Sectarian Obstacles Hinder Formation of New Govt.

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Disagreements over the representation of the various sects are still hindering the formation of Hassan Diab’s government, media reports said.

“A Druze obstacle emerged yesterday after (Progressive Socialist Party chief Walid) Jumblat and other (Druze) officials criticized that they will be represented through the nonessential environment portfolio,” An-Nahar newspaper reported on Sunday.

“Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil has insisted that the (only) Druze minister (in the 18-seat government) should be affiliated with his ally, MP Talal Arslan,” the daily added.

Bassil fears that a Druze minister close to Jumblat might resign later, stripping the government of its Druze component and consequently of its conformity with the 1943 National Pact, an unwritten agreement that set the foundations of modern Lebanon as a multi-confessional state.

“The candidate who has been proposed for the ministerial post is the physician Ramzi Msharrafiyeh,” An-Nahar quoted political sources informed on the formation process as saying.

Diab has meanwhile been unable to find Sunni candidates who hail from the capital Beirut.

“An indirect contact took place between the PM-designate and Dr. Halima Qaaqour, an activist from the Watani coalition, with the aim of allotting the education portfolio to her,” the sources said.

“She inquired about the government’s program and plan, but it turned out that she was not eager to take part in the government and will likely refuse,” the sources added.

Dr. Tarek Mohammed al-Majzoub, who hails from Sidon, is meanwhile being considered for the portfolio.

“Othman Sultan, who hails from Tripoli and is not known in the political arena, has been proposed for the telecom portfolio,” An-Nahar said.

The interior portfolio is meanwhile one of the main obstacles that are delaying the formation of the government.

The chances of two retired officers – Bassem Khaled and Hosni Daher – have decreased, the daily added.

The parties are meanwhile seriously considering retired Brig. Gen. Mohammed Fahmi for the post.

Retired officers are also being mulled to occupy the defense portfolio after Shadi Masaad was “totally excluded.”

The sources also noted that the Shiite parties – Hizbullah and AMAL – are insisting on renominating Jamil Jabaq and Hasan al-Laqqis should Bassil cling to returning Nada Bustani and Mansour Bteish to the government.

The sources also revealed that the government’s line-up was supposed to be announced on Monday, prior to the meeting of the Sunni Islamic Council scheduled for next Saturday, noting that Bassil “obstructed the announcement and preferred to wait, pending the resolution of the remaining obstacles.”

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