MIDDLE EAST

Lebanese cabinet formed after 10-month stalemate

All appeared ready for prime minister-designate Tammam Salam to announce a new cabinet. (File photo: Reuters)

After a 10-month stalemate, Lebanon on Saturday announced the formation of a compromise government.

Cabinet secretary general Souheil Bouji announced lineup, grouping the powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah and its allies with the Sunni-led bloc of former prime minister Saad Hariri.

Lebanese parliamentarian Nouhad Machnouk was appointed interior minister, while former energy minister Gebran Bassil was appointed Lebanese foreign minister.

Politician Samir Mokbel was appointed the new defense minister and former health minister Ali Hassan Khalil took over as finance minister.

The 24-member Cabinet lineup

Prime Minister: Tammam Salam
Deputy PM & Defense Minister: Samir Moqbel
Interior Minister: Nuhad Mashnouq
Foreign Minister: Gebran Bassil
Finance Minister: Ali Hasan Khalil
Justice Minister: Ashraf Rifi
Information Minister: Ramzi Joreig
Telecoms Minister: Butros Harb
Health Minister: Wael Abu Faour
Energy Minister: Arthur Nazarian
Labor Minister: Sejaan Qazi
Works and Transport Minister: Ghazi Zeaiter
Youth and Sports Minister: Abdul Muttaleb al-Hinawi
Culture Minister: Remon Areiji
Agriculture Minister: Akram Shehayeb
Economy Minister: Alain Hakim
Environment Minister: Mohammad Mashnouq
Tourism Minister: Michel Pharoun
State Minister for Displaced: Alice Shabtini
Industry Minister: Hussein Haj Hasan
Social Affairs Minister: Rashid Derbas
Education Minister: Elias Abu Saab
State Minister: Nabil De Freij
State Minister: Mohammad Fneish

 

Stalemate

After talks to end the political crisis in Lebanon and appoint a new government were once again stalled on Friday, late-night talks between officials revived hopes for the country.

On Friday, all appeared ready for prime minister-designate Tammam Salam to announce a new cabinet, which Lebanon has been without since Salam's appointment in April last year. The absence of a new cabinet has been plagued by deep divisions between Hezbollah and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri's Sunni-led bloc over the conflict in neighboring Syria.

Even after journalists had been called for a press conference to announce the new cabinet, another complication surfaced over the interior ministry portfolio just as Salam prepared to go to the presidential palace, sources on both sides told Agence France-Presse.

The dispute over the interior ministry portfolio was between the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition and the Future Movement.

But talks “between the rival political factions late Friday night focused on naming a more moderate Future Movement candidate for the interior ministry,” the Daily Star Lebanon reported.

Hariri announced on Jan. 21 that his bloc was prepared to join a government of national unity with Hezbollah and its allies, despite its strong opposition to the group's military intervention in Syria.

Hariri's camp "proposed two names, which were rejected by Hezbollah," a source said.

One of those named was retired general Ashraf Rifi, influential ex-chief of Lebanon's police force and opponent of Hezbollah. The second was MP Jamal Jarrah, a member of the Hariri-led Future movement, who has been accused by Hezbollah and Damascus of sending weapons to Syrian rebels.

“A final agreement on a substitute for Rifi in the interior ministry could pave the way for an imminent formation of a new Cabinet based on an 8-8-8 lineup,” the Daily Star had reported, citing political sources.

On Saturday, Rifi said in a statement that Hezbollah had been "blocking the formation of a new cabinet by disagreeing on the post of the interior minister.

“I will not participate in giving Hezbollah a chance to enjoy a moment of postponing [the cabinet formation] once again,” Rifi added.

Lebanon's prolonged government vacuum has been marred by repeated deadly bomb attacks on Hezbollah strongholds claimed by hardline Sunni groups which support the Syrian rebels.

(with AFP)
 

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Last Update: Saturday, 15 February 2014 KSA 14:38 - GMT 11:38
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Lebanese cabinet formed after 10-month stalemate
The Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition and the Future Movement held late-night talks over the disputed interior ministry portfolio
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