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Lebanon Forms Government After 10-Month Deadlock

posted 15 Feb 2014, 06:06 by Mpelembe   [ updated 15 Feb 2014, 06:07 ]

Lebanon announces a new government, breaking a 10-month political deadlock.

BAABDA, LEBANON (FEBRUARY 15, 2014) (REUTERS) -  Lebanon announced a new government on Saturday (February 15), breaking a 10-month political deadlock.

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A caretaker government has run the country since former Prime Minister Najib Mikati resigned in March. Parties aligned with the Shi'ite Hezbollah movement and a Sunni-led rival bloc pursued a power struggle exacerbated by their support for opposing sides in Syria's almost three-year-old civil war.

New Prime Minister Tammam Salam declared on television that a new government has now been formed.

''The job has required a lot of effort and patience and delicate work and flexibility, but a government in the national interest has been formed. It is a comprehensive cabinet line-up that for the current time represents the best option for Lebanon. For the challenges it faces - in the areas of politics, security and economics - are many," said Salam.

He said he hoped the new government would allow Lebanon to hold presidential elections before President Michel Suleiman's mandate expires in May and finally conduct parliamentary polls that were postponed last year due to the political impasse.

''The spirit of the new government is capable of creating a new positive atmosphere to revive national dialogue to solve divisive issues under the patronage of the Lebanese president. It is also capable of preparing the right elements for carrying out the presidential elections on time and also for pushing towards the draft of a new parliament election law. I extend my hand to all the leaders and I am relying on their wisdom to achieve these goals and I call on all of them together to make concessions in the interest of our national project.''

Parliament designated the Sunni lawmaker as prime minister in April 2013. But he had been unable to form a government for months due to rivalries between the Hezbollah-dominated March 8 bloc and the March 14 alliance, led by the Sunni Future Party.

Among the top posts announced, former Energy Minister Gebran Bassil, from the March 8 bloc, becomes foreign minister. Former Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, also from March 8, takes the finance portfolio. Nouhad Machnouk, a March 14 legislator, was named interior minister.

Salam said the new cabinet, which he dubbed a "national interest government" was a mandate for the country to fight its growing security problem, which he linked to Syria.

Sectarian violence has erupted sporadically in the past year, particularly in the north, and car bombings targeting both security and political targets have increased dramatically, with Hezbollah-dominated areas being the most frequent target.