Can Lebanon's Hariri work with Hezbollah?
A Monitor reporter sits down with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri in his mansion as he discusses the legacy of his father and a fresh push for reconciliation.
A deadly street clash between rival political groups this weekend – the worst factional violence in the Lebanese capital in over a year – underlines the challenges lying ahead for Saad Hariri, Lebanon's top Sunni politician, who has been appointed Lebanon's next prime minister.Skip to next paragraph
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The outbreak of violence was a reminder of the lingering tensions that exist in Lebanon, even though the country's political leaders have made efforts lately to achieve reconciliation.
Mr. Hariri was selected on Saturday by Lebanese President Michel Suleiman to become prime minister, three weeks after the US- and Saudi-backed March 14 coalition narrowly won a parliamentary election, defeating the opposition, led by the militant Shiite group, Hezbollah.
We "will safeguard the constitution, [state] institutions, sovereignty, independence, and the project of building the Lebanese state," Hariri said after meeting Mr. Suleiman at the presidential palace.
Hariri is the son and political heir of Rafik Hariri, a billionaire businessman and a former prime minister who was assassinated in a truck bomb explosion in February 2005.
On Monday, Hariri began formal consultations with parliamentary blocs as an initial stage in forming a 30-seat government. Some tough bargaining can be expected in the days ahead.
The opposition is pressing for a veto-wielding one-third quota of cabinet seats that will allow it to block any legislation with which it disagrees.
Mohammed Raad, the head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc, said in a statement after meeting with Hariri, that Lebanon needed "a national consensus cabinet and a real partnership."
The ruling March 14 coalition is inclined to refuse to allow the opposition to gain a third of the cabinet seats, fearing the same gridlock that has dogged successive governments since 2005. One option under consideration is to grant a few seats to allies of Suleiman, allowing the president to hold the balance of power in the cabinet.
Hariri at home in his mansion
"All doors are open," Hariri told the Monitor in an interview Sunday in his sprawling mansion in the Koreitem district of west Beirut. "It will take serious discussions to unite the country for the sake of confronting the challenges that lie ahead."
On a break between paying traditional courtesy calls to former Lebanese prime ministers, Hariri slipped into some jeans and ate a lunch of rice, fish, and turkey along with around a dozen of his political colleagues and advisers. He listened quietly while his aides recounted humorous anecdotes about past Lebanese prime ministers.