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Middle east

Hariri to step down over cabinet deadlock

Video by Lucy FIELDER

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-09-10

Saad Hariri has announced that he is to resign as Lebanon's prime minister-designate after efforts to form a government coalition proved fruitless. His proposed line-up met with opposition from the Hezbollah-led opposition earlier this week.

Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has resigned, withdrawing from the task of forming a government of national unity.

The announcement comes 73 days after his appointment and just three days after he had presented a final list of 30 ministers for a new administration.

His proposition was immediately rejected by the opposition who claimed it had no say in the appointments.

In the face of this rejection, Hariri threw in the towel.

"I hope that this decision will be in the interests of Lebanon and will permit a relaunch of dialogue," Hariri told reporters in Beirut.

After the solid victory of his "March 14 Coalition" in the June 7 elections - winning 71 seats in parliament against 57 held by Hezbollah-led opposition - both his majority and the opposition gave their approval for Hariri to form a government of national unity, inclusive of all political parties.

The agreed formula had been 15 ministers from Hariri's coalition, ten from the opposition and five "neutral" ministers named by the president.

Yet, finding candidates acceptable to all parties to fill some of the key cabinet posts has proved to be far more difficult.

The rival alliances had agreed on the broad division of seats in the new cabinet but could not agree on the details of who should control which ministry.


Hariri had refused to yield to the demands of Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun, leader of the biggest Christian bloc in parliament.

At the heart of the dispute was Aoun's demand that his son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, keep his job as telecoms minister.

The telecoms sector has long been slated for reforms, including the privatisation of two mobile phone firms.

"It is now clear to the Lebanese who is behind the delay," Bassil told Reuters, in reference to Hariri. "The theatre of obstruction that lasted 73 days has finished today," he said.

Analysts say extra pressure from influential regional states such as Saudi Arabia and Syria is needed to persuade their Lebanese allies to compromise.

In line with the Lebanese constitution, the president will now begin consultations across the political board to choose a new prime minister.

If members of the "March 14 Coalition" majority maintain their positions, Saad Hariri could be re-appointed and have another go at forming a government.

Date created : 2009-09-10