Lebanon’s new president General Michel Sleiman has asked outgoing Prime Minister Fuad Saniora to form a new Cabinet despite reservations by the opposition. Lebanon’s president appointed Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Wednesday to head a national unity government agreed under a deal ending 18 months of political conflict.  President Michel Suleiman asked Siniora, who has enjoyed strong U.S. backing, to form the cabinet that is set to govern until a parliamentary election in 2009.  "I call on everyone to take part in treating the wounds and moving beyond the divisions … and violence we have known," Siniora said after meeting Suleiman. The constitution requires the president, who was elected by parliament on Sunday, to appoint the candidate backed by the largest number of lawmakers. MPs informed Suleiman of their preferences earlier on Wednesday.  Siniora, who won the backing of 68 of parliament’s 127 members.  But the opposition controls 58 seats in the 128-member legislature and cannot outvote the majority’s candidate, which practically ensured that Saniora would get the post. Suleiman reappointed Saniora after 68 of the living 127 members of parliament he polled Wednesday said they supported him for the post. "We did not nominate Prime Minister Siniora as a challenge, but for reconciliation and to turn the page," majority leader Saad al-Hariri, Lebanon’s strongest Sunni politician, told journalists after informing Suleiman of his choice. The opposition, however, made clear that 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 General Michel Aoun said. "It seems the ruling bloc, rather than battling for a new Lebanon, is seeking to unleash a new conflict."  He added however that the opposition would not stand in the way of forming a new government. Their bloc have nominated  Layla Solh or Mohammed Safadi or Bahij Tabbara and said Saniora was a continuation of the past."  While Hezbollah’s and Berri’s blocs didn’t propose any candidates, Aoun nominated three other former ministers as compromise candidates to head the government, including a Sunni woman. The candidate to head the national unity government should have characteristics that reflect this title," said Mohammed Raad, the head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc.

BEIRUT – Lebanon’s new President Michel Sleiman began consultations on forming a government of national unity on Wednesday after the paliamentary majority chose Fuad Siniora to reassume the post of premier. Sleiman met members of the various blocs in parliament and was set to formally appoint Siniora to head a 30-member. Lebanon’s parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri — also tipped as a possible prime minister — said his bloc had decided to nominate Siniora again as he was the best man for the job. "We didn’t name Siniora as a challenge (to the opposition) but as a move toward real reconciliation and to turn over a new page," he told reporters after meeting Sleiman.  Lebanon’s parliamentary majority coalition agreed on Tuesday to nominate Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to form the country’s first government under newly elected President Michel Suleiman. The nomination, agreed at a late-night meeting of coalition leaders, means that U.S.-backed Siniora will be appointed to head the new cabinet  The ‘March 14’ coalition will officially inform Suleiman of its choice when he consults parliament on Wednesday. The president has to appoint the prime minister  nominated by a majority of MPs. The prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim under Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system.  "March 14 leaders agreed unanimously to nominate his excellency Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to form the new government in line with the Doha agreement," the coalition said in a statement. Majority leader Saad al-Hariri thought of getting the post himself but opted to keep on his close ally Siniora, mainly because the new government will stay in office only until the 2009 general election, politicians said. Siniora, 65, has been prime minister since July 2005. Siniora had told AFP at the weekend he was no longer interested in the job but would stay on if asked.  "I served for three years and I believe it is somehow time for a change," he said. "I’ve had enough, it’s time for me to go and seek other matters that have to do with public affairs."  Observers said the parliamentary majority decided to keep Siniora in his post to allow Hariri, son of Rafiq Hariri, to prepare for a legislative election next year.