Two Armenia’s in Lebanon’s Final Cabinet Lineup

–30 member government includes two Armenia’s

BEIRUT (Daily Star)–Prime Minister-designate Omar Karami formed a 30-minister Cabinet on Tuesday that includes two candidates proposed by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Sebouh Hovnanian and Alain Tabourian to represent Lebanon’s Christian Armenia’s. Hovnanian will again serve as Sports and Youth Minister–while the incoming Tabourian was named Minister of State.

Karami’s Cabinet is the first to include two women–Leila Solh–daughter of former Prime Minister Riad Solh and aunt of billionaire Saudi Prince Walid Bin Talal–and Wafaa Hamza–a Shiite close to Speaker Nabih Berri. Karami said–"Women constitute half the Lebanese population."

Two of the most prominent portfolios–the defense and foreign ministries–were given to Syria’s allies Abdel-Hamid Mrad and Mahmoud Hammoud–while Syria’s strongest ally–Suleiman Franjieh–was named interior minister.

Karami named economist and former Minister Elias Saba as finance minister–at a time when his government is suffering from an estimated $35 billion national debt.

Druze Talal Arslan was named minister of the displaced–replacing his opponent Chouf MP Walid Jumblatt–who said he will not participate in any Cabinet under Lahoud’s mandate in opposition to the extension of the president’s term for three years on Sept. 3.

In accordance with the Taif Accord–the Cabinet must include equal Christian and Muslim representation spread between six Christian Maronites–four Christian Orthodox–three Christian Catholics–two Christian Armenia’s–six Shiites–six Sunnis and three Druze–headed by a Sunni Muslim prime minister.

The Cabinet was announced following extensive and lengthy consultations between Lahoud–Berri–and Karami over the past five days.

Sources close to the Cabinet discussions said that Berri vetoed the presence of former Speaker Hussein Husseini in the Cabinet and demanded that the names of all six Shiites ministers receive his approval.

Berri–who heads the Amal Movement–issued a statement on Tuesday denying all information about a "Shiite obstacle" in the Cabinet reshuffle.

"There is no Shiite obstacle at all in the Cabinet reshuffle. Several of the names mentioned in the press are inaccurate," the statement said.

After resolving the interior ministry obstacle–granted to outgoing Health Minister Suleiman Franjieh after outgoing Interior Minister Elias Murr announced he would not participate in the next Cabinet–other difficulties emerged over the past 24 hours concerning the names to be appointed in the culture and education ministries.

The new Cabinet excludes members of the opposition–such as Jumblatt’s Democratic Gathering parliamentary bloc–the Qornet Shehwan Gathering and any ally of Hariri.

Karami’s extensive attempts to include members of the opposition in his Cabinet failed late Monday. The opposition groups–although not opposing Karami personally–are determined not to participate in a cabinet that falls short concerning basic national objectives–such as implementing the Taif Accord.

They have also repeatedly said that the next cabinet will not bring any improvement to the current situation.

"We refused to participate in the next cabinet knowing…that the opposition would be a minority and could not make any difference to face the majority of pro-regime parties and forces that are determined to keep the situation going as it is now," said Qornet Shehwan Gathering member Batroun MP Butros Harb in a statement Tuesday.

What remains to be seen following the Cabinet reshuffle is whether it will be granted the confidence of Parliament–which requires the vote of 86 out of its 128 MPs.

According to Article 64 of the Constitution–"The Cabinet does not exercise its powers before it gains Parliament’s confidence."

The 29 MPs who voted against the constitutional amendment of the extension of Lahoud’s term may refuse to cast their vote for the new Cabinet. However–such a number would not affect the Cabinet’s legitimacy. But if Hariri’s parliamentary bloc decided not to vote in favor of the government–in addition to the 29 other MPs–Karami’s Cabinet would not be able to exercise its powers.

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