Lebanon's president Michel Suleiman will hold consultations with parliamentarians on appointing a new prime minister on January 17-18, 2011 at the presidential palace in Baabda, the presidency declared Thursday. Suleiman's step is "pursuant to clause 2 of Article 53 of the Constitution related to binding parliamentary consultations and the designation of a new prime minister," the presidency said in a statement.
Earlier Thursday, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri announced that consultations on appointing a new prime minister would start on Monday, following the collapse of the national unity government. "Consultations with parliamentarians will begin Monday at 12:00 p.m.," Berri said after talks with Suleiman at the Baabda Palace, adding that "the meeting was very good."
The announcement came a day after the Hizbullah-led March 8 coalition forced the collapse of Prime Minister Saad Hariri's government in a dispute over a U.N.-backed probe into the assassination of Hariri's father, ex-premier Rafik Hariri.
Eleven ministers left the government, providing the minimum number of resignations needed to automatically dissolve the 30-member cabinet, now acting in a caretaker capacity.
Saad Hariri will serve as the head of the caretaker cabinet. Hariri is expected to return to Beirut from visits to America, France and Turkey. Currently, the March 14 bloc (Hariri and his allies) has 60 seats in the 128-seat parliament compared to 57 deputies from the March 8 bloc (Hizbullah and its allies).
Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who in the summer of 2009 left March 14, boasts 11 seats in the parliament. Jumblatt met Thursday night with Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah to discuss the crisis.