Lebanon PM seeks to form government

AFP , Thursday 27 Jan 2011

Mikati begins process of new government formation Thursday by meeting with parliament speaker Berri and the outgoing premier, Hariri

Lebanon's premier designate Najib Mikati on Thursday launches efforts to form a new government, meeting with political leaders including his Sunni Muslim rival Saad Al-Hariri.

The billionaire businessman was to begin his consultations by meeting parliament speaker Nabih Berri and then Hariri, whose government was toppled by Hezbollah two weeks ago.

He was then to meet representatives of the various parliamentary blocs before wrapping up his consultations on Friday, when he would report back to President Michel Sleiman on the outcome of his talks.

Mikati, 55, a moderate lawmaker with good ties to Syria and Saudi Arabia, was backed by the powerful Shia group Hezbollah and its allies to head the new government.

He has said he would seek to form a cabinet that includes all parties, but Hariri's Western-backed coalition has flatly rejected joining a government headed by a candidate they deem was imposed by Hezbollah.
Mikati said that should he fail in his efforts to convince his rivals to join his cabinet, he would form a government of technocrats.
Hezbollah and its allies brought down Hariri's unity government on 12 January because of a dispute over a UN-backed tribunal probing the murder in 2005 of ex-premier Rafiq Al-Hariri, Saad's father.

The Iranian- and Syrian-backed party, blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Washington, had been pressing Hariri to cut all ties with the tribunal and Mikati is expected to come under the same pressure.

Hezbollah believes that members of the party will be implicated in Hariri's killing, and has denounced the tribunal as part of a US-Israeli conspiracy.

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