Lebanon's new unity government held its first meeting on Tuesday but made clear that it would sidestep talk on the issue of disarming Hezbollah as demanded by the UN Security Council.
AFP - Lebanon's new unity government held its first meeting on Tuesday at the presidential palace, making clear from the start that it would steer clear of the thorny issue of Hezbollah's weapons.
"We will draft a new programme but we will be building on the programme agreed by the previous cabinet," Information Minister Tarek Mitri said in response to a question on whether the new government would address Hezbollah's arsenal.
Mitri said that the new cabinet, which met under the auspices of President Michel Sleiman, selected a committee charged with drawing up the new programme.
The programme adopted by the previous government of Fuad Siniora had also avoided tackling the issue of disarming Hezbollah as demanded by UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which brought an end to the Shiite militant group's devastating 2006 war with Israel.
Present at Tuesday's meeting with Sleiman were 29 of the 30 members of the new government.
Social Affairs Minister Salim Sayegh boycotted the meeting to protest his Christian Phalange Party not getting the education portfolio.
He was still apppointed in his absence to the committee that will draft the government programme. The 11-member committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday and has a month to complete its work.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of murdered ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, announced the formation of his new government on Monday, more than four months after his US- and Saudi-backed alliance defeated a Hezbollah-led opposition backed by Syria and Iran in a general election.
His government includes 15 ministers from Hariri's bloc and 10 from the opposition. The remaining five were appointed by Sleiman.
The Phalange Party is allied with Hariri.
The share-out means that no party will have veto power in the new government and that Sleiman will play the role of arbiter.
Hezbollah, which has participated in government since 2005, has two ministers in the new cabinet.
The Shiite militant party is the only faction that refused to surrender its weapons after Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war. It argues they are necessary to defend the country against Israeli aggression.
Date created : 2009-11-10