Saad Hariri blasts Lebanon's president over Cabinet formation letter

Prime minister-designate described the letter as attempt to revoke his nomination

Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri speaks during a parliament meeting at UNESCO Palace in Beirut, Lebanon May 22, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Lebanon's prime minister-designate Saad Hariri on Saturday accused  President Michel Aoun of being responsible for failed Cabinet negotiations that have left the country without a government for more than seven months.

Speaking in a special session of the Lebanese Parliament, Mr Hariri – who has been unable to form a Cabinet since being nominated for prime minister in October – said he refused to form a government that would satisfy Mr Aoun.

Instead, he has vowed to form a Cabinet of experts capable of halting the country's economic collapse.

Mr Hariri said a letter of complaint from Mr Aoun to parliament was an attempt to withdraw his nomination for prime minister.

He said this was the result of his refusal to bow to Mr Aoun's demands over the composition of a new administration.

Speaking in the same session, Gebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement's parliamentary bloc and son-in-law of Mr Aoun, denied that the letter was an attempt to withdraw the nomination of Mr Hariri for prime minister.

Lebanon has been without a government since Hassan Diab resigned as prime minister in the wake of the Beirut port blast that killed more than 200 people last August.

The special parliamentary session was convened to discuss the letter of complaint from Mr Aoun regarding the stalemate of Cabinet formation talks. Several parties blamed one another for the impasse.

"I will not form a government as the team of his excellency the president wants it, nor any other political faction," Mr Hariri told members of parliament.

"I will only form the kind of government needed to stop the collapse and prevent the big crash that is threatening the Lebanese.”

Speaking after the session, Mr Hariri described the letter from Mr Aoun as an attempt to deflect attention for the repeated failures to form a government.

Mr Aoun's letter complained "It has become evident that the prime minister-designate is unable to form a government capable of salvation and meaningful contact with foreign financial institutions, international funds, and donor countries".

Mr Bassil, who is Mr Aoun's most ardent supporter in parliament, and Mr Hariri have become bitter rivals in recent months.

In a parliamentary session on Friday, the two refused to shake hands.