Saad Hariri quits over Cabinet row

Sept. 10, 2009 at 5:34 PM
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BEIRUT, Lebanon, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Saad Hariri, tasked with forming a new government in Lebanon as prime minister, stepped down Thursday days after opposition leaders rejected his Cabinet.

Hariri and his March 14 slate narrowly defeated the opposition March 8 coalition in the June parliamentary elections. Picked as the next prime minister, Hariri promised to work quickly to form a new unity government.

Through an agreement with the opposition, Hariri managed to secure a power-sharing arrangement with March 8 and supporters of Lebanese President Michel Suleiman. But with questions over his Cabinet makeup and political defections, Hariri on Thursday said he would step down.

"I announce to all Lebanese that I told President Suleiman today that I will step down from forming a government, in the hope that this decision will be for the benefit of Lebanon," said Hariri.

Analysts had expected political unity would be difficult in Lebanon despite Hariri's ability to pull rival leaders together.

Paul Salem, who directs the Middle East Center at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Beirut, told al-Jazeera that while Hariri was able to smooth lingering divisions, politics in Lebanon are not always cut and dry.

"Lebanon's political bargaining is always very complex and fairly arcane," he said.

At the center of the issue was the appointment of caretaker Communications Minister Jebran Bassil with the opposition Free Patriotic Movement for the next Cabinet. Hezbollah and its allies lobbied for his appointment, though Bassil did not win in the June elections.

Suleiman is scheduled to meet with lawmakers to consider a new prime minister. March 14 still holds the majority, however, so Hariri may be ultimately reappointed.

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