Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati visited today Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, at the Maronite Patriarchate summer residence in al-Diman, where both men held a retreat on the latest developments.
On emerging, Mikati said: “The meeting with His Beatitude in Diman is renewed every year at this time. We discussed various political issues and the government formation dossier, and I explained to His Beatitude the developments and the need to speed up the cabinet formation…For this reason, I presented the new government lineup the next day following the non-binding parliamentary consultations…”
He added, “His Beatitude was understanding of all matters, and I thanked him for all the support he provided to the government and his insistence on forming the new cabinet quickly. I also thanked him for his continuous trust and for his affection and devotion, and for stressing on my role as a bridge between all sects.”
Asked about his presentation of a lineup including rotation in ministerial portfolios belonging to the President of the Republic so that it would be rejected, Mikati said: “In principle, I refuse to label people and portfolios as being affiliated with a specific team, and we must all be devoted to the country and be a national government in every sense of the word; otherwise, the country will not rise.”
Responding to a question about keeping the Finance Ministry portfolio with House Speaker Nabih Berri’s team, Mikati said: “I chose a new minister, and the portfolio remained within the existing sectarian distribution. In one of my media interviews, I said that no ministerial portfolio can be restricted to a specific sect, but in this particular circumstance, as the government will have a limited lifespan, we will not allow for a dispute regarding the Ministry of Finance. What is important is that the government performs its duty, whether it is a caretaker government or a new government, in order to reach the presidential election in safety and peace.”
Regarding his optimism about the election of a president of the republic, he said: “Before the parliamentary elections, I saw difficulty in electing a new president of the republic, but the new scene in the House of Parliament does not reveal the existence of a group that wants to disrupt…So I hope that a president will be elected, and within two or three months, we will have a new president and a new government so that the required recovery in the country begins.”
Responding to another question, Mikati said: “The caretaker government is in place and we are seeking to form a government, but the countdown is tight, because on the first of September the period for electing a new president starts.”
On the border demarcation file, he said: “We have received encouraging information that can be further improved, but I will not comment on it before seeing the official and written response to the Lebanese offer.”