Lebanon's new government
Formed on July 11, 2008, Lenbanon's new government includes both familiar faces and relative unknowns. Below are brief profiles on the 30 figures constituting the cabinet
Fouad Siniora, Prime Minister (Sunni, Future Affiliated)
Fouad Siniora was born in 1953 and succeeded former Prime Minister Omar Karami in 2005. Considered a technocrat, he obtained his business administration degree from the American University of Beirut and subsequently worked at Citibank, AUB and the Central Bank before becoming minister of finance in two of Rafik Hariris governments. Siniora held the ministerial post under successive Hariri governments (1992-1998, 2000-2004). A pro-business, pro-free-trade politician, Siniora was a close Hariri aide and introduced the VAT in 2002.
Siniora headed the first administration following the Syrian withdrawal in 2005 and formed his government amid the political turmoil resulting from the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Siniora witnessed two conflicts during his first term: the Hezbollah-Israel July War of 2006 and the Nahr al-Bared battles in northern Lebanon in 2007. He is remembered by many for sobbing while appealing to the international community for help during the July War.
Mohammad Chattah, Minister of Finance (Sunni, Future affiliated)
Dr. Mohammad Chattah was born in Tripoli and has been senior advisor to Prime Minister Fouad Siniora since his election in 2005. He was educated in economics at the American University of Beirut and the University of Texas, where he received his doctorate. He previously worked at the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C., and as vice president of the Bank of Lebanon. He was later appointed as ambassador to the United States from 1997 to 2000 and returned to the IMF in 2001. Following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, he returned to Lebanon to work under Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
Former MP Tammam Salam, son of former PM Saeb Salam, was the head of the Makassed Foundation in the 1980s. A known moderate, he called for the boycott of the 1992 legislative elections and ran as an independent in 1996, winning a seat as one of Beiruts Sunni MPs on Rafik Hariris list. After winning again with Hariri in 1998, he lost by a landslide in 2000. He has not aligned himself with any faction since the Cedar Revolution.
Bahia Hariri was born in Saida in 1952 and is the sister of assassinated former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. She has been an MP since 1992, elected to the same seat in the 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2005 elections. Hariri worked as a teacher until the late seventies, before becoming head of the Hariri Foundation. She also heads the Parliamentary Commission for Education and Culture, is a good will UNESCO ambassador, a member of the Lebanese American Universitys board of trustees, and head of the Islamic Organization for Higher Education. She has worked on projects aimed at supporting the development of the role and status of Arab women and previously campaigned to pass several laws to protect women. She is the vice-president of the commission for women at the inter-parliamentary Arab Union and was one of 1,000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.
Khaled Qabbani, Minister of State (Sunni, Future Movement)
Khaled Qabbani, was the minister of education and higher studies in Prime Minster Fouad Sinioras first cabinet from July 2005 to July 2008, and justice minster in the cabinet of former Prime Minister Najib Mikati from April 2005 to July 2005.
Mohammad Safadi, Minister of Economy and Trade (Sunni, Tripoli bloc)
Mohammad Safadi was born in Tripoli in 1944 and spent most of his career as a businessman. He started his first business in Lebanon in 1969 and then turned his attention abroad, investing in Saudi Arabia and Europe. In the 1990s, he established Safadi Group Holding SAL in Lebanon. The group deals primarily in property development, banking, aviation, information technology tourism and industry. In the year 2000, he successfully ran for one of the Sunni parliamentary seats for Tripoli. He won re-election in 2005 and is a member of the three-minister Tripoli bloc. Safadi served as minster of public works and transport in Prime Minister Fouad Sinioras first cabinet.
Ibrahim Shamseddine, Minister of Information (Shia, Independent)
Ibrahim Shamseddine was born in 1959 and is a Shia leader and the son of Imam Mohammed Mehdi Shamseddine, the former president of the Higher Shia Counsel. He is also the head of Imam Shamseddine Institute for Dialogue and a member of the Lebanese Gathering for Dialogue. He is the president of the Cultural Charity Organization, an NGO that works on education and development, originally founded by his father. From 1991 to 1996, he was the vice president of the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR). He is married with four children and has a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and a BA in Political Science and Public Administration from the American University of Beirut.
Ghazi Aridi, Minister of Transport and Public Works (Druze, PSP)
Ghazi Aridi was born in 1954 in the town of Baisour and is a prominent figure in the Progressive Socialist Party. Aridi first entered national politics in 2000 when he won the Druze seat in Beiruts third electoral district. During his first term as a parliamentarian, he served as minister of information in then-Prime Minister Rafik Hariris fourth cabinet from October 2000 until April 2003, and then became the minister of culture in Hariris fifth cabinet from April 2003 until October 2004. He was re-elected during parliamentary elections in 2005 and was appointed as minister of information in Fouad Sinioras first cabinet. Aridi has been a political advisor to PSP President Walid Jumblatt since 1991, and held several high-level positions in the PSP during the 1980s, including assistant secretary general, central information officer and member of the partys command council.
Wael Abou Faour, Minister of State (Druze, PSP)
Wael Abou Faour was born in 1972. He was elected MP in 2005 as part of the Democratic Gathering bloc representing the Western Bekaa (Rashaya). He is also a senior member of the Progressive Socialist Party. Abu Faour was a member of the following parliamentary committees: agriculture and tourism, youth and sports and information technology. He graduated from the American University of Beirut with a degree in Public administration.
