Problem of appointing Sunni ministers hinders forming Lebanese government

Hariri has ruled out giving up one of his Cabinet seats. (Reuters)
Updated 31 October 2018

Problem of appointing Sunni ministers hinders forming Lebanese government

  • Hariri said he would not give any portion of his quota, consisting of six Sunni ministers, to the Sunni opposition and warned that “look for a person other than me to form a government.”
  • Ten Sunni deputies won the parliamentary elections last May from outside the Future Movement, which won 20 seats in the election

BEIRUT: Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has solved the issue of Lebanese Forces representation in the Lebanese government — but now Hezbollah has raised a problem concerning the representation of the Sunni opposition in the government. 

That issue prompted Prime Minister Hariri, who has been working on the Lebanese Forces issue for more than five months, to say that he would not give any portion of his quota, consisting of six Sunni ministers, to the Sunni opposition and warned that “look for a person other than me to form a government.” 
However, the issue remained within the scope of a statement and has not become an official excuse not to form a government yet. On Tuesday evening, Hariri visited President Michel Aoun and left without revealing anything about the meeting.
Ten Sunni deputies won the parliamentary elections last May from outside the Future Movement, which won 20 seats in the election. These Sunni opposition deputies believe that they are entitled to be represented in the government.
Only six out of 10 MPs are trying to get representation, noting that they belong to other parliamentary blocs, most notably the Hezbollah bloc, the Nabih Berri bloc, the Al-Marada Movement bloc, along with Abdul Rahim Murad (independent) and Adnan Trabelsi (Ahbash). The other four deputies, including former Prime Minister Najib Miqati and businessman Fuad Makhzoumi, preferred not to confront the Future Movement.
According to the distribution of ministerial quotas on the parliamentary blocs in accordance with their sizes, the president of the republic has in this government a Sunni minister. The question that was raised on Tuesday in the Lebanese media was whether the president of the republic would surrender this post for the Sunni opposition.
However, the sources of the presidency referred the new problem to Prime Minister Hariri to find a solution to it, as he did with the problem of the Lebanese Forces. Speaking at a meeting with President Nabih Berri, Ali Hassan Khalil, finance minister in the caretaker government, said: “The atmosphere of the president of the republic, the speaker of the parliament and the prime minister-designate shows that things are complicated.”
On Tuesday, opposition Sunni MPs approached parliamentary speaker Berri and Hezbollah seeking their representation in the Cabinet by one minister.
Mustafa Allouche, a leading figure in the Future Movement, told Arab News that “through raising the issue of the representation Sunni opposition MPS, who are under its banner, Hezbollah is trying to assure them that it is capable of protecting them and supporting their demands. It is also trying to show the public opinion that it cares about the people who stand with it, while seeking at the same time to place them in advanced positions in the face of its opponents.”
But Alloush said that he does not “understand the external reason why Hezbollah is obstructing the formation of the government in these regional circumstances,” stressing that Prime Minister Hariri “will not accept to give his ministerial quota to the Sunni opposition.”
Opposition Sunni MP Walid Al-Sukkariyeh, who is a member of the “Loyalty to the Resistance” bloc, was among those who visited Speaker Berri and Hezbollah on Tuesday. He told Arab News: “Our demand for representation in the government is not new. We said on the first day of our victory in the parliamentary elections that we wanted to be represented in the government. But in Lebanon, since the days of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Sunni representation was limited to Hariri and the Future Movement. But the equations have changed and the Future Movement has lost 10 seats in the parliamentary elections. Yet they avoided recognizing our existence, and everyone went to solve the problem of the Lebanese Forces.”
“The Shiites have set their seats, and so have the Christians and the Druze. Only the Sunnis have remained,” Sukkariyeh said.
“Our alliance with others does not mean that we do not represent the Sunni street,” he said.
Commenting on the claim that those who voted for them were not Sunni, Sukkariyeh said: “We represent the Sunnis even if we win the elections with non-Sunni votes.”
“Our demand lies with Prime Minister Hariri and he has to give us from his quota, not the president, because the Sunni minister is his share.”
“We will not back down from our demand … as long as it is sectarian distribution; we have the right to be represented in the government,” Sukkariyeh said. 


Pressure grows in US for firm response to Iran after Aramco attacks 

Updated 16 min 41 sec ago

Pressure grows in US for firm response to Iran after Aramco attacks 

  • Senator Lindsey Graham urges retaliatory strikes on Iranian oilfields if Tehran continues ‘provocations’
  • UN Secretary General urged for calm and called on both sides to ‘exercise restraint’

WASHINGTON: An American senator has called for Washington to consider an attack on Iranian oil facilities as pressure grows in the US for a firm response to the Saudi Aramco strikes.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for the drone attacks on Saturday against the Abqaiq oil processing plant and the Khurais oil field. He also suggested that unlike previous drone and missile attacks on the Kingdom, this one may not have been launched from Yemen by the Iran-backed Houthis. Reports have said that the attack may have originated in Iraq where Iran also holds sway over a large number of powerful militias.

“It is now time for the US to put on the table an attack on Iranian oil refineries if they continue their provocations or increase nuclear enrichment,” Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator close to Donald Trump, said on Twitter.

“Iran will not stop their misbehavior until the consequences become more real, like attacking their refineries, which will break the regime’s back.”

Iran on Sunday denied it was behind the attack, but the Yemeni Houthi militia backed by Tehran, claimed they had launched them. 

The White House on Sunday did not rule out a potential meeting between President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, even after Washington accused Iran of being behind drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said the attacks “did not help” prospects for a meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the United Nations General Assembly this month but she left open the possibility it could happen.

"You're not helping your case much," by attacking Saudi Arabia, civilian areas and critical infrastructure that affects global energy markets.” Conway told the Fox News Sunday program.

The Trump administration's sanctions and “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile program will continue whether or not the two leaders meet, she added.

The US ramped up pressure on Iran last year after trump withdrew from an international pact to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

Washington has reimposed a tough sanctions regime on Tehran, which it accuses of hiding behind the nuclear deal to advance its missiles program and aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, condemnation of the attacks continued from around the world.

Kuwait's emir telephoned King Salman on Sunday to express his condemnation of the attack.

Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack and called upon all parties to exercise maximum restraint to prevent any escalation.

King Salman also received a telephone call from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas expressing his deep condemnation.
Abbas affirmed that the Palestinian government and people stand with the Kingdom to confront these terrorist acts of aggression.

UK foreign minister Dominic Raab said the attack was a “reckless attempt to damage regional security and disrupt global oil supplies.”

The European Union warned of a “real threat to regional security” in the Middle East.

*With Reuters