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Bassil Opposes Hezbollah by Nominating Nawaf Salam for PM’s Post

Bassil Opposes Hezbollah by Nominating Nawaf Salam for PM’s Post

Saturday, 24 July, 2021 - 08:00
President Michel Aoun receives British Ambassador Ian Collard at the Presidential Palace in Baabda (Photo: Dalati and Nohra).

Political contacts are accelerating in Lebanon ahead of the binding parliamentary consultations, scheduled for Monday, to designate a new prime minister to form a government.

Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri abandoned the mission earlier this month after failing to agree with President Michel Aoun and the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, MP Gibran Bassil.

A well-informed Lebanese source told Asharq Al-Awsat that former Prime Minister Najib Mikati would be appointed on Monday with 60 to 65 parliamentary votes, while former Ambassador to the United Nations, Nawaf Salam, would receive around 20 votes, based on the decision announced by Bassil’s FPM on his nomination.

The source noted, however, that the formation of the government would then be impossible, due to Aoun’s objection to Mikati’s designation.

Meanwhile, sources close to Hezbollah said that the negotiations with Mikati were serious, adding that the latter was also discussing “details of two governments”, in preparation for the post-elections phase and the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

On the other hand, the FPM is heading towards nominating Salam, a move described by Hezbollah as “quarrelsome with the party, and will not gain American approval,” according to the sources.

The sources said that a meeting was held between Bassil and the leadership of Hezbollah on Thursday, during which the head of the FPM openly informed the party of his opposition to assigning Mikati.

The sources added that Bassil warned that if the FPM and the Lebanese Forces blocs did not vote for Mikati, the latter would be named prime minister without the approval of a major Christian bloc. This prompts Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to find a solution before holding the consultations.

The Lebanese Forces bloc, which had supported Salam in the previous designation process, abandoned his name, as announced by the head of the party, Dr. Samir Geagea, on Friday. The Democratic Gathering bloc would also refrain from nominating Salam, sources close to its head, MP Taymour Jumblatt, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

In remarks on Friday, Geagea said that the bloc would not name any candidate in the parliamentary consultations, noting that there was no solution to the deadlock but by holding early parliamentary elections.

According to Geagea, it is impossible to reach any reform as long as Aoun and Hezbollah hold onto power.

Asked about the reason that led the LF to abandon Salam’s designation, he said: “We named him a year ago, when we had some hope that there might be some improvement under the existing structure, and with a very big international initiative - the French one. But at the moment, we are convinced that we cannot reach a result, no matter who the prime minister is.”

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