Hezbollah rejects offer to take one-third of Lebanon cabinet
PM-designate Hariri presents list, but President Suleiman unlikely to okay any without opposition support.
Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri handed the president his proposed line-up for a national unity government on Monday in a move swiftly rejected by opposition factions including the powerful Hezbollah.
Although Hariri's offer would give the opposition March 8 alliance one-third of the seats in cabinet, a senior source said: "We will not deal with this proposal because we know nothing about it. As far as we are concerned, it does not exist and we will have nothing to do with it."
Hariri was designated prime minister in late June but has yet to reach agreement with the opposition on the new unity government set to include the Syria- and Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies.
President Michel Suleiman, who took office last year as a consensus candidate, is not expected to approve any cabinet proposal that does not have opposition support.
"The president informed me that he would study the formation," Haririsaid after meeting Suleiman, who has said he wants the government to be formed before he travels to the UN General Assembly later this month.
The rival factions have agreed on the broad division of seats in the new cabinet. But Hariri, son of assassinated former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, has struggled to reach agreement with opposition politicians on the details.
At the heart of the dispute are the demands of Christian leader Michel Aoun, an ally of Hezbollah. Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement holds more seats in parliament than any other Christian party.
Hariri, leader of an alliance that won a June 7 parliamentary election, has resisted Aoun's demand for Gebran Bassil, his son-in-law, to keep his post as telecoms minister. Aoun also wants to name the new interior minister.
The line-up proposed by Hariri on Monday kept Ziad Baroud in his current post as interior minister and handed the telecoms ministry to a figure close to the prime minister-designate, political sources said.
Aoun said Hariri's move showed he did not want to form a government. "On the contrary, he wants to play with the cabinet formation according to his mood," Aoun told Sawt al-Mada radio station, according to a report published on his Tayyar Web site.
Fouad Siniora, the outgoing prime minister and a member of Hariri's Future Movement, will lead a caretaker cabinet until Suleiman issues a decree appointing the new government.
Hariri said his proposal respected the broad seat-sharing arrangement agreed with the opposition. It gives Hariri's "March 14" alliance 15 of 30 seats in the new cabinet and the opposition "March 8" alliance 10 seats.
President Suleiman is allowed to name the remaining five ministers, giving him a decisive say over cabinet decisions.