BEIRUT, Lebanon — Lebanese MP and leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, General Michel Aoun, rejected Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri’s invitation to discuss the stalled cabinet formation over lunch.
A dispute over the candidacy of Aoun’s son-in-law Gebran Bassil for the position of Telecommunications Minister is widely believed to be the main obstacle to the birth of a new Lebanese government. In a press conference at Aoun’s residence in Rabieh, the fiery general rejected Hariri’s “arrogant” conditions regarding the lunch date.
“Who does he think he is? He invites me for lunch without providing any more information? Am I supposed to just accept his invitation blindly?” Aoun asked a group of newspaper reporters.
Aoun dismissed suggestions that the lunch proposal was intended to reach an acceptable compromise, saying “Before we accept any invitation, we need to have all the information ahead of time so that we can study it carefully. We were not born yesterday, you know,” said Aoun.
When asked by an al-Akhbar journalist about what kind of information he was looking for, Aoun replied, “The choice of restaurant, for starters! Hello? What if I don’t particularly like the restaurant that he chooses? Why does he get to decide where we’re eating? Plus, why does it have to be lunch? Maybe I don’t eat lunch. Maybe I only eat breakfast and dinner. Or brunch! Maybe I only eat brunch. Did the MP-designate ever think of that?”
When reminded that al-Hariri was actually the Prime Minister-designate, Aoun responded: “No, I prefer to call him MP-designate. He’s not the Prime Minister-designate until after the government is formed. It’s just plain arrogance to call yourself the Prime Minister-designate just because you’ve been designated Prime Minister. I mean, ha ha, what a laugh.”
Asked if he had any preferences for lunch venues, Aoun said that he’d prefer not to give away any sensitive information at this juncture, but that he would respond to the other camp’s proposals, “once they stop beating around the bush.”
“I’m not trying to be difficult,” said Aoun. “I will study any real proposal with the attention it deserves — whether it’s sushi, or Italian, Chinese, whatever. But I’m simply not going to rush into things with no guarantees ahead of time. It wouldn’t be fair to the people who voted for me and my party.”
Saad Hariri’s press office would not comment on the General’s remarks.