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Lebanese president starts consultations to name a premier

Arab World Materials 24 January 2011 15:26
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman began consultations with the country's parliamentary blocs Monday ahead of naming a new prime minister following the collapse of Saad Hariri's national unity government
Lebanese president starts consultations to name a premier

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman began consultations with the country's parliamentary blocs Monday ahead of naming a new prime minister following the collapse of Saad Hariri's national unity government, DPA reported.

Suleiman first met House speaker Nabih Berri.

Lebanon's government collapsed on January 12th after the Shiite militant movement Hezbollah and its allies pulled out of the ruling coalition.

Hariri, who is currently acting as caretaker premier, is vying for a new mandate. But he no longer enjoys the support of Hezbollah and is not certain of commanding a majority in Lebanon's 128-strong parliament.

In turn, Hariri has ruled out joining a government run by a premier appointed by Hezbollah.

Hariri's Future Movement "announces its refusal to participate in a government headed by a candidate named by the opposition," Hariri's office said in a statement Monday.

Underscoring the difficulties involved in reaching a deal, Sunni Muslim former prime minister Naqib Mikati has nominated himself as an "alternative consensus" candidate for the premiership. But the western-backed March 14 coalition, which is loyal to Hariri, has dubbed him a "Hezbollah" nominee.

Mikati's nomination emerged after Hezbollah Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah said Sunday that former premier Omar Karami had turned down an offer for the job due to health problem.

Mikati, a billionaire turned lawmaker from north Lebanon, says he does not view his candidacy as a "challenge" to anyone, but rather "as an opportunity to restore contacts among (rival) leaders."

He says he would be a candidate of "moderation and accord."

Mikati is seen as a moderate politician who enjoys good relations with neighbouring Syria, as well as with Saudi Arabia.

He headed a government of technocrats following the assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri in 2005.

According to Lebanon's political system, which seeks to distribute power among the country's religious groups, the president should be a Christian, the prime minister a Sunni-Muslim, and parliament's House Speaker a Shiite-Muslim.

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