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Assyrians, Armenians At Odds in Formation of New Lebanese Government
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The government formation inched further along Thursday, with President Michel Aoun telling journalists that the government "is around the corner," even as another obstacle surfaced over the Armenian sect's representation in the new Cabinet.

At the same time, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea expressed skepticism, admitting that problems still need to be ironed out.

"Consultations and negotiations are ongoing with prime minister-designate in order to form a government, but I won't hide that there some unresolved points," Geagea said on his Twitter.

In the afternoon, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri met with caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil and caretaker Public Works and Transport Minister Youssef Fenianos, a statement from Hariri's office said. The officials discussed the latest developments, especially as they relate to the government formation.

These debates assumed another dimension Thursday: The Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate called on officials to grant the sect a minister in the forthcoming government, irking the Armenians in Lebanon, who are adamant on receiving two portfolios.

The draft Cabinet lineup proposals reportedly presented to the Armenians would allocate one of the seats traditionally reserved for them to the Syriac Orthodox sect.

"The patriarch calls on President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri to take into account the right of the Syriac Orthodox community ... by allocating a ministerial seat to one of its members," a statement from the patriarchate said.

The statement added that the Syriac Orthodox people "are known for loyalty to their homeland, Lebanon," and that "thousands of [their] martyrs" had given their lives for it.

The Armenian sect in turn, specifically the Tashnag Party, warned against attempts to allow only one Armenian minister in the government.

Tashnag MP Hagop Terzian said Thursday that "we refuse" for the Armenian component to be marginalized. "We support the call for minorities to be represented, but not at our expense," local media quoted Terzian as saying from his office at Parliament.

On Wednesday, a similar warning was relayed by caretaker Tourism Minister Avedis Guidanian -- one of the two Armenian ministers in the current government -- to Aoun and Hariri .

The minister also tweeted a link to an LCBI report stating that his party wants one minister reserved for the Tashnag Party and another, nonpartisan Armenian minister to be appointed in the event of a 30-member Cabinet in the next government.

The LBCI article had furthermore stated that Catholicos Aram I Kechichian, the head of the Armenian Orthodox Church, had informed Aoun and Hariri that he had rejected an offer presented to Tashnag that would have granted one seat to the Armenian community and the second to the minority Christians.



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