Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri said that the government will be formed within a week to 10 days, adding that it would be a national accord government that includes the main political parties and protects the country from the challenges.
Asked, in an interview with Marcel Ghanem on MTV, who is obstructing the government formation, Hariri said: We just organized the first elections in 9 years. Each party has ambitions. Everyone should make concessions Asked to name the person putting obstacles, he said: The parliamentary elections produced parliamentary blocs. In 2016, the ministerial representation was not based on the parliamentary representation of parties. There were agreements. Now everyone should make concessions. After the election of president Aoun, stability improved. The government accomplished a lot.
Hariri said he is ready to make concessions because the economic situation cannot withstand any more delays.
He added that everyone, including the president of the Republic, has to make concessions. Hariri said that president Aoun, who is the guardian of the Constitution, wants to form a government, and what I heard from him recently is constructive and positive.
Hariri said: If a group enters the government to fight with another one, I will not allow this, even if I have to resign. My responsibility is the interest of the Lebanese citizen.
He said that a government that satisfies all the Lebanese, and in which everyone is represented, would be formed within a week, 10 days. We are facing economic and fiscal challenges. Our responsibility is to work on the economy to protect the Lebanese Pound. If this government does not include representatives of the main parties, we cannot work.
He added that it would be a national accord government that protects the country from all challenges. I tell all parties and civil society that we have to cooperate to lead Lebanon to safety.
Asked about the tough stance of Samir Geagea on the formation of the government, he explained that they didn’t discuss this issue in their last meeting and that communication continues with him.
He also explained that if it is necessary for the caretaker government to meet for exceptional reasons, then no one in the country will be opposed to that, but that he is against it meeting to pass ordinary decrees.
Hariri also said that he is willing to give the Lebanese Forces, the Free Patriotic Movement and all the parties from his own share because what is important is the country, the economy and the Lebanese citizen.
As for granting a portfolio to the Sunnis belonging to March 8, he explained that they don’t belong to a party. Concerning Talal Arslan, Hariri said that this issue could be solved in collaboration with Speaker Nabih Berri and MP Walid Jumblatt.
Hariri said: I want to form a government with the existing parties. Many people did not vote because they feel disgusted, they want economy, jobs and they want to live in dignity. We must all cooperate for the country and the economy.
Asked about Hezbollah’s insistence on getting the Ministry of Health, he said that there is clearly a focus on Hezbollah with several files, adding: I want to be frank, if today Hezbollah gets any ministry that gets assistance from the World Bank or any international institutions, there is a big possibility that all the aids would stop to this ministry, and we want to be realistic!
Asked about the statement issued by the Baabda palace when he presented a lineup to president Aoun, he said: I did not expect such a statement because I was making sacrifices, but it is not the end of the world.
Asked about external pressures, he said there are no such pressures. I personally have not been contacted by anyone.
About his compromise with the president, Hariri said that it stands.
Hariri said that his powers as prime minister-designate are clearly stated in the Constitution. The problem is that there are internal differences that we are trying to resolve. The duty of the prime minister is to discuss with the parties. This is what happened in the past and this is what is happening now. You all know how much we worked during the past year and a half and we able to accomplish a lot.
Asked if the Saudis still want a presidential solution? Hariri said:Did you hear anything other than this? Have you heard another Saudi statement?
About the compromise with President Aoun, he said: I am convinced about it. Our problem is that we do not see what we accomplished and what we can accomplish. We did a lot of things and we could do a lot more.
Asked about the future of Beirut, he said how much Martyr Prime Minister Rafic Hariri was in love with Beirut and how much he worked for Beirut.
How would he like to be remembered? He answered: As the person who completed Rafic Hariri’s path of dialogue, freedom, construction, reform and fighting corruption. I cannot be Rafic Hariri but I can try day and night to be part of this path.
Asked about the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and his statement from the Hague highlighting the importance of stability, Hariri said that he wanted an international tribunal to stop the series of assassinations of presidents, ministers, MPs, journalists and clerics and to know the truth about the perpetrators.
Asked what if the international community uses this against Hezbollah?
He answered: This tribunal will issue a verdict and might look into the other assassinations. It is a long process. I have to put my feelings aside. Rafic Hariri always put the interest of Lebanon first.
If the advancement in the country requires to establish relations with Syria, whether Bashar Assad’s regime remains or not, when will Saad Hariri visit Syria for Lebanon’s interests? Hariri replied that he will not visit Syria, explaining that there is a sharp political dispute on this issue, and not only Saad Hariri decides in this issue. The political parties differ on whether to resume the relations with the regime in Syria and the Arab League’s decision on this issue is still the same until now. Our problem in the country is that we talk about the issue before it happens. So let us talk with each other and find a way.
He added that Lebanon didn’t close its borders when the incidents started in Syria in 2011, didn’t prevent the refugees from entering Lebanon or the members of the Syrian regime from travelling through Beirut’s airport or the Syrian goods from entering the country, so why do they want me to make a settlement concerning the Nassib crossing which is important for Lebanon?
He added: I said during the elections that Saad Hariri of 2018 is different from the Saad Hariri of 2010. I changed for Lebanon’s interest, and I changed since 2016 after the settlement.
