Hezbollah-backed Mikati appointed Lebanon PM

AFP , Tuesday 25 Jan 2011

Najib Mikati, official appointed prime minister,vows to cooperate with all Lebanese

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman (R) with Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati (L) at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, 25 January 2011 in this photo released by Lebanon's official government photographer Dalati Nohra. (AP)

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman appointed Hezbollah-backed candidate Najib Mikati on Tuesday as prime minister-designate to succeed Saad Al-Hariri, whose pro-Western cabinet collapsed earlier this month.

"The president informed me of the outcome of his consultations with parliamentarians, which have resulted in my appointment as prime minister," MP Mikati told reporters outside Suleiman's office.

"I will cooperate fully with all Lebanese to form a new government that protects the unity and sovereignty of our country," he added.

The appointment has sparked widespread anger within the Sunni community, who view it as a bid by Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah to impose on them the Shia group's choice for the premiership.

But Mikati, a political moderate with good ties to Lebanon's former power broker Syria, has said he was a centrist and emphasized that he intended to include all parties as he forms a government.

"This does not signal the victory of one camp over another," Mikati said. "This is the victory of consensus over difference.

"Nothing justifies the refusal of any political party to participate" in the next government, he added. "My hand is extended to all Lebanese."

Mikati, 55, received the backing of 68 of parliament's 128 MPs who had been meeting with Suleiman since Monday, after Hezbollah brought down the unity government of Saudi- and Western-backed Saad Hariri on January 12.

The remaining 60 MPs backed Hariri for another term.

The government collapse capped a long-running standoff over a UN-backed probe into the 2005 assassination of Hariri's father, ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.

The militant party has said it believes members of the party will be implicated by the Netherlands-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which it has denounced as part of a US-Israeli conspiracy.

Although Hezbollah has said its alliance would seek to include its rivals in the new government, Hariri has ruled out joining a cabinet he says would be controlled by the Shia party.

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