Lebanese President Michel Aoun had no intention of revoking Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri’s mandate when he wrote to parliament last week stating that Hariri could not form a government, Aoun’s son-in-law said on Saturday.
Veteran Sunni Muslim politician Hariri was appointed cabinet in October after Hassan Diab’s government resigned after a port explosion in Beirut that killed 200 people and damaged large parts of the capital.
But Hariri and Aoun have been fighting over cabinet positions for months, blocking the formation of a government necessary to reform and unlock foreign aid as Lebanon drifts towards economic collapse.
Diab and his cabinet continued to work as caretakers.
Aoun’s letter, read to Parliament on Friday, was seen by some politicians as an effective declaration that someone else had to be found to take on the role of prime minister.
But Aoun’s son-in-law Gebran Bassil, leader of Lebanon’s largest Christian bloc, said removing Hariri was not Aoun’s goal.
“The purpose is not to withdraw the nomination of the Prime Minister-designate,” said Bassil at a session of parliament called to discuss the letter.
During the same parliamentary session, Hariri said the letter was Aoun’s way of telling parliament, “You have named this prime minister, I don’t want him, go ahead and rid me of him.”
Lebanon’s foreign exchange reserves are running low and fuel shortages, power outages and gaps in medical care are widening.
According to a sectarian power-sharing system, the Lebanese president must be a Maronite Christian and the prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim.
Aoun is an ally of Hezbollah listed by the United States as a terrorist organization. Bassil was sanctioned by the US last year for alleged corruption and its ties to Hezbollah.
Parliament speaker Nabih Berri, the leader of the Shiite Muslim Amal movement, called on Hariri, in coordination with Aoun, to quickly form a government to help maintain stability.
Hariri said he would not elect a cabinet that matches Aoun’s goals, adding: “I will only form the kind of government that is needed to halt the collapse and prevent the great crash that threatens the Lebanese . “
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