BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun made a televised address Wednesday night and called on Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri to visit the presidential palace to form a new cabinet immediately or else make way for someone who is able to.
“If Prime Minister-designate Hariri finds himself unable to form a government, he should make way for those who are,” Aoun said.
“My call is determined and truthful to the prime minister-designate to choose immediately one of the two choices, as silence is not an option after today.”
Aoun also challenged accusations against him of obstructing the formation of the government.
“There is no use in all positions and blame-shifting if the country collapses and the people become prisoners of despair and frustration,” he said. “There is no escape for them but anger. Everything subsides in front of the people's suffering, which has reached levels that they cannot bear.”
Aoun and Hariri have been fighting over government formation since his nomination in October.
Hariri hit back, saying he was surprised to hear the president’s comments.
“After many weeks of introducing an integrated lineup to a non-partisan specialist government capable of implementing the reforms required to stop the collapse and start reconstruction of what was destroyed by the port explosion in Beirut, I am awaiting a call from the president to discuss the proposed lineup,” he said.
He said he visited the president 16 times since being assigned the task of forming a new government, and would be honored to visit Aoun for the 17th time, when his schedule permits, to discuss the government formation.
Hariri said Aoun should allow early presidential elections if he cannot sign the decrees allowing the formation of a new government.
Earlier on Wednesday, protesters tried to storm the economy ministry building in Beirut and laid siege to a government minister’s home after Lebanon’s spiraling currency hit a new low.
The protests came as the Lebanese pound continued its slide, plunging to a record 15,000 to the US dollar on the black market.
“Popular suffering will not show mercy to those responsible for obstruction, exclusion and perpetuating the caretaking,” Aoun said.
“Silence and remaining in fortified homes will not benefit after today. Hopefully, we can save Lebanon.”
The country is facing political deadlock, with no new government agreed some seven months after premier Hassan Diab resigned over an August 4 explosion that killed more than 200 people and disfigured swathes of the capital.