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Syria gives nod to new Lebanese government

Feb. 18, 2014 at 11:52 AM   |   Comments

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi extended a note of congratulation Tuesday to his Lebanese counterpart, Tammam Salam, for forming a new government.

Salam ended a 10-month political stalemate Saturday with the announcement of a new Cabinet. Halqi issued a letter to the prime minister saying the new government could foster "sisterly ties between the two countries" in the spirit of "security and stability," the (Beirut) Daily Star reported Tuesday.

Lebanon broke free of Syrian dominance with its Cedar Revolution in 2005. Bilateral ties soured as civil war in Syria threatened to spill over the borders.

Salam is considered close to the March 14 political coalition, favored by Western powers, but describes himself as a centrist, the Lebanese newspaper reported.

His new Cabinet includes eight ministers from March 14, eight from March 8, which includes lawmakers from Hezbollah, and eight others to be chosen jointly by Salam, President Michel Suleiman and Walid Jumblatt, a Lebanese lawmaker who helped with the process.

Hezbollah's role in Syria's civil war sparked reprisal attacks in Lebanon, security officials say. Gebran Bassil, whose Free Progressive Party is aligned with Hezbollah, becomes foreign minister in Salam's new government.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday the U.S. government "looks forward to working effectively with the new Lebanese government to bolster peace, stability and prosperity in Lebanon."

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