In shocking video, Aoun accuses Hariri of ‘lying’
BEIRUT – A leaked video of Lebanese President Michel Aoun accusing Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri of “lying” about a government format has further complicated a political crisis in Lebanon that has been simmering for months.
Activists on social media shared a leaked video of a meeting between Aoun and caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab in which the president accused Hariri of lying.
To a question from Diab regarding news of Hariri’s appointment and the formation of the government, Aoun was caught on camera saying the PM-designate has “lied” about being given a cabinet line-up “paper” by the president.
Hariri responded to Aoun by publishing Bible verses about deceit on his Twitter account.
“For wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins. For the Holy Spirit of discipline will flee from the deceitful, and will withdraw himself from thoughts that are without understanding, and he shall not abide when iniquity cometh in,” the PM-designate tweeted.
Observers of Lebanese affairs said the leaked video will deepen disagreement between the president and the prime minister-designate, noting that Aoun’s statements show just how far apart the two parties are on the crisis: Aoun and Hezbollah’s allies on one hand, and Hariri and his supporters on the other.
While Aoun, Hezbollah and their allies have been stalling to maintain the status quo and prevent the formation of a new government, Hariri has begun attempting to exploit international pressure, especially the French initiative and Paris’s desire to accelerate the formation of the government, in order to continue his mission.
The relationship between Aoun and Hariri is tense due to a government lineup the latter put forward last month that the Lebanese president has refused to approve. Aoun has accused the prime minister-designate of monopolising the task and completely ignoring his demands — a charge Hariri denies.
Political circles believe that the issue cuts far deeper than procedural issues.
Hezbollah and its allies, they say, are attempting to delay the formation of a new government until US President-elect Joe Biden assumes power later this month.
In response to accusations from supporters of Aoun and Hezbollah, Hariri published a statement confirming he had “carried out his national and constitutional duties to the fullest and presented the President of the Republic with a government formation of non-partisan specialists known for their capability and accomplishment.”
He added that the cabinet team “is waiting for the President of the Republic to finish examining the lineup.”
The statement pointed out that “the problem is clear … and it is internal,” resulting from an insistence “to hold on to impossible conditions.”
In early December, Hariri announced that he had presented Aoun with “a government formation of 18 expert ministers, regardless of partisan affiliation.”
His media office urged Aoun to set aside party interests, namely the demand that one party control one third of the ministries, or effective veto power, referring to the Free Patriotic Movement founded by Aoun.
“This is what will never happen under any pretext,” the statement said.
However, Aoun later announced his objection to Hariri “going it alone in naming ministers, particularly the Christians, without agreement with the president.”
On October 22, Aoun designated Hariri to form a new government, following the resignation of his predecessor Mustafa Adib.
The head of the Arab Tawhid Party, former minister Wiam Wahhab, sees the squabble between Aoun and Hariri as useless.
Wahhab pointed out that “the French initiative stipulates that Hariri forms the new government.”
“After my visit to two Arab capitals, I sensed that Arab support is tied to the success of the French initiative, so I see that Aoun and Hariri are bound by understanding or a minimum of it, without wasting time,” he said.
Lebanon has been unable to form a government since the current caretaker government, headed by Diab, resigned six days after a catastrophic explosion in Beirut port on August 4, killing over 200 people and injuring some 6,000 others.
Lebanon is facing its worst financial and economic crisis in decades, with the international community desperate for the current political elite to resolve the country’s ongoing political crisis.