Lebanon PM-designate throws in the towel

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The Independent Online

The Lebanese Prime Minister-designate, Saad Hariri, said yesterday that he was abandoning efforts to form a new government after the Hezbollah-led parliament minority rejected his list for a national unity cabinet.

Mr Hariri's move – two days after his proposed 30-member cabinet list was turned down – takes Lebanon into more political uncertainty, with President Michel Suleiman now forced to start consultations with MPs from scratch over naming a new premier.

It also highlights the continuing deadlock between Lebanon's US-backed camp headed by Mr Hariri and the pro-Syrian bloc led by the militant Hezbollah, despite the June parliamentary elections in which Mr Hariri's coalition won a slim majority. The Western-backed bloc fell short of the needed number of MPs in parliament to rule on its own. And while the Hezbollah camp also is not in a position to run the country, the two factions have not found a way to work together.

"I declare to all Lebanese, that today, I apologised to his excellency the President about [not being able to] form the government, hoping that this decision will be in Lebanon's interest," Mr Hariri said after a meeting with Mr Suleiman.

Mr Hariri has unsuccessfully tried to form a government since his bloc's victory in the elections, but disputes over the distribution of top ministries scuttled his efforts. After making no headway with rival factions, he named his own choices for the cabinet posts.

Hezbollah and its allies denounced this, saying they must be allowed to name their own members in the unity cabinet, to be made up of rival Lebanese factions. Mr Hariri said that Hezbollah sought to undermine the election.