BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s new government has set up a national commission to draw up a new election law in a move widely seen as a crucial step toward political reform after the withdrawal of Syrian forces from the country. The cabinet approved on Monday night the formation of the 12-member half-Muslim half-Christian committee headed by Fouad Butros, a widely respected former foreign minister. The United States, European Union and the United Nations have urged Lebanon to press ahead with political and economic reforms after Syria ended its 29-year military presence in April under pressure after the February killing of ex-premier Rafik al-Hariri.Elections in May and June were conducted on the basis of a law adopted in 2000 which had been drawn up to help local allies of Damascus retain their positions in the political status quo.In a statement issued after Monday’s meeting, the government said the commission was charged with “preparing an election law in line with the constitution and the national consensus accord that ensures the best possible and fairest representation.” Before submitting its draft proposal, it will hold talks with the country’s party leaders, political, intellectual and spiritual figures as well as international bodies.Many Lebanese leaders had criticized the 2000 law but said there was no time to change it before the elections. The vote, which ended on June 19, brought forward an anti-Syria majority to the 128-member parliament for the first time.

EU observers strongly criticized the 2000 electoral law in a report issued in late July and called for an overhaul.