New Lebanon PM prepares to form govt

2011-01-26 17:01
Beirut - Lebanon's Hezbollah-backed new premier was preparing on Wednesday for talks on forming a government in the deeply divided country as calm returned to the streets after protests over his appointment.

Prime minister designate Najib Mikati, a moderate billionaire businessman, was to make protocol visits to five of his predecessors before launching talks on Thursday with parliamentary groups.

Security was tight and several schools remained closed, but traffic returned to normal following a "day of rage" by supporters of outgoing premier Saad Hariri.

Anti-riot troops patrolled the streets of Beirut and the northern port city of Tripoli, a Sunni bastion and Mikati's hometown, where protests the day before had turned violent. There were no casualties.

Banners reading "Mikati, appointed by Khamenei", Iran's supreme leader, remained hoisted in Tripoli as tanks were deployed outside Mikati's home and offices.

Residents of Tripoli said they planned to set up a tent in a city square around noon to protest his appointment.

Under Lebanon's power-sharing system, the premier must be a Sunni Muslim.

Hezbollah indictments looming

Mikati is a Sunni, but supporters of Hariri, backed by Saudi Arabia and the United States, view his appointment as a bid by the Shi'ite militant Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, to gain more political clout.

The 55-year-old tycoon was tasked with forming a new government after Hezbollah and its allies toppled Hariri's cabinet because of a long-running dispute over a UN court probing the 2005 murder of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, Saad's father.

The Netherlands-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) is reportedly readying to indict Hezbollah members in connection with the Hariri murder, a move the militant group has warned against.

Washington on Tuesday accused Hezbollah of wresting government control through intimidation, and vowed that the STL would press on with its work.

In an interview with AFP, Mikati said he planned to address that thorny issue through dialogue.

"Stopping the tribunal today is no longer a Lebanese decision," he said.

He added, however, that Lebanon's co-operation with the tribunal was another question altogether, without elaborating.

Media divided

Mikati also rejected accusation that he was "Hezbollah's man" saying he was not bound by the party's agenda.

"I say in all honesty that my nomination by Hezbollah does not mean I am bound by any of their political positions, except as concerns the protection of the national resistance," the 55-year-old billionaire businessman told AFP in an interview at his Beirut home after his appointment to form a new government.

He was referring to the Shi'ite militant party's struggle against neighbouring Israel.

"Don't prejudge me or my behaviour, please, especially the international community," he added.

Lebanese newspapers were divided on Wednesday as concerns his appointment, with some mourning a "Hezbollah government" and others hailing it as a welcome change.

"Hezbollah's government set to see the light soon," said the front-page headline in the Arabic language daily Al-Mustaqbal, owned by Hariri.

"Now that the 'day of rage' has ended, it has become clear that all that smoke from the burning tyres could not mask the truth, which is that Lebanon has entered a new political phase," read the editorial in As-Safir, close to Hezbollah.

Read more on:    saad hariri  |  najib mikati  |  lebanon

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24

 
/Sport
Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Someone may be making you feel uncomfortable. It may be a power issue or a situation that is forcing you to see things truthfully....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.