Mikati forms new Lebanese government

Lebanese PM says government’s slogan is “All for the Nation, All for Action”

Talal Arslan resigns from new government, says not honored to “sit with Mikati”

March 14 bloc rejects cabinet lineup, pledges to launch no-confidence vote

Prime Minister Najib Mikati formed Monday a 30-member Cabinet with a majority of ministers from the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition, vowing it would serve the needs of all the Lebanese.

“This government will be a government for all Lebanon and will work for all the Lebanese people without discrimination,” Mikati said after a presidential decree was read out by Cabinet Secretary General Suheil Bouji at Baabda Palace.

“The motto of this government is ‘all for the country, all for work,’” Mikati added.

Shortly after Mikati’s speech at Baabda Palace, Syrian President Bashar Assad, in a telephone conversation, congratulated his Lebanese counterpart, President Michel Sleiman, on the new Cabinet which took almost five months to form.

Also, in the first international response to the news, United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams congratulated Mikati on his Cabinet line-up later in the day.

“During my discussion with Prime Minister Mikati, I expressed hope that the new government would implement U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 and Lebanon's international commitments,” Williams said following a meeting with Mikati in Verdun.

The presidential decree appointed Mohammad Safadi as finance minister, Adnan Mansour as foreign minister, Fayez Ghosn for defense and Marwan Charbel for the interior.

Hezbollah will be represented by two ministers, Mohammad Fneish and Hussein Hajj Hassan.

The new Cabinet will hold its first session Wednesday after a commemorative photograph of the members of the government.

According to the decree, Nicholas Nahhas will take the economy portfolio, Nicholas Sahnawi will head the Telecoms Ministry and Shakib Qurtobawi will take the justice portfolio.

Under the new Cabinet, Sleiman was allotted three ministers, Mikati seven and Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt three, leaving the March 8 coalition per say with 17 seats.

Hezbollah and Amal got two seats each. The biggest chunk of the seats went to Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun and his Christian allies - the Marada Movement and Tashnag. Aoun and his allies took 10 seats, while the Syrian Social Nationalist Party as well as Talal Arslan and Nicolas Fattoush were given one each.

The announcement of the new government was met with mixed reactions by different parties in the country.

Accusing Mikati of discriminating against the Druze community and other minority groups, Arslan, a member of the March 8 coalition, tendered his resignation from the new Cabinet.

“I cannot participate in a Cabinet in which [Mikati] says that the Druze do not have a right to be assigned a key ministerial portfolio … [Mikati] is conspiring against coexistence in the country,” Arslan said during a televised news conference.

He also accused Mikati of igniting conflicts within the March 8 alliance, adding that Mikati had lied to the public and attempted to embarrass Hezbollah by stalling the formation of the new Cabinet.

Security sources told The Daily Star that the highway leading to the southern village of Khalde, Arslan’s stronghold, was blocked by Arslan's supporters who also fired rounds in the air in a sign of protest to Mikati's Cabinet lineup.

Meanwhile, news of the appointment of Faisal Karami, former Prime Minister Omar Karami’s son, as one of the new Sunni ministers in Mikati’s Cabinet was greeted with celebratory gunfire in his hometown of Tripoli, northern Lebanon.

Cabinet seats in Lebanon are distributed equally among Christians and Muslims. In an unusual step, Mikati’s new government has seven Sunni ministers and only five Shiites. Traditionally the number of Sunnis to Shiites is equal in Lebanese governments.

“I will not surrender to the logic of victor and vanquished,” Mikati told reporters after Bouji’s announcement.

Mikati’s efforts to form the new government were met with a series of obstacles, both internal and external, which caused the process to drag on for several months and drew heated criticism by the March 14 coalition, as well as members of March 8 alliance, namely Aoun, who accused Mikati of lacking the intention to go ahead with forming the Cabinet.

The announcement of the new Cabinet came around 2:45 p.m. and was preceded by high-level talks at Baabda Palace between Mikati, Sleiman and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

Sources close to the government formation process told The Daily Star that Mikati, who was nominated on Jan. 25 to form the new Cabinet, had met Sleiman without any coordination with the March 8 coalition, the new parliamentary majority that nominated the Tripoli lawmaker to replace the government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a leading member in the March 14 movement.

The sources said that Berri had then been summoned by Sleiman and Mikati and the three discussed the 30-member Cabinet lineup.

During the meeting with Mikati and Sleiman, the speaker had voiced reservations on the lineup, the sources said, namely the sixth Sunni seat, the third Druze seat and the sixth Maronite seat.

Following Bouji’s announcement, Mikati hailed Berri for his efforts “because if it weren’t for his national sacrifices, the government would not have seen the light [of day].”

Following the announcement of the new government, a ministerial committee will draft a policy statement. The new Cabinet then endorses the draft and presents it to Parliament for a vote of confidence.

The following is the lineup of the new Cabinet:

Name Sect Region Ministry 1 Najib Mikati Sunni Tripoli MP Prime Minister 2 Samir Moukbel Greek Orthodox Deputy Prime Minister 3 Marwan Charbel Maronite Interior Minister 4 Adnan Mansour Shiite Foreign Minister 5 Mohammad Safadi Sunni Tripoli MP Finance Minister 6 Fayez Ghosn Greek Orthodox Defense Minister 7 Shakib Qortbawi Maronite Justice Minister 8 Walid Daouk Sunni Beirut Information Minister 9 Nicolas Sahnawi Greek Catholic Beirut Telecommunication Minister 10 Ali Hasan Khalil Shiite Health Minister 11 Jibran Bassil Maronite Batroun Energy Minister 12 Charbel Nahhas Greek Catholic Labor Minister 13 Ghazi Aridi Druze Beirut MP Works and Transportation Minister 14 Faisal Karami Sunni Tripoli Youth and Sports Minister 15 Gaby Layyoun Greek Orthodox Zahleh Culture Minister 16 Nazem al-Khoury Maronite Jbeil Environment Minister 17 Alaaeddine Terro Sunni Chouf State Minister for Displaced People 18 Hussein Hajj Hassan Shiite Baalbek-Hermel MP Agriculture Minister 19 Nicolas Nahhas Greek Orthodox Economy Minister 20 Wael Bou Faour Druze West Bekaa MP Social Affairs Minister 21 Fadi Abboud Maronite Beirut Tourism Minister 22 Freij Sabounjian Armenian Orthodox Industry Minister 23 Hassan Diab Sunni Education Minister 24 Salim Karam Maronite Zghorta MO State Minister 25 Mohammad Fneish Shiite Tyre MP State Minister 26 Nicolas Fattoush Greek Catholic Zahle State Minister 27 Ahmad Karami Sunni Tripoli MP State Minister 28 Panos Manjenian Armenian Orthodox State Minister 29 Ali Qanso Shiite State Minister 30 Talal Arslan Druze Aley State Minister