Beirut- Lebanon’s Prime Minister Fouad Saniora welcomed on Thursday Saudi efforts to end the ongoing political crisis and said he supports Riyadh's naming of the 11th "neutral" minister in a national unity cabinet.
"I agree to leave the choice of naming the 11th minister to the Saudi kingdom, neither to the ruling team nor to the opposition," Siniora said in an interview published by the daily As Safir. This was in reference to the formula of 19 +10+1 meaning 19 seats for the parliament majority, 10 for the opposition and 1 neutral
He said that this alternative was best for the pro-government March 14 coalition and the opposition since Saudi Arabia is the sponsor accepted not only by the rival camps, but Iran as well.
"Any deal has got to be detailed, accurate and balanced on the mechanism and implementation levels," Siniora said.
He stressed that he was not willing to succumb to the opposition's demand which insists on veto power in a national unity cabinet based on a 19 + 11 formula "as long as it is not ready to adopt the principles of the seven-point plan or the decisions reached at the national dialogue."
He was referring to roundtable talks which began in March 2006 but collapsed as a result of Israel's war with Hezbollah four months later. Siniora did not elaborate.
Besides agreeing on normalization of Lebanon's ties with Syria, during the reconciliation talks, Siniora had been tasked by the participants to discuss with Damascus sovereignty over the disputed Shebaa Farms where the Lebanese, Syrian and Israeli borders meet.
Lebanon wants an official demarcation of its border with Syria.
Ties between the two neighboring states are at an all-time low since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which is widely blamed on Syria. Damascus, however, denies the allegations.
The seven-point plan, which was approved by Siniora's cabinet to put an end to the 34-day war between Hezbollah and Israel, calls for a mutual release of prisoners held by Israel and Hezbollah and to put into effect an Armistice Agreement signed by Lebanon and Israel in 1949, and to insure adherence to the provisions of that treaty. It also foresees the Lebanese government taking control of southern Lebanon through its own legitimate armed forces so that there will be no weapons or authority other than that of the Lebanese state as stipulated in the Taef national reconciliation document.
On Hezbollah 's obsessions regarding U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 which calls for disarming Hezbollah, Siniora said: "I will not accept discussing the issue of disarming the resistance on the political table before an end to the Israeli occupation of Shebaa Farms and Kfarshouba hills."
The seven-point plan calls for a commitment from the Security Council to place the Shebaa Farms area and the Kfarshouba Hills under U.N. jurisdiction until border delineation and Lebanese sovereignty over them are fully settled.
Siniora also expressed regret over an announcement by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem in which he said Damascus was not willing to hand over suspects to be tried by an international tribunal into the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.