Optimism Fades as Cabinet Formation Still Awaits Deal on Fate of Interior Ministry Portfolio

The optimism about the possibility of forming the government this week began fading after media reports said that Lebanese leaders haven’t yet reached an agreement on the distribution of portfolios.

“The most complex obstacle impeding the formation of the cabinet until now is the interior ministry portfolio which requires further consultations and contacts,” a source following Premier-designate Najib Miqati’s efforts to form the government told pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat in remarks published Tuesday.

Both President Michel Suleiman and Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun are holding onto the portfolio which was part of the head of state’s share in Saad Hariri’s government.

The source unveiled that Miqati’s 30-member cabinet would be divided as follows: 11 ministers for Aoun’s Change and Reform Bloc on condition that he drops his demand for the interior portfolio, 4 ministers for Speaker Nabih Berri, 3 for Hizbullah, 3 for Suleiman, 6 for Miqati and 3 for National Struggle Front bloc leader Walid Jumblat.

But politicians involved in the cabinet formation process, told An Nahar daily that no agreement has yet been reached on the number of ministers in the cabinet and the distribution of shares.

Commenting on reports about Miqati’s intentions to include the army-people-resistance formula in his policy statement as in the previous government’s document, March 14 sources told An Nahar that Miqati should also make a commitment to the international tribunal.

They warned from the consequences of taking only some parts of the policy statement of Saad Hariri’s cabinet, saying Miqati and his allies would bear the consequences of such action.

About the possibility of discussing the international tribunal at the national dialogue, the sources said: “This cannot happen considering that the only issue on the national dialogue (agenda) is the defense strategy.”

Meanwhile, Miqati held talks with several officials away from the media spotlight on Monday. He met with Caretaker Minister Mohammed Safadi, Hizbullah leader’s assistant Hussein Khalil and the assistant of the speaker, MP Ali Hassan Khalil.

Miqati is expected to hold talks with Aoun in a meeting that was described by As Safir daily as decisive on the date of the announcement of the cabinet line-up.

As part of contacts on the formation of the government, Jumblat met with Aoun’s envoy caretaker Energy Minister Jebran Bassil at his home in Clemenceau on Monday night.