Fri, May 30, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Siniora appointment raises eyebrows

AFP , BEIRUT

Newly appointed Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora prepared for consultations yesterday with various parliamentary blocs on forming a 30-member Cabinet, which would include the Hezbollah-led opposition.

Siniora, 64, was appointed by the new Lebanese President Michel Sleiman on Wednesday to a government of national unity.

“Based on his consultations with members of parliament ... the president has asked Fuad Siniora to form a new government,” the presidency said.

The opposition made it clear it was not satisfied with the choice of Siniora, saying he did not reflect the spirit of national unity called for in last week’s Arab-brokered accord reached in Doha.

“His nomination is a recipe for conflict rather than reconciliation,” Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun warned.

“It seems the ruling bloc, rather than battling for a new Lebanon, is seeking to unleash a new conflict,” he said, adding, however, that his camp would not stand in the way of forming a new government.

A Sunni Muslim and close ally of slain former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, Siniora has been prime minister since 2005 and headed a caretaker government since Sleiman’s election by parliament on Sunday.

That earlier, US-backed administration was crippled by a long-running opposition protest campaign.

Siniora will be working to form a coalition government in which the Hezbollah-led opposition will have veto power over key decisions.

But he said he would seek to bridge the gaps among all the rival parties as he embarks on a new term and seeks to form a government of national unity.

“I extend my hand for cooperation and solidarity so that our country can achieve the breakthroughs it deserves,” he said.

He said he hoped all parties would draw the lessons from past events that must not be repeated.

“I call on all of you to heal the wounds and to overcome the divisions we have experienced and not to resort to violence to solve our problems,” he said.

Of the 127 members in parliament, 68 gave Siniora their backing on Wednesday.

The formation of a unity government is a key plank of a deal hammered out by rival factions last week to end an 18-month political crisis that boiled over into deadly fighting and threatened to plunge the nation into a new civil war.

Under the deal, the ruling bloc will hold 16 seats in the new cabinet and the opposition 11, with the president appointing three ministers.

Parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri said his bloc had decided to nominate Siniora again as he was the best man for the job.

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