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July 11, 2008

Lebanonwire

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Lebanon's new government lineup

BEIRUT - Lebanon on Friday formed a 30-member national unity government, seven weeks after an accord which saved the country from the brink of renewed civil war, cabinet secretary general Suhayl Buji announced. The lineup was named in a decree signed by President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

Below is the lineup:

Prime Minister: Foud Siniora (Sunni, unchanged from July 2005 lineup)

President's share

  • Elias Murr: Defense (Greek Orthodox, unchanged)
  • Ziad Baroud: Interior and Municipalities (Maronite, new)
  • Yussef Taqla: State Minister (Greek Catholic, new)

March 14 Share

  1. Mohammad Chatah: Finance (Sunni, new)
  2. Ibrahim Najjar: Justice (Greek Orthodox, new)
  3. Ghazi Aridi: Transport and Public Works (Druze, change of post)
  4. Bahia Hariri: Education and Higher Studies (Sunni, new)
  5. Mohammad Safadi: Economy and Trade (Sunni, change of post)
  6. Tariq Mitri: Information (Greek Orthodox, change of post) )
  7. Raymond Audi: Displaced Persons (Greek Orthodox, new)
  8. Elie Marouni: Tourism (Maronite, new)
  9. Antoine Karam: Environment (Maronite, new)
  10. Ibrahim Shamseddine: Administrative Reforms (Shiite, new)
  11. Tamam Slam:Culture (Sunni, new)
  12. Khaled Qabbani: State Minister (Sunnite, change of post)
  13. Nassib Lahoud: State Minister (Maronite, new)
  14. Jean Ogassapian: State Minirter (Armenian, change of post)
  15. Wael Abu Faour: State Minister (Druze, new)

Opposition's share

  1. Issam Abu Jamra: Deputy Prime Minister (Greek Orthodox, new)
  2. Fawzi Salloukh: Foreign Affairs and Immigrants (Shiite, returns to post resigned in 2006)
  3. Mohammad Jawad Khalifeh: Public Health (Shiite, returns to post)
  4. Mohammad Feneish: Labor (Shiite, returns, change of post)
  5. Ghazi Zaayter: Industy (Shiite, new)
  6. Gibran Bassil: Telecommunication (Maronite, new)
  7. Mario Aoun: Social Affairs (Maronite, new)
  8. Elie Skaff: Agriculture (Greek Catholic, new)
  9. Alan Taborian: Energy and Water (Armenian, new)
  10. Talal Arslan: Youth and Sport (Druze, new)
  11. Ali Qanso: State Minister (Shiite, New)

Shares Rounup

President Suleiman

  • Defence Minister Elias Murr (Greek Orthodox, unchanged), Interior Minister Ziad Baroud (Maronite, new), and State Ministe Yusuf Taqla (Greek Catholic, new).

March 14 Alliance

  • Al-Mustaqbal Parliamentary Block: Premier Fouad Saniora, Education and Higher Studies Minister MP Bahia Hariri (Sunni, new), Finance Minister Mohammed Shatah (Sunni, new), and State Minister: Khaled Qabbani (Sunni).

  • MP Walid Jumblat's Progressive Socialist Party: State Minister Wael Bou Faour (Druze, new), and Public Works and Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi (Duze, former Minister of Information.

  • Lebanese Forces: Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar (Greek Orthodox, new), and Environment Minister Antoine Karam (Maronite, new).

  • Phalange Party: Tourism Minister Elie Marouni (Maronite, new), whose brother Nasri Marouni was shot dead in Zahle months ago during a Phalange party event.

  • Qornet Shehwan Gathering:  State Minister Nassib Lahoud (Maronite, new). Lahoud is a former MP and presidential. He replaced social affairs minister MP Nayla Muawad.

  • Armenian Hanshaq Party:  State Minister Jean Ogassapian (Armenian, held the Administrative Development portfolio in the previous government).

  • Tripoli Gathering: Economy and Trade Minister Mohammed Safadi (Sunnite, held the prtofolio of Tranpost and Public Works in the previous government).