In response to a question, Hariri said: Some talk about their sects only, but I work for Lebanon as a whole and I am not criticizing the parties but this is my way. The Future Movement is cross-sectarian and will remain so even if I remain alone.
The municipal elections in Beirut were tough because I had just returned from abroad but I insisted to keep equal shares between the Christians and Muslims although there is no law that obliges me to do that but I believe in it.
Asked about contacts between Lebanese officials and Syrian officials, he said: What is the most important file with Syria today? It is the file of the displaced people, and there is a Russian initiative in this issue. I already sent my special envoy Georges Chaaban and opened a serious dialogue on this issue and I did that for Lebanon’s interest. Where is Lebanon’s interest in a relation with the Syrian regime, while all the countries in the world didn’t do that?
Hariri added: The opening of the Nassib crossing will serve Lebanon and we can find a solution for the interest of the Lebanese people but this doesn’t mean that the Prime Minister is obliged to visit Syria. Why are we placing ourselves in such a position? How many Lebanese are there in the Gulf, and is it wise to attack the Gulf in our speeches?
About electricity, unemployment, pollution and waste problems, Hariri said that the previous government prepared plans for the problems of waste, electricity and water.
About the defense strategy, he said that it will be discussed after the formation of the government and a dialogue will be held on this issue, adding: Everyone knows that the issue of Hezbollah’s weapons is a regional issue and this has to do with a regional settlement. When there was a dialogue between us and Hezbollah, many of our supporters were against it but somehow this dialogue should take place in order to reach somewhere. We should always be open to dialogue in order to be able to reach solutions.
On the economy, Hariri said that the CEDRE Conference is not just a project. There are projects and reforms and a focus on how to strengthen the productive sector in the country and how to address our debt and our budgets. In order to do so, there must be a government. CEDRE indicates that the international community is ready to help with $ 12.5 billion and at the same time, Lebanon must help itself with the reforms that we must implement.
Asked about the salary scale, he said that he was not with the salary scale but there was a long popular pressure.
Hariri added: We are dealing with the accumulation of years of corruption and wasteful management. I do not say that the entire administration is worn out. There are people working day and night.
We have to focus on reforms and how to keep the Lebanese pound stable. First, we should reduce the budget by 1% for five years, meaning we will reduce $ 500 million from the 2019 budget that we will approve now. We have to provide electricity 24/7. We must stop blaming each other.
Asked about the rumors about the Central bank governor Riad Salame’s health, Hariri said: There are people who target the Lebanese pound, and I tell them that the Lebanese pound is stable. Some do not wish to see other people successful.
Regarding electricity, he said that Lebanon needs the major companies, and that Siemens will play a role in this field once the cabinet is formed.
Asked why Nader Hariri had been removed, Hariri said that Nader Hariri is a brother and I don’t like to hear such a talk. He is my companion and he worked with me even before politics, but he decided to take a different path because he was tired. He took his decision, but he is a member of the family and he visited me two days ago.
In response to a question, he said that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is his country, stressing that what happened are part of the past.
Asked who is Alaa Khawaja, Premier Hariri explained that he is a friend and a Lebanese investor who invested $700 million in the country. He added: Some are criticizing him to get some money from him but Alaa Khawaja will not pay any money.
Hariri described his relation with former Prime Minister Najib Mikati as good, adding that they had several meetings and are trying to meet more to work with each other.
In response to a question about the results of the compromise between Saad Hariri and Michel Aoun, he said that it produced entente in the country, budgets, CEDRE and the Paris and Rome conferences, while the disagreement results in a problem in the country.
Hariri said: I tell the Lebanese youth that the situation is difficult and we have problems but I want say that despite everything that happened around us we were able to preserve Lebanon. We had big divisions but today we have a real chance to advance the country. The youth should not abandon their country because no one can get bored of his family or country or lose his hope in his brother. We have a golden opportunity to carry out reforms and invest in the knowledge economy.
In response to a question, Hariri said: There was a radical split in the country and this led to the country’s stagnation and whether we like the country’s formula or not, there is sectarianism that led to the paralysis of the country. With the present compromise, we are able to carry out all the projects that we prepared including waste management, telecommunications, water or electricity. In the past we used to go to the World Bank and say that we will build a water treatment plant. We used to take the loan, find the donor, talk to him and agree on building the plant but then we ask about the networks. But in CEDRE, there will be a coverage from A to Z, there is nothing incomplete in CEDRE.
My message to the Lebanese is a message of hope, for example how many time did they try to close the MTV and how many times was Marcel Ghanem fought? But he never gave up hope. I may be the first person that should lose hope in this country after the martyrdom of Rafic Hariri but I remain because I believe that our main strength is our youth who have energy and capabilities to achieve any project.
You know that the Lebanese diaspora are successful all over the world, so why can’t we succeed in our country? This is why we all have to cooperate with each other. So many people lost hope, but I ask them to build the country with us because Saad Hariri cannot do this alone and no other political party can do this alone. We should all cooperate and advance the country because I truly believe in this country and in Lebanon’s youth.
Source: National News Agency