Hariri offers concession in attempt to break government deadlock

Source: Annahar
Georgi Azar
In this Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, file photo, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks during an address to the nation in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo)
In this Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, file photo, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks during an address to the nation in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo)
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BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri offered to mend bridges Tuesday in an attempt to break the deadlock over the government formation crisis, saying that he would exceptionally back an “independent Shiite” candidate for the hotly contested Finance Ministry. 

“I decided to help Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib find a way out by naming an independent Shiite finance minister,” Hariri said in a statement. Hariri stressed that he would only back such a candidate if he is chosen on “the basis of efficiency, integrity and a lack of party affiliation.”

This decision, the statement continued, “does not in any way mean that the Finance Ministry is considered earmarked for the Shiite sect or any other sect.”

Last month, Adib was nominated by Hariri, along with Lebanon’s two other influential former Prime Ministers, Najib Mikati and Fouad Siniora. 
Hariri’s initiative received pushback from both Siniora and Mikati, who stepped short of endorsing his latest initiative. “The initiative presented by Prime Minister Saad Hariri is a personal choice,” they said in a statement.

“Lebanon’s constitution is very clear in that there is no ministerial portfolio that can be monopolized or reserved to a particular sect,” the statement read. 

House Speaker and Amal Movement leader Nabih Berri had argued that the Taef agreement reserved the finance ministry portfolio to a Shiite, awarding the community a key signature in the executive branch under Lebanon’s confessional power-sharing system. 

Many, however, contest Berri’s claim, noting that the post has been held by Sunnis, Christians and Shiites since the '90s.

Lebanon’s latest government, headed by Hassan Diab, resigned last month in the wake of the deadly Beirut port blast which killed 192 people and injured over 6,000. 

Hezbollah and Amal, Lebanon’s two largest Shiite political groups, are demanding to name their own ministers in the upcoming cabinet despite the international community’s repeated calls for an independent government made up of specialists. 

The latest push came from French President Emmanuel Macron, who during two trips to Lebanon in as many months urged Lebanese political leaders to answer the call. His 15-day deadline to form a government fell flat on its face in light of the Shiite duo’s unwavering stance. 

On Tuesday, Lebanon was rocked by another major explosion, this one at a weapons depot belonging to the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah. 
A major explosion rocked the village of Ain Qana in southern Lebanon, prompting Hezbollah operatives to cordon off the blast site, sources told Annahar.

Reuters, quoting a security official, said the blast occurred at a house belonging to the Iranian-backed militant group. The house, AP reported, was being used as an arms depot for Hezbollah.

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