Mikati says he is 'consensus' candidate

Jan. 26, 2011 at 3:44 PM

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Lebanon's prime minister-designate, Najib Mikati, says he will form a government to preserve peaceful coexistence between the nation's Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

Mikati said he was a consensus candidate, but caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri's coalition has refused to participate in the new Cabinet, labeling Mikati as Hezbollah's nominee and unrepresentative of the Sunni community, Beirut's Daily Star reported Wednesday.

Mikati said his government would not seek confrontation with the West amid mounting concerns the new Cabinet will halt cooperation with the U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the assassination of Rafik Hariri's, a former prime minister and Saad Hariri's father.

"Why make assumptions that we are set to confront the West? What are the basic factors for such a confrontation? How do such rumors emerge? I am surprised," Mikati said.

President Michel Suleiman appointed Mikati prime minister after the Hezbollah-led March 8 new parliamentary majority nominated him to head the Cabinet at the end of two days of binding parliamentary consultations.

In an attempt to ease tensions after demonstrations erupted across Lebanese territories in support of Hariri and in condemnation of Mikati, Mikati said he would "govern justly and responsibly away from retribution but also with firmness and determination."

Mikati rejected attempts to characterize him as "Hezbollah's man."

"I say in all honesty that my nomination by Hezbollah does not mean I am bound by any of their political positions, except as concerns the protection of the national resistance," he said.

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