States, Qatar, Turkey and possibly other countries," the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP. "The group would meet outside of Lebanon given the current tensions in the country."

The French foreign ministry refused to confirm or deny the proposal.
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

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