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Lebanon's Hariri forms unity government with Hezbollah
Mon Nov 9, 2009 2:34pm EST
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By Nadim Ladki
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri formed a new unity government on Monday that includes two ministers from Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah.
Lebanon has been without a functioning government since Hariri led his coalition, backed by the United States and Saudi Arabia, to victory in a June parliamentary election against Hezbollah and its allies.
A government acceptable to all main parties is seen as key to maintaining stability in a country facing sectarian and political tensions, as well as a huge debt burden.
"Finally, the government of national concord has been born," Hariri told reporters after agreeing the cabinet at a meeting with President Michel Suleiman at the presidential palace in Baabda on the outskirts of Beirut.
"We have turned a page that we don't want to go back to and opened a new page that we strive to make a page of concord and work," he said.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner welcomed the formation of the Lebanese government and pledged the former colonial power's support for Hariri.
"The formation of a new government was necessary to resolve the conflict that Lebanon was facing, to assure the security and stability of the country...," Kouchner said.
He urged the new government to push through economic reforms demanded by donors and implement U.N. Resolution 1701 that ended a 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.
Hariri spent more than four months brokering a deal with the opposition. A warming of ties between the two sides' main backers Syria and Saudi Arabia in recent weeks helped ease the rift in Beirut and led eventually to a power-sharing agreement.
The new 30-minister cabinet includes 15 ministers from Hariri's coalition, 10 from the opposition including two Hezbollah ministers, and five, including the key interior and defense portfolios, were nominated by President Suleiman.
The president's ministers in theory hold the balance of power in cabinet, with the Hariri coalition unable to gain a simple majority and the minority unable to block key decisions as they do not hold a third plus one votes in government.
Incumbents Ziad Baroud and Elias al-Murr kept their interior and defense portfolios.
Raya Haffar al-Hassan was appointed finance minister, responsible for managing Lebanon's public debt burden, while retired university professor Ali al-Shami was named foreign minister.
Mohammed Safadi kept his job as economy minister.
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