Hezbollah-backed candidate Najib Mikati, a telecoms billionaire, was appointed Lebanon's prime minister-designate on Tuesday. The move sparked anger among many Sunnis who criticise his ties to Hezbollah, which receives support from Iran.
AFP - Najib Mikati, who was appointed Lebanon's prime minister-designate on Tuesday, is a self-made telecoms billionaire with interests also in real estate, oil and gas and other industries
Mikati was nominated for the post by 68 out of 128 MPs after the Shiite militant group Hezbollah brought down the unity government of outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri on January 12.
The appointment unleashed a wave of anger among the country's Sunni Muslims, who accuse him of betraying his community after he secured the backing of Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its allies for premiership.
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A former prime minister, Mikati has a reputation as a moderate who enjoys good ties with Lebanon's former powerbroker Syria, which is steadily regaining influence over its smaller neighbour.
But his popularity among Lebanon's Sunnis pales next to that of Saudi- and Western-backed Hariri. The 55-year-old magnate first entered local politics in 1998 and was last elected to parliament in 2009 as an ally of Hariri.
Today, he maintains that he is a centrist and after his appointment vowed to reach out to all parties, at a time when Hezbollah and Hariri are going head to head over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).
"I will cooperate fully with all Lebanese to form a new government that protects their unity and sovereignty," Mikati told reporters in Beirut.
The UN-backed tribunal is investigating the 2005 murder of Hariri's father, ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, and this month filed a draft indictment for review.
The government collapse capped a long-running dispute over the STL, which Hezbollah has said will indict its members, warning any such accusation would have "grave repercussions".
Tall, clean-cut and composed, Mikati emerged as a leader in the wake of Rafiq Hariri's murder, when he headed a three-month interim government in 2005 during the worst political turmoil to grip Lebanon since the 1975-1990 civil war.
The Hariri assassination resulted in a wave of rage among Lebanon's anti-Syrian communities and sparked mass protests that forced the resignation of Omar Karameh's Damascus-backed government.
Mikati stepped up and pledged to fire security officials and the public prosecutor in the aftermath of the killing, which secured him the support of Lebanon's mourning Sunnis.
Within two weeks, he had formed a slimline 14-member government made up mainly of technocrats. Three months later he was succeeded by Fuad Siniora.
Mikati, who hails from the Sunni bastion of Tripoli in north Lebanon, was first appointed minister of transport and public works in 1998.
In 2000, he beat fellow Tripoli native Karameh in a legislative vote, landing himself a seat in parliament while still serving in government.
He owns the M1 Group, an international investment holding group with shares in South Africa's telecom MTN Group and French fashion line Faconnable, and has interests in real estate, oil and gas and other industries.
Forbes magazine in 2010 estimated his net worth at 2.5 billion dollars, making him one of Lebanon's richest men. He ties for rank 374 on the Forbes list of billionaires with his brother and business partner Taha.
Born on November 24, 1955, Mikati is a graduate of the American University of Beirut's business school and also studied at the prestigious universities of INSEAD and Harvard.
He is married with three children.
Date created : 2011-01-25