Minister: Syria Plays Decisive Role in Choice of Lebanese PM
Lebanese Interior Minister Michel Murr conceded in remarks published Wednesday that any prime ministerial candidate would need Syrian approval to win even if he has the backing of a majority in parliament.
Even former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, who is attempting to make a comeback in ongoing parliamentary elections, would need Syrian support to succeed, Murr said.
Syria is the main powerbroker in Lebanon, where it has 35,000 troops stationed, and their relations were the subject of criticism during campaigning for the elections.
"Even if 70 of the 128 members in the next parliament support Hariri's appointment, that will not be sufficient for him to obtain the post of prime minister," Murr was quoted by As-Safir newspaper as saying.
"Everyone knows how a prime minister is 'made' in Lebanon," said the pro-Syrian Murr. "He has to have the agreement of Syria and the head of state," Lebanese President Emile Lahoud.
"And those who are counting on a disagreement betwen Syrian President Bashar Assad and Lebanese President Emile Lahoud don't know just how solid the relations between these two presidents are," added Murr, who is running for re-election.
Lebanon's constitution calls for the government to resign the day after voting, with the president selecting the new prime minister after consulting members of parliament.
A second phase of parliamentary elections will be held in Beirut, southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon next Sunday. Voters in last Sunday's first phase in northern Lebanon and the central area of Mount Lebanon handed big gains to the opposition combination of Hariri and Druze chief Walid Jumblatt.
Hariri "can, if he wants, win all the Beirut seats ... but he will have to take into account the regional power's desire not to let anyone have a dominant position in Lebanon," Murr said.
Lebanon and Syria do not have diplomatic relations but are linked by a "friendship treaty." - BEIRUT (AFP)
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