Hariri quits, casting Lebanon into further uncertainty
The prime minister-designate announced he was stepping down, 10 weeks after fruitless negotiations to form a new government.
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His decision casts Lebanon into renewed political uncertainty, requiring a fresh set of consultations between Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and members of parliament to designate a new premier.
"After a final round of negotiations, it became clear to me that some [parties], with their impossible demands, are in no way going to allow the proposed cabinet lineup to pass," Mr. Hariri said, apparently referring to the Free Patriotic Movement, a key member of the parliamentary opposition led by Michel Aoun.
Hariri's decision to stand down comes as little surprise, and it is possible that he will be reappointed in the coming days. Fouad Siniora, the outgoing prime minister, and Samir Geagea, one of Hariri's key allies, both said they would designate Hariri again.
"The game is completely open again," says a source close to Hariri, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Hariri is pondering his interest in being nominated again. He will consult with his parliamentary bloc and his allies and then we will see."
Why the negotiations have stalled
The pro-West March 14 coalition, of which Hariri is a top leader, won a narrow victory at the elections in June, securing 71 seats in the 128-seat parliament. Initial negotiations saw 15 portfolios in the 30-seat cabinet going to March 14, with 10 for the opposition, led by the militant Shiite Hezbollah. President Suleiman, a neutral figure, would select the remaining five ministers. But subsequent negotiations foundered over the naming of ministers.
The negotiations are complicated by the fact that the country's major political factions often pursue the support of outside forces – chief among them Syria and Saudi Arabia – to gain the upper hand against their rivals at home.
Some analysts accuse Syria and Iran of instructing their allies in the opposition to delay the formation of a Lebanese government as a bargaining chip in future talks with the United States and the West.