Lebanese President Michel Suleiman announced the postponement of binding parliamentary consultations to nominate a candidate to form a new government, which had been scheduled for yesterday, Monday (January 16th), until next week.
He made the decision after assessing the position of various Lebanese parties to preserve the national interest, according to a statement from the president's office.
President Suleiman, in accordance with the constitution, will hold binding parliamentary consultations with parliamentary blocs and individual MPs, who together number 128 lawmakers, to nominate a prime minister who will form a government.
According to news reports, Suleiman's decision to postpone parliamentary consultations followed discussions with various parties. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and MP Walid Jumblatt supported postponement of the talks.
Coinciding with the delay in consultations, the registrar of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Herman von Hebel, announced in a statement late Monday that the tribunal's prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare, submitted the charge sheet on the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri to pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen.
The content of the indictment will remain "a secret at this stage," according to the statement.
The resignation of 11 ministers from the Lebanese government last Wednesday led to the fall of the government after it lost more than a third of its members.
A tripartite summit was held Monday in Damascus that included Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The three leaders agreed that the solution to the crisis in Lebanon should be based on Syrian - Saudi efforts to achieve agreement among the Lebanese and prevent an escalation of tensions.
The three leaders welcomed "Lebanon's decision to postpone parliamentary consultations pending movement in political efforts to help the Lebanese find a solution that achieves the interests of the Lebanese people and the stability of Lebanon".
Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah declared in a televised speech on Sunday, "The opposition is unanimous in not naming Saad Hariri to be entrusted with forming a new government." He refused to announce the identity of the candidate that opposition parliamentary blocs will name during consultations.
Nasrallah said the government that had existed was unproductive and unable to comprehend the consequences of the indictment.
Hizbullah officials believe the indictment will name party members with involvement in Hariri's assassination, which it says is a scheme to target the party. It had previously called on Saad Hariri to counter this by withdrawing Lebanese judges from the court, halting Lebanese funding for the court and cancelling the memorandum of understanding between the government and the International Tribunal.
Jumblatt's bloc, which includes 11 lawmakers, will have the decisive vote during the consultations.
Immediately after the March 8 ministers resigned, Jumblatt announced that "the ministers' decision to resign was politically wrong," adding that, "Saad Hariri is the best one to assume the presidency of the government."
MP Fouad Saad, a member of the Democratic Gathering bloc headed by Jumblatt, told Al-Shorfa, "As a bloc, we have not yet held a meeting to select our candidate for prime minister, and we are waiting to meet with the head of the bloc to determine our position."
There are indications that the votes of members of the bloc will be channelled in one direction, as Jumblatt suggested.
"Nominating a prime minister is not a matter of counting votes and tallying the number of MPs of this or that group. Rather, it is much more precise than that, and it should not reflect the isolation of a sect by another sect, especially on the Islamic arena where the case takes on added sensitivities," Jumblatt said.
Eddy Abi Lamaa, a member of the executive committee of the Lebanese Forces Party belonging to the March 14 forces, told Al-Shorfa, "Our position is clear and definitive on naming Saad Hariri as prime minister, and we do not accept any conditions imposed in this matter."
Abi Lamaa said the outcome of Suleiman's parliamentary consultations will determine the prime minister-designate to form a government, "So why establish conditions?"
MP Fadi Al-Awar, a member of the Change and Reform bloc belonging to the March 8 forces, told Al-Shorfa, "There is a host of matters and positions expected from Saad Hariri, upon which the final decision rests on whether to name him as a candidate for prime minister or not."