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Lebanon`s Siniora set to lead new govt PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 30 May 2008

Reuters, Beirut- Lebanon's parliamentary majority coalition agreed on Tuesday to nominate Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to form the country's first government under newly elected President Michel Suleiman.

The nomination, agreed at a late-night meeting of coalition leaders, means that US-backed Siniora will be appointed to head the new cabinet in which the Hezbollah-led opposition is guaranteed effective veto power.

The 'March 14' coalition will officially inform Suleiman of its choice when he consults parliament on Wednesday. The president has to appoint the prime minister nominated by a majority of MPs.

The prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim under Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system.

Siniora's nomination is seen as a moral boost to a majority battered by major political and military setbacks at the hands of Hezbollah in recent weeks. Many opposition deputies are expected to oppose his nomination.

The 18-month conflict between the U.S.-backed ruling alliance, which has struggled against Syrian influence in Lebanon, and the opposition, led by Damascus- and Tehran-backed Hezbollah, was ended last week by a Qatari-mediated deal.

"March 14 leaders agreed unanimously to nominate his excellency Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to form the new government in line with the Doha agreement," the coalition said in a statement.

Majority leader Saad al-Hariri thought of getting the post himself but opted to keep on his close ally Siniora, mainly because the new government will stay in office only until the 2009 general election, politicians said.

Siniora, 65, has been prime minister since July 2005. He had been the target of an opposition campaign since November 2006 to force him to resign.

His cabinet's May 6 decision to investigate Hezbollah's private telecommunication network and to fire the head of airport security, who was seen as close to the guerrilla group, sparked Lebanon's worst fighting since the 1975-90 civil war.

Hezbollah, a Shi'ite group, routed followers of Hariri and other coalition leaders in six days of fighting that killed 81. The government later rescinded the decisions.

Suleiman was elected on Sunday as part of the Doha agreement. The deal met the opposition's demand for effective veto power in cabinet and set a new general election law.

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