Former prime minister Najib Mikati has announced his candidacy in the fierce battle between rival parties in Lebanon as to who should head the country's next government.
Mikati, a telecoms tycoon, said in a statement late Sunday that he was coming forward as a consensual candidate and would cooperate with all parties with a view to bringing the country out of its deep political crisis. "I don’t view my candidacy as a challenge to anyone but rather as an opportunity to restore contacts among (rival) leaders," his statement said.
But members of caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri's coalition said they viewed Mikati's candidacy as "treason" given that he was elected to parliament as a member of Hariri's coalition.
"This is treason, he is back-stabbing Hariri," MP Oqab Sakr told Lebanese radio.
Mikati's announcement came hours before President Michel Sleiman was to launch consultations with parliamentary groups Monday on appointing a new premier after the powerful Hezbollah brought down Hariri's unity government earlier this month.
The Western-backed Hariri has been locked in a months-long standoff with Hezbollah, backed by Syria and Iran, over a UN probe into the 2005 assassination of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, Saad's father.
Mikati served as premier for three months in 2005 after Syria was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon following Hariri's assassination.