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Lebanese PM-to-be to include Hezbollah in Cabinet

Lebanese PM-to-be to include Hezbollah in Cabinet

Lebanon's prime minister-designate has pledged to include Hezbollah in the country's new Cabinet, defying Israeli warnings against the militant group's participation in the upcoming Lebanese government.
Saad Hariri, the leader of the parliament majority, has been struggling for two months to cobble together a national unity government following the June 7 elections in which his Western-backed coalition retained a majority in the 128-seat legislature and fended off a strong challenge from Hezbollah and its allies.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this month that Israel would hold the Lebanese government responsible for any attacks on Israeli targets by the Hezbollah militants.
Netanyahu also warned Lebanon against letting the Iranian-backed Shiite group into the new government, which has been stalled mainly over demands for key posts by Hezbollah's Christian allies.
Hariri reiterated late Tuesday his determination to "include all factions" in the government.
"A national unity government that will, of course, include the March 14 forces alliance," Hariri said, referring to his Western-backed, anti-Syrian coalition which won the elections.
"I also want to affirm to the Israeli enemy that Hezbollah will be in this government whether the enemy likes it or not," he added. Hariri spoke to guests attending an iftar, the evening meal that breaks the fast during the holy month of Ramadan, at his residence in Beirut.
The comments were later released to the media.
Hariri stressed that a government representing all factions was needed to face economic and social challenges, including "Israeli threats."
Lebanon considers itself at war with Israel and bans dealings with the Jewish state.
Hezbollah and Israel fought a 34-day war in 2006 that killed about 1,200 people in Lebanon, most of them civilians, and 160 in Israel.
So far, Hariri has managed to agree in talks with Lebanese factions that the 30-member Cabinet will have 15 ministers from his coalition, while Hezbollah and its allies would have 10, and the remaining five seats would be appointed by President Michel Suleiman, likely from independent candidates.
This formula would guarantee the president the tipping vote, denying both Hariri's side an absolute majority and Hezbollah and its allies the strength to veto governement decisions.
But Hariri's attempts to form the Cabinet were stymied by Christian leader Michel Aoun's demand for the Interior Ministry and also his insistence that his son-in-law remain on as telecommunications minister. Hariri was reported to have rejected these demands. Aoun is a key ally of Hezbollah.
Hariri's efforts were further complicated when a key ally, Druse leader Walid Jumblatt, earlier this month bolted out of the Western-backed coalition, to go independent.


Updated : 2021-05-12 01:46 GMT+08:00