Majority of Lebanese MPs Name Hariri as New Prime Minister
Lebanese billionaire Rafiq Hariri -- a three time holder of the post -- was set Monday to regain the position of prime minister, with huge backing from the newly-elected parliament following his sweeping election win.
Around three quarters of the Lebanese MPs have so far named Sunni Muslim Hariri to head the new government in parliamentary consultations on Monday with President Emile Lahoud.
Ninety-one of the 108 deputies who sat with Lahoud till midday at the presidential palace in Beirut's northeastern suburbs of Baabda named Hariri to the post, according to an AFP count.
Individually or by parliamentary blocks, the deputies told reporters at the palace that they favored Hariri, who headed three governments between 1992 and 1998.
The 12-member block of the Shiite radical Hezbollah and five deputies from the Kesrwan-Jbeil Christian heartland north of Beirut did not name Hariri or any other candidate.
Eighteen more deputies were expected to take part in the binding consultations due to continue until 5:00 pm (1400 GMT), officials said.
Two deputies from the 128-member house, voted in at polls on August 28 and September 3,did not take part in the consultations for health reasons -- Christian Albert Mukheiber and Sunni Muslim Mustapha Saad.
Most of the MPs said they named Hariri because he was the "most capable" man to head the new government, considering the great challenges facing Lebanon because of the dire economic situation and the regional crisis.
Officials said that, in line with the constitution, Lahoud was due to meet later Monday with House Speaker Nabih Berri to announce the results of the consultations.
Lahoud would then invite the person named by the majority of the deputies to appoint him officially as head of the government, they said.
The appointed prime minister will, in turn, hold parliamentary consultations before naming the new government, they added.
Druze leader MP Walid Jumblatt told reporters that he named Hariri to "head the new government which has been formed three or four days ago," in an ironic hint that consultations were mainly for form's sake.
Beirut newspapers have been publishing the names for the 24-member new government, with just slight discrepancies.
"The name of the future prime minister is well known ahead of the consultations: Rafiq Hariri," said the leading newspaper An-Nahar. "The composition of the future government is also nearly completed."
The paper said: "The last touches were added in Cairo on the sidelines of the Arab summit, at a meeting between Lahoud and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad," whose country is the main power-broker in Lebanon where it has 35,000 troops deployed.
"The head of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon, General Ghazi Kanaan, is taking a very active role in negotiations for the formation of the new government," the daily added.
The negotiations mainly focused on a rapprochement between Lahoud and Hariri, who refused to head a first government under Lahoud in 1998 because of a row over the cabinet lineup.
Hariri was a big winner along with his allies in the summer elections and has a solid majority behind him.
The new parliament held its inaugural session on October 17, while the outgoing cabinet of Prime Minister Salim Hoss continues to function as an acting government -- BEIRUT (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)