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Aoun warns Hariri over telcom minister

Sept. 24, 2009 at 11:50 AM

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- Opposition lawmakers in Lebanon warned leaders against excluding the caretaker telecommunications minister from the next government.

Michel Aoun, the leader of the opposition Free Patriotic Movement, warned against eliminating his party's caretaker telecommunications minister as Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri embarks on his latest effort to form a new government, Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper reports.

Hariri was forced to step down last week when political wrangling and defections thwarted his first attempt at forming a new government following the June elections victory for his March 14 coalition.

Hariri angered opposition members when he moved forward with a Cabinet proposal without considerations for caretaker Telecommunications Minister Jebran Bassil, who is the son-in-law of Aoun.

The prime minister-designate announced he would launch five days of talks beginning Thursday in a renewed effort at forming a government. Aoun, however, expressed frustration with the deliberation plans.

"Five days of parliamentary deliberations is not a long period," he complained. "Thus there will be a decision afterward (by Hariri) either to form a Cabinet or step down."

Aoun met earlier with Michael Williams, the U.N. special coordinator for Lebanon, as the country prepares to take a rotating seat on the U.N. Security Council.

"This is a very important role for Lebanon, which requires a fully functioning government that can follow up on many important international issues," said Williams.

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