Hariri urges end to Lebanon impasse as Hezbollah voices optimism

Seven months after general election and amid economic crisis, leaders are still at odds on how to form the cabinet.

    Heavily indebted and with a stagnant economy, Lebanon desperately needs a new government to implement economic reforms [File: Hassan Bahsoun/EPA]
    Heavily indebted and with a stagnant economy, Lebanon desperately needs a new government to implement economic reforms [File: Hassan Bahsoun/EPA]

    The Lebanese Shia movement, Hezbollah, is optimistic about a solution to the country's political impasse, a senior official in the organisation said.

    "We believe the solution is very close," said Mahmoud Qamati, deputy head of the group's political council, and suggested it could happen in time to be considered "a holiday gift".

    "The intentions held by everybody are positive and for the benefit of the country," Qamati, added.

    Legislators have been unable to agree on a new cabinet since a general election in May. They remain at odds over how to parcel out cabinet positions among rival groups according to Lebanon's confessional political system that allocates government positions according to sect.

    Meanwhile, the country continues to face economic malaise after months of political deadlock.

    Hezbollah, which has its own armed wing, began taking part in electoral politics during the 1990s and is the most powerful group in the country.

    Earlier Tuesday, Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri warned that a national unity government needed to be formed as soon as possible.

    "We have fallen behind. We must form the government," Hariri told reporters at the presidential palace on Tuesday after a long meeting with President Michel Aoun.

    "The president and I are determined to meet again and end this issue because the country cannot continue without a government," he said.

    Heavily indebted and with a stagnant economy, Lebanon desperately needs a new government to implement economic reforms to put its public finances on a more sustainable footing and unlock foreign aid.

    "The economic situation is difficult, but this is not to say it is impossible," Hariri reiterated on Tuesday.
    Hariri called for political factions in the multi-confessional country to cooperate on reviving the political process.

    The final obstacle to a deal has been the Sunni representation, with six Sunni legislators aligned with Hezbollah demanding a cabinet seat to reflect their gains in the election.

    Hariri, whose family has long dominated Lebanese Sunni politics, has ruled out giving up one of his cabinet seats for them.

    In November, he accused Hezbollah, his main political rival of obstructing the formation of a new cabinet.

    A month later, he promised that Lebanon would have a government "by the end of the year".

    Last week, the Lebanese took to the streets to demonstrate against the many problems crippling the country. Civil society groups organised protests in Tripoli and Nabatieh as well as the capital, Beirut.

    The protests were focused on the economic crisis, which has led to falling living standards.

    The international community pledged up to $11.5bn in aid and loans for Lebanon at a conference in Paris in April.

    But the promised funding is largely destined for infrastructure projects, which cannot be actioned without a new cabinet.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies