BEIRUT: Hariri Denies Reports On New Cabinet Proposals


Sept 1 2009

Media reports said Tuesday that Premier-designate Saad Hariri suggested
to MP Michel Aoun the day before to either divide key ministries
or give cabinet portfolios to top Lebanese leaders. However, the
Mustaqbal movement leader denied he made such a proposal.

An Nahar said Monday’s meeting at Baabda palace began with a handshake
between the two leaders and then President Michel Suleiman hoped
Hariri and Aoun would reach an understanding that would settle the
cabinet issue.

Sources following up the talks said the meeting could be considered
as a first step towards ending media campaigns and counter-accusations
although the talks did not make any major progress.

Ranking Free Patriotic Movement sources told An Nahar that Aoun clearly
stated to Hariri his demands for five ministries, four of them headed
by Maronites and the fifth by an Armenian. Aoun also demanded one
key ministry.

However, Hariri said he will consult with his allies first. Sources
close to the PM-designate told An Nahar that sticking points and
demands have remained unsolved.

As Safir said that after more than 90 minutes of talks, the two sides
were only able to agree on stopping media campaigns and continuing
dialogue. It added that Hariri suggested reorganizing the key
ministries such as separating the interior from the municipalities’
ministry or the foreign from the expatriates’ ministry.

Hariri’s second suggestion was to form a cabinet in which the country’s
top leaders would take the portfolios.

Al Akhbar daily said Hariri’s first option would eliminate ministries
without portfolios. It added that Aoun accepted the two suggestions and
the men agreed that Hariri prepares a study to discuss it more openly.

Hariri’s press office, however, denied in a statement on Tuesday the
two newspapers’ reports about his suggestions.

Meanwhile, the FPM leader informed Hariri that Telecommunications
Minister Jebran Bassil would represent him during the period of his
travel abroad.

Ad-Diyar daily said that Aoun dropped his demands for the interior
ministry on the condition of giving a portfolio to Bassil and insisted
on Hariri to present a basket of ministries from which the FPM leader
would choose either the education or administrative reform portfolios.

Ad-Diyar said Aoun is mulling giving the education ministry to Kamal

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