PM-designate Saad Hariri and Speaker Nabih Berri have agreed to meet when a new government formula is complete and when Hariri has finished the final touches of lining up the new cabinet, media reports said on Friday.
“Hariri and I have agreed to meet when he is ready. I will help him out if he needs my help. When you see him at my place, you should know that white smoke has billowed,” said Berri.
Unnamed sources quoted Berri as saying that he still has hope that Lebanon's government will be formed before Independence Day, he said: “As far as I know, the communications and the path of the government formation are positive. I have agreed at Baabda with President (Michel) Aoun and Hariri on the necessity to have a government is born as soon as possible.”
On the suggested number of ministers, Berri said: “The government will be comprised of 30 not 32 ministers because Hariri did not like that,” as he stressed that it will not contain an obstructing third or any independent ministers.
On reports that some have suggested the exclusion of the Kataeb party, Marada Movement, MP Talal Arslan, the National Party and others, Berri expressed astonishment and said: “It will not be a national unity government if does not include them, and I would not accept such a government.”
Hariri's appointment as premier-designate and the election of Michel Aoun as president after two and a half years of presidential vacuum have raised hopes that Lebanon can begin tackling challenges including a stagnant economy, a moribund political class and the influx of more than a million Syrian refugees.
In a sign that Hariri's task ahead might not be easy, Hizbullah's MPs declined to endorse him for the prime minister post.
Hariri is likely to struggle with his government's policy statement, which will have to make reference to Israel, as well as the war in Syria, both potential flashpoints with Hizbullah.
The process of forming a government could take months, with horsetrading likely to revolve around the distribution of key posts like the finance, defense and energy ministries.