Lebanon's next premier will be appointed tomorrow. But outgoing Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri is not a candidate for the prime ministry. This after Mr. Hariri refused the offer to head the next cabinet following a series of parliamentary consultations held between President Emil Lahhoud and Lebanese deputies.
The whole issue induced a tense atmosphere of political turmoil in the country. The outgoing premier cited a constitutional breach during the consultations. The first round of talks resulted in 83 MPs supporting Hariri's reappointment, some refraining from naming any candidate, others openly voicing their opposition to Hariri's return to power, and 31 deputies authorizing the president of the republic to choose on the their behalf. So, Hariri won almost two-thirds of the votes. Why did he decide to refuse the offer of his reappointment?
The outgoing prime minister late last night told an interview with CNN authorizing the president to represent MPs is a flagrant violation of the constitution. In line with the second clause of Article 53 of the constitution, the president designates a prime minister after formally briefing the speaker of parliament on the outcome of binding consultations with MPs. But Hariri sources said the president may not take part in the name game himself.
President Emil Lahhoud today held another round of parliamentary consultations with Lebanese deputies at Baabda.
Lahhoud will hold a second round of talks tomorrow with independent MPs. He is then to appoint the country's next premier who will in turn form the next cabinet during a one-week period.
Former Prime Minister Salim Al-Hoss now appears to be at the forefront of the race for the post and is expected to be supported by a larger number of MPs. House Speaker Nabih Berri's parliamentary bloc is expected to nominate Al-Hoss for the next prime ministry.
However, parliamentary blocs and independent deputies who supported Hariri's candidacy are not expected to nominate any candidate during the new round of consultations. This after outgoing Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri refused the offer to head the next cabinet.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri last night headed a meeting of his bloc in parliament, the National Decision Bloc. The bloc adopted the decision of the outgoing premier and decided to abstain from nominating any prime minister. The meeting also tackled the new parliamentary consultations that President Emil Lahhoud called for. Members in the bloc also stressed the importance of respecting all articles of the Lebanese constitution.
Sources clause to the premier said contact between Mr. Hariri and the president would continue in the new phase but not as a prime minister. The sources added the premier will leave Beirut on Sunday heading for the United States where he will visit his mother in law, who is currently being hospitalized there.
Outgoing Minister of the War Displaced Walid Jumblatt announced he will always support Mr. Rafik Al-Hariri in good times and in difficult times. Jumblatt was speaking to reporters after meeting Hariri late last night at his residence in Kraytem.
The outgoing minister also announced he would abstain from naming any candidate during the new round of parliamentary consultations. Jumblatt reiterated his ongoing solidarity with Hariri despite their differences.
The outgoing minister also said Hariri has always abided by the spirit of the Lebanese constitution.
President Emil Lahhoud is closely following developments in the situation in South Lebanon. Lahhoud also received phone calls and reports from security sources in the South updating him on the latest developments.
Meanwhile, tension still prevails along the buffer zone in the South. Security reports said Israeli occupying troops continued their attacks all night long. The attacks targeted several areas in the western, central, and eastern sectors of the occupied zone. Israeli warplanes also carried out intensive over-flights in the skies of Tyre and Sidon.
The five-nation cease-fire monitoring group this morning ended a session it started yesterday to discuss some 15 complaints filed by Lebanon and Israel over alleged truce violations
Lebanon filed six complaints over Israeli shelling of the villages of Harees and Kfar Tibnit injuring three Lebanese civilians and causing damage to 22 civilian homes in the area. Other complaints also objected to Israeli shelling of civilian areas in Nabatieh Al-Faouqa, which caused damage in a number of civilian homes, the public hospital, and the electricity network in the area. The Lebanese side also presented complaints over Israeli bombardment of the villages of Gargoua and Barasheet, which resulted in considerable material damage in private and public properties.
Meanwhile, Israel lodged nine complaints over alleged resistance shelling of Israeli outposts from civilian areas in the South.
For its part, the international panel ratified all Lebanese complaints saying Israel breached the April Understanding. The group also welcomed Lebanon and Israel's reiteration of their abidance by the understanding and their readiness to continue their efforts to enforce its terms. The group also called on all parties to avoid endangering civilians and civilian areas.
The southern situation topped talks between outgoing Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and the US ambassador to Lebanon, David Satterfield. The US ambassador later expressed his country's concern for the necessity of keeping the situation as calm as possible in South Lebanon.
The US ambassador hoped all parties would avoid any further escalation in the situation. But Satterfield refused to comment on Hariri's decision to refuse the offer to head the next cabinet adding this is an internal matter.
At a time when the Israeli security cabinet was still divided over how to respond to the Lebanese Resistance deadly attacks in the last two weeks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out any unilateral withdrawal from South Lebanon and the Western Bekaa.
For his part, Israeli President Azar Weizman said anyone who thinks that a solution for situation in South Lebanon will be carried out through the Lebanese government without Syria is mistaken. He also reiterated his rejection of a unilateral Israeli pullout.
The head of the Israeli Labor Party, Ehud Barak, also voiced his opposition to a unilateral withdrawal. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai told a meeting of the Israeli defense and foreign affairs committee the existence of Israeli troops in the occupation zone is a realistic necessity, adding this is the only choice according to many security officials. Mordechai also called on Syria to restart peace negotiations with Israel.
The US Foreign Ministry voiced concern for the escalation of tension in South Lebanon calling for more self-control among all concerned parties. The Egyptian Mideast News Agency quoted a US Foreign Ministry official as saying US ambassadors in Syria, Lebanon, and Israel made contacts with senior officials in these countries stressing the necessity of diffusing the rising tension.
In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman announced his country ishighly worried about the latest developments in South Lebanon. The spokesman noted that the risk of further attacks still exists. He also called on all concerned parties to exercise restraint and to abstain from making statements or carrying out activities that might escalate the already complicated situation in the region. Moscow also called for restarting peace negotiations between Lebanon, Syria, and Israel.
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