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Aoun undermines optimism in Beirut

Nov. 4, 2009 at 3:37 PM
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BEIRUT, Lebanon, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Opposition leader Michel Aoun rejected the latest proposal for ministerial portfolios in the Lebanese government following early optimism for a new Cabinet.

Lebanese leaders and opposition supporters expressed hope Tuesday that the latest round of negotiations over a new government in Beirut would produce a Cabinet by the end of the week.

Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri led his March 14 slate to power in June elections, narrowly defeating the opposition March 8 coalition.

Hariri has been unable to form a government despite a power-sharing agreement with the opposition and supporters of Lebanese President Michel Suleiman.

Hariri in his latest efforts offered Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, five seats in the new Cabinet including the Energy Ministry and the contentious telecommunications portfolio.

Social Affairs Minister Mario Aoun told Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper Hariri did not do enough to meet the demands of the FPM-led Reform and Change slate.

"We demand that the Reform and Change bloc retain its current share of portfolios," he said.

The opposition bloc holds the telecommunications, energy, social affairs, agriculture and state portfolios in the caretaker government.

Hariri's proposal included the Culture and Tourism Ministries instead of Agriculture and Social Affairs.

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