Cabinet talks going nowhere in Beirut

Oct. 30, 2009 at 12:57 PM

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Oct. 30 (UPI) -- Cabinet deliberations in Beirut dragged on as Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri failed to end the impasse over the Telecommunications Ministry.

Hariri led his March 14 slate to power in June elections but faced tough challenges in forming a new government despite a power-sharing agreement with opposition forces.

Hariri met with Michel Aoun, the leader of the opposition Free Patriotic Movement, to find a solution to disputes over ministerial portfolios, Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper reports.

Aoun rejected a proposal to maintain the telecommunications portfolio without appointing caretaker Minister Jebran Bassil, his son-in-law, to the position.

Aoun insists on maintaining Bassil in his current post despite his loss in the June elections. Analysts suspect the latest standstill is in part due to an effort by Hezbollah to gain more power in the Lebanese government.

Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, the patriarch of the Maronite Church, for his part accused Hezbollah of favoring Iranian interests over those of Lebanon.

"Weapons and democracy cannot coexist," he added.

His comments come as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Hezbollah to embrace the political process and abandon its militancy amid heightened border tensions with Israel.

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