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Lebanese PM-designate shuns Israel over Hezbollah

Lebanese PM-designate shuns Israel over Hezbollah

Lebanon's prime minister-designate reiterated his pledge to include Hezbollah in the upcoming Cabinet, in defiance of Israeli warnings against the militant group's participation in the 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.
Hariri has indicated before that "all factions" _ including the Hezbollah _ would be in the new government, to be led by his anti-Syrian March 14 forces alliance.
The latest pledge came in response to remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who warned Lebanon against letting the Iranian-backed Shiite group into the new government.
Netanyahu said earlier this month that Israel would hold the Lebanese government responsible for any attacks on Israeli targets by the Hezbollah militants.
"I ... want to affirm to the Israeli enemy that Hezbollah will be in this government whether the enemy likes it or not," Hariri said late Tuesday.
He spoke to guests attending an iftar, the evening meal that breaks the fast during the holy month of Ramadan, at Hariri's residence in Beirut. The comments were later released to the media.
Hariri stressed that a government representing all factions is 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 government decisions.
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.
Suleiman urged rival factions Wednesday to make "mutual sacrifices" to speed up the new Cabinet. A statement from his office said Suleiman held talks with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a Hezbollah ally, and the two stressed that all factions need to make an effort "so that the Cabinet can be formed quickly."


Updated : 2021-06-23 02:10 GMT+08:00