Lebanon

Lebanon appoints Hezbollah-backed PM

Reuters/Mohamed Azakir

Lebanon has appointed Najib Mikati as prime minister. President Michel Sleiman asked  Mikati on Tuesday to form a government, despite protests against the appointment by supporters of Sunni-majority parties around the country.

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Mikati is backed by Hezbollah, but is considered a moderate.

"I will cooperate fully with all Lebanese to form a new government that protects their unity and sovereignty," he said.

Who is Najib Mikati?
Reuters

Although a Sunni himself, he is unpopular among Sunnis who support Saad Hariri's 14 March bloc.

Demonstrators in Tripoli, for which Mikati is an MP, torched a van belonging to the Al-Jazeera television network and ransacked the office of a local Sunni politician who had backed him.

Roads were blocked in the capital Beirut, the southern city of Sidan and in the eastern Bekaa region.

Lebanon's power-sharing system decrees that the prime minister must be a Sunni.

France on Tuesday recognised the appointment of Mikati and said the government must be formed independently of other countries.

"It is essential that it is done within the framework of the constitution ... and reflects the independent and sovereign choice of the Lebanese people without any interference and through dialogue," said a Foreign Ministry statement.

The US had threatened to reduce aid if a Hezbollah-dominated government took power.

The government of outgoing prime minister Saad Hariri was brought down on 12 January when 11 ministers from Hezbollah and its allies walked out in protest over a UN-backed probe into the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father, the ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.

Hezbullah leader Hassan Nasrullah called on Hariri to join the new government.

"The new government will not be a Hezbollah government nor will it be led by Hezbollah ... We don't want power," he said ina speech projected onto a big screen in front of supporters in the eastern town of Baalbeck.  "If you refuse to take part that means you want to monopolise power."

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