Lebanon announced on Thursday a new 30-member cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, after a nine-month deadlock during which political parties exchanged counter accusations on obstructing the country’s political process.
The lineup includes a health minister from Hezbollah (Jameel Jabak) despite reports saying Washington had placed a veto on any qualitative or quantitative increase in the party’s share in the new cabinet.
Also, Hariri surprised parties by appointing a woman, Rayya Hassan, as interior minister.
Hassan, who joins three other women in the new government, is a former finance minister.
Seventeen new ministers were named in Hariri’s third government, while nine remained unchanged. Another four - Rayya Hassan, Elias Bou Saab, Akram Chehayeb and Wael Abou Faour - had held previous cabinet posts.
“We apologize to the Lebanese for the delay. Many social and economic challenges await the cabinet,” Hariri said Thursday after the announcement of the new government from the Baabda Palace.
The PM said some matters could no longer afford delays and compromises.
“Cooperation between ministers is a duty in a bid to face the current challenges,” Hariri said.
He admitted that some hurdles had obstructed the formation of the government.
“But as of today and after the formation, we will put this behind us and start our work to revive the country and open a new page,” Hariri said.
Referring to the over $11 billion in grants and loans pledged at last year’s CEDRE conference in Paris to finance investment and infrastructure projects in Lebanon, Hariri said: “The funds are there and what is required is a decision to implement (these projects). But this decision needs administrative reforms.”
The cabinet saw the light on Thursday after political blocs agreed on the name of the Sunni minister representing six deputies from the pro-Hezbollah Consultative Gathering, and after the Lebanese Forces accepted to give up the culture ministry to the Amal Movement of Speaker Nabih Berri, who also accepted to offer the environment ministry to the Free Patriotic Movement.
On Thursday, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat said on his Twitter account that his party would help Hariri. “Yet we will object to any imbalance that affects public money and national wealth,” Jumblat wrote.
Last September, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that US officials had informed Lebanese leaders that any increase in Hezbollah’s powers in the new government would be confronted by a total American boycott, through sanctions on institutions governed by the party and a freeze of US planned aid to the Lebanese army.
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