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Lebanon PM accuses Hezbollah of blocking cabinet formation

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks during a press conference at his residence in Beirut on November 13, 2018

Beirut (AFP)

Lebanon's prime minister-designate Saad Hariri on Tuesday accused powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah of impeding the formation of a long-awaited cabinet after five months of wrangling.

Government formation is often a drawn-out process in Lebanon, where a complex governing system seeks to maintain a precarious balance of power between its various political and religious communities.

"It's very regrettable that Hezbollah has put itself in the position of bearing responsibility for hindering the government," Hariri said at a news conference.

"I've done my job and the government is ready" otherwise, he said.

Hezbollah has pushed for Sunni politicians allied to the Shiite movement but opposed to Hariri to be represented in the future cabinet.

Hariri, a leading Sunni politician, has refused to give up a portfolio that would otherwise go to his own party.

On Saturday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said no government would be formed if his Sunni allies were not represented.

"The lawmakers have demanded their right to be represented," he said.

"We will stand by them one year, two years, a thousand years" if needed, the Shiite leader said in a televised speech.

Hezbollah is the only political party not to have disarmed after Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, and has backed the Syrian regime in the war-torn country next door.

On May 24, after parliamentary elections, President Michel Aoun nominated Hariri for his third term as prime minister and tasked him with forming a cabinet.

But debates have dragged out the process, starting with a now resolved debate over Christian representation.

In 2009 it also took Hariri five months to form a government, while his successor Tammam Salam took 10 months after he was nominated in 2013.

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