Opposition Paties

  • MP Michel Aoun's FPM: Social Affairs Minister Mario Aoun (Maronite, new), Deputy Prime Minister: Issam Abu Jamra (Greek Orthodox, new), Telecommunications Minister Gibran Bassil (Maronite, new).

  • Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri's Amal movement: Industry Minister Ghazi Zaayter (Shiite, new), Foreign Minister Fawzi Salukh (Shiite) who returned to the post he resigned in 2006, and Health Minister Mohammad Khalifeh (Shiite) who also retains his post.

  • Hezbollah: Labor Minister: Mohammed Fneish (Shiite, returns to post resigned in 2006).

  • Armenian Tashnaq Party: Energy and Water Minister Alan Taburian (Armenian, new).

  • Talal Arslan's Lebanese Democratic Party: Sports and Youth Minister Talal Erslan (Druze, new).

  • Elie Skaff's Populer Block: Agriculture Minister Elie Skaff (Greek Catholic, new).

  • The Syrian Social National Party: State Minister Ali Qanso (Shiite, new).

A government 'for all the Lebanese'

The accord between Lebanon's political rivals sealed in Doha on May 21 allocated 16 cabinet seats to the Western-backed parliamentary majority and 11 to the opposition led by Hezbollah, giving it veto powers.

"The government of national unity is the government of all the Lebanese," Siniora told reporters at the presidential palace.

The opposition took the coveted posts of foreign minister, telecommunications minister and deputy premier in the new cabinet, while the ruling bloc kept the finance ministry.

Siniora , who himself only took office four days after the Doha accord, filling a post left vacant since November, made three appointments, including Elias Murr, who kept the defence porfolio despite opposition reservations.

He also appointed lawyer and electoral law expert Ziad Baroud to head the interior ministry which is responsible for organising legislative elections next year.

Finance Minister Mohammed Shatah, who was appointed by the ruling bloc, served as Siniora's senior advisor in the previous cabinet.

The government announced more than a year-and-a-half into Lebanon's political crisis includes one woman, Bahia Hariri, sister of slain former prime minister Rafiq Hariri. She is to head the education ministry.

Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun, whose party was not represented in the previous cabinet, took four cabinet posts plus the deputy premiership.

The Iranian- and Syrian-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah was allocated three seats in the cabinet, with Mohammed Fneish of Hezbollah to serve as labour minister alongside two allies.

Siniora, who was appointed by Suleiman, said the new government would have two key tasks: "To restore confidence in political institutions and the Lebanese political system ... and to promote moderation."

"Our differences will not be resolved overnight, but we have decided to resolve them through institutions and dialogue rather than in the streets," said the prime minister, who first came to office in July 2005.

The cabinet's inaugural meeting is to take place on Wednesday.

The breakthrough in forming a government which includes the Syrian-backed opposition came as Syria's President Bashar al-Assad prepared to join a Paris summit of European and Mediterranean leaders this weekend.

It follows a political crisis which broke out when Hezbollah, which Washington brands a terrorist group, and its allies stepped down from government in November 2006, shortly after a devastating Hezbollah-Israel war.

Parliamentary majority leader, Saad Hariri, said earlier on Friday that the breakthrough in weeks of efforts to form a new cabinet followed a concession to Hezbollah.

"I have asked Prime Minister Fuad Siniora to accept the nomination of Ali Kanso" in the lineup, he said, referring to a figure previously opposed by Hariri's camp. "We are making sacrifices in the interests of the country."

Siniora has struggled since the end of May to form a new government of national unity, under the Doha accord between rival factions following deadly sectarian clashes.

But the rivals were since locked in political bickering over the distribution of key portfolios.

The Doha deal was struck after 65 people were killed in May in sectarian clashes that saw Hezbollah stage a dramatic takeover of mainly Sunni areas of west Beirut, raising fears of a return to Lebanon's 15-year civil war.

The opposition had since its walkout from the government insisted on veto power and dismissed Siniora's last cabinet as illegitimate.

Siniora headed a caretaker administration after the Doha accord which in effect dismantled his last administration in the wake of Hezbollah's military show of force that was unopposed by the Lebanese army.

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