Hariri forms unity government in Lebanon

Nov. 9, 2009 at 4:12 PM

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri formed a unity government Monday, delivering his list of Cabinet minister to the president after months of wrangling.

Hariri handed in his Cabinet list for a unity government to Lebanese President Michel Suleiman following weeks of tense negotiations with opposition leaders.

Lebanon has been without a government since Hariri led his March 14 slate to power in June elections.

"This government is either an opportunity to renew our trust in the state and its institution or a new stage to repeat our failure in achieving consensus," Hariri said at a news conference. "We look forward to a government that works for Lebanon."

Hariri had reached a power-sharing agreement with his rivals that awards 15 ministers to March 14, 10 to the opposition March 8 coalition and five to Suleiman for his appointment.

Hezbollah won an extra seat in the government, taking two of the Cabinet seats awarded to the opposition.

Hezbollah gained influence following its 2006 battle with the Israeli military. The increase in political power gives the Shiite resistance movement a voice on contentious issues, including the right to resist and maintain its weapons, the Arab satellite channel al-Jazeera reports.

The latest dispute over Cabinet deliberations centered on the telecommunications minister. Michel Aoun, leader of the Hezbollah-allied Free Patriotic Movement, insisted his son-in-law Jebran Bassil, maintain his post as the telecommunications minister despite a loss in the June election.

In the breakthrough deal, Bassil was awarded the post of energy minister instead.

Signs of a political deal emerged in the wake of a recent summit between Saudi and Syrian leaders in Damascus. Both hold significant influence over Lebanese affairs.

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