Lebanese PM announces new cabinet

London, (Pal Telegraph) – Najib Mikati gives Hezbollah and its allies 16 posts – six more than they had in the previous government.

Lebanon’s prime minister has announced a new cabinet, dominated by allies of Hezbollah, five months after the party and its allies brought down the government.

Najib Mikati’s cabinet, unveiled on Monday, gives Hezbollah and its allies 16 of the 30 seats. In the previous government, they had 10 seats.

The cabinet still must be formally presented to parliament for a vote of confidence.

Mikati was appointed to form a government after Hezbollah and its allies toppled Saad al-Hariri’s coalition in January over a dispute involving the UN-backed tribunal investigating the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, Saad’s father.

“Let us go to work immediately according to the principles and basis that we have affirmed our commitment to several times, namely defending Lebanon’s sovereignty and its independence and liberating land that remains under the occupation of the Israeli enemy,” Mikati said.

Talal Arslan, a Druze politician who was appointed as minister of state resigned within hours of the announcement due to dissatisfaction over his post.

“I cannot participate in a government in which Najib Mikati says the Druze do not have the right to demand a key ministry,” Arslan said at a televised news conference.

Political sources said Mikati could easily replace Arslan, who had been demanding the Defence Ministry portfolio.

Arslan said he would not support a vote of confidence in the government at a parliamentary session, but Hezbollah and its allies still have enough votes for the government to be approved.

Political wrangling had held up the formation of the cabinet, including disagreements over sensitive posts.

Move welcomed

Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, said that this move solves some of Lebanon’s problems. “This country, without a government, was barely functioning,” she said.

“Mikati told the Lebanese people that they shouldn’t judge him by the names of the new cabinet, but rather by their future actions.”

“This country is a close neighbour of Syria where there are troubles, and many people fear that the crisis could spill over – some people are hoping that forming a new government will help to face some challenges.”

Mohammed Safadi, the former economy minister, was named finance minister and will need to improve Lebanon’s growth outlook which was driven down by the political stalemate.

Fayez Ghusn was named defence minister and Marwan Charbel as the interior minister.

Nicolas Sehnawi was given the telecommunications portfolio, a post ridden with controversy due to disagreements over privatising the sector.

Hariri, who is supported by the West and Saudi Arabia, has refused to join Mikati’s government.

Tribunal controversy

A main aim of the government will be to agree on a unified stand to face indictments by the tribunal expected to implicate members of Hezbollah in the 2005 killing of Hariri. The group denies any link to the attack.

Mikati, who says he is politically neutral, said the Lebanese government would seek to maintain positive ties with all Arab countries.

The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, who has been fighting a popular revolt against his 11-year rule, telephoned Mikati to congratulate him, Lebanese media said.

Syria is a strong ally of Hezbollah, the main player in the political coalition which helped bring Mikati to power in January.

“This government is committed to maintaining strong, brotherly ties which bind Lebanon to all Arab countries without exception,” Mikati said.

(networkedblogs.com / 13.06.2011)

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