Lebanon finally forms government  

Intensive Lebanese efforts give birth to triumphant national-unity Cabinet
Mr Hariri’s bloc won the election but had to form a unity government Lebanese President Michel Suleiman has announced the formation of the 30-member national-unity cabinet – five months after a general election. Five ministers were chosen by President Suleiman, and 15 are from PM-designate Saad Hariri’s Western-backed coalition.

The remaining 10 are from the opposition, including two members of Hezbollah, which struck a deal with the governing coalition last week.  The deadlock over the new government had threatened Lebanon’s stability.  Mr Hariri’s coalition won a narrow majority in June’s election, but needed to negotiate with the opposition to form a unity government.  "Finally, a government of national unity is born," Mr Hariri said.  "I want to be honest from the start: this government can be a chance to renew faith in the state and its institutions… or it can turn into a replay of our failures."  ‘Real partnership’Hezbollah representative Mohammed Fneish told the Associated Press news agency: "This formula achieves the principle of real partnership in political decision-making on key decisions."

One of the major reasons behind the delay was a series of extensive deliberations by Hariri with Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader Michel Aoun, who insisted that his Reform and Change bloc be granted a basket of key portfolios.

However, an improvement in relations between regional power brokers Syria and Saudi Arabia in recent weeks has helped ease the rift in Beirut and led eventually to a power-sharing agreement.

“Finally, a government of national unity is born as we turn a new page that we hope will be based on consensus and partnership to serve Lebanon’s best interests,” Hariri told reporters after the decree signed by both him and the president was made public.

Hariri stressed that the new Cabinet should reflect consensus and establish the basis for true cooperation and partnership to meet the Lebanese people’s needs rather than turning into a “bickering table” to exchange accusations and obstruct the role of constitutional institutions.

“I trust that this new Cabinet will face the upcoming challenges and [be] a gateway for the salvation of the Lebanese people from times of chaos, emigration and crisis,” Hariri added.

The premier also underscored that the new government would launch developmental projects as well as institutional reforms to put an end to corruption and resolve the issue of the rising public debt.

Political analysts believe the formation of a national-unity government embracing all political parties is the key to maintaining political and security stability in a country facing sectarian and political tensions, as well as a huge debt burden.

Following his departure from Baabda, Hariri headed forhis residence in Qoreitem, where he received delegations congratulating him on the Cabinet formation.

The president, a power broker in the new 30-member Cabinet line-up, was allotted the Interior and Defense ministries, which remained headed by Ziyad Baroud and Elias Murr, respectively, along with Ministers of State Mona Ofeish, Adnan Sayyed Hassan and Adnan Qassar.

 Saad Hariri’s Lebanon First bloc named the ministers of Finance (Rayya Haffar ), Information (Tarek Mitri), Education (Hussein Mneimneh), Economy (Mo­hammad Safadi) and Environment (Mohammad Rahhal), as well as the ministers sf atate Jean Hogassapian and Michel Pharaon.

Prior to the Cabinet’s formation, Hariri met with a leading Christian ally in the March 14 coalition, Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel, while a delegation of March 14 officials paid a visit to Batroun MP Butros Harb, to urge him to take part in the Cabinet.

The negotiations led to the appointment of Harb as labor minister while the Phalange Party abandoned its demand for the Education Ministry and settled for the Social Affairs portfolio, to be headed by party official Salim Sayegh.

The Justice Ministry portfolio, which had earlier been demanded by Harb, was later assigned to the Lebanese Forces (LF), with current Minister Ibrahim Najjar retaining the post, while the Culture Ministry portfolio was granted to Salim Wardeh, also as part of the LF’s share in the new government

Meanwhile, Aoun’s Reform and Change bloc received the following portfolios: Telecommunications (Charbel Nahhas), Energy (Jibran Bassil), Industry (Ibrahim Dedeyan, on behalf of the Tashnag Party) and Tourism (Fadi Abboud), along with a ministry of state headed by Marada Movement official Youssef Saade.

Aoun made public his selections after a meeting in Rabieh with Hariri earlier in the day.

Aoun’s ally Hizbullah re­ceived the Agriculture portfolio and Ministry of State for Administrative Development, headed by Hussein Hajj Hassan and Mo­hammad Fneish, respectively.

The Amal Movement was allotted the Foreign Ministry (Ali Shami), Sports and Youth Ministry (Ali Abdullah) and the Health Ministries (Mohammad Jawad Khalifeh).

The Progressive Socialist Party received three portfolios: Ghazi Aridi (Public Works), Akram Chehayeb (Displaced) and Wael Bou Faour (minister of state).

The Cabinet’s policy statement is not expected to necessitate prolonged negotiations since the issue of Hizbullah’s weapons is to be tackled during National Dialogue sessions, as Sleiman has announced.

The cabinet is scheduled to hold its first meeting Tuesday at Baabda Palace to form a committee to draft the statement.

Separately and earlier Monday, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir called on politicians to rise above personal interests and refrain from bickering over ministerial gains in favor of the country’s best interests.