Nassib Lahoud was born in 1944 to former deputy and minister Selim Lahoud. His cousin is former pro-Syrian president Emile Lahoud. As an engineer, he is the founder and partner of the regional construction company Lahoud Engineering Co. Ltd. He used to be Lebanons ambassador to the US after working to pass the Taif Accord and has been an MP representing the North Metn since 1991. In 2001 he joined the Qornet Shehwan Gathering and co-founded the Democratic Renewal Movement. He is considered a moderate when it comes to Lebanese-Syrian relations but is part of the March 14 alliance.
Elie Marouni, Minister of Tourism (Marointe, Kataeb)
Elie Marouni is the Kataeb party president for the Zahle district. He was part of the Future Movements list for the Bekaa Zahle constituency in 2005 but lost. Marounis brother, Nasri, was killed along with Kataeb party member Selim Assi in April when Joseph Zouki, an Elie Skaff loyalist, opened fire on a celebration for the opening of a party office in Zahle.
Tony Karam was born in Hadath in 1956. He received his elementary education at the Sacred Hearts School and his elementary and secondary education at the St. Joseph Institute, Aintoura. He graduated from the University of St. Joseph, Faculty of Medicine in 1985. He has been a member of the Lebanese Forces since its founding, and he was active in the medical field. He established a number of medical institutions. He is currently a member of the LF executive committee. He is married to Danielle Mattar and has two children: Mark Henry (18) and Tania (15).
Ibrahim Najjar is from the North Lebanon village of Amioun in the Koura district, is close to the Lebanese Forces and was formerly a Kataeb party official. He was head of the Kataebs Koura district bureau from 1973 to 1978. Najjar is also a law professor at Université Saint Joseph.
Tarek Mitri, Minister of Information (Orthodox, Independent)
Tarek Mitri was born in 1950 and has played a significant role in advocating freedom of expression in Lebanon. Most recently, Mitri successfully pushed for lifting the ban on the film adaptation of Marjane Satrapis Persepolis. Mitri was environment and administrative development minister in 2005 and is currently culture minister. He has a doctorate from the University of Paris and has been a professor in several international institutions. He has extensive experience promoting Christian-Muslim relations and has published on the subject.
Raymond Audi, Minister of the Displaced (Catholic, Independent)
Raymond Audi is the chairman of the board and general manager of Bank Audi SAL - Audi Saradar Group, Lebanon. Born in Saida in 1932, Audi has been director of the bank since its inception in 1962 and has been its chairperson since 1998. He is also chairman of the banks Corporate Governance and Remuneration Committee. Audi founded Bank Audi with his brothers, father and a Kuwaiti businessman, an institution that is now widely recognized both locally and regionally. He is also president of the Association of Banks and has received numerous awards, among them, the Euromoney Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Development of Financial Services in the Middle East, and an honorary doctorate from the Lebanese American University.
Jean Ogassapian, Minister of State (Armenian, Tashnaq)
Ogassapian was born in 1954, is a Beirut MP and is the outgoing minister of state for
administrative development. He studied in Lebanon, Jordan, France, Germany and the US. He
is a ranking colonel in the Lebanese Armed Forces and was the head of the presidents
security team from 1990 to 1999. He was the assistant to the commander of the presidential
guard from 1998 until 2000. He is a Future Bloc member and was previously a minister of
state in PM Fouad Sinioras 2005 cabinet.
Fawzi Salloukh, Minister of Foreign Affairs (Shia, Amal)
Fawzi Salloukh was born in 1931 in Qumatiyya, Aley. Salloukh was appointed minister of foreign affairs and emigrants in Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's cabinet in July 2005 and resigned in November 2006 along with five other opposition figures. He graduated from the American University of Beirut in 1954 with a degree in political science. He is a career diplomat and served as ambassador to Sierra Leone (1964-1971), Nigeria (1978-1985), Algeria (1985-1987), Austria (1990-1994) and Belgium (1994-1995). Before taking up his ministerial position, Salloukh was the secretary general of the Islamic University from 1998 to 2005. He is married to Hind Basma and has three children.
Ghazi Zeaiter, Ministery of Industry (Shia, Amal)
Ghazi Zeaiter was born in 1949. He was elected as an MP in 2005, representing Baalbek-Hermel and served on the administration and justice and finance and budget committees. Originally a lawyer, he is a member of the Nahib Berris Liberation and Development Bloc. He was previously elected as an MP in 1996. In 1998, he was the minister of defense.
Mohammad Jawad Khalifeh is a member of the Amal Movement and no stranger to his current ministry. He held the post in Prime Minister Fouad Sinioras first cabinet from July 2005 until he resigned with five other ministers in November 2006, and before that he served in this role in former PM Najib Mikatis cabinet from April 2005 until July 2005, and in former PM Omar Karamis cabinet from October 2004 to April 2005. Khalifeh is a doctor and has served as head of the general surgery department at the American University of Beirut Medical Center and secretary of the Lebanese Association for Organ Donors.
Mohammad Fneish, Minister of Labor (Shia, Hezbollah)
Mohammad Fneish was born in the South Lebanon town of Maaroub in 1953. He is a member of Hezbollah and entered national politics in 1992 when elected as a member of parliament representing Bint Jbeil. A member of the Loyalty to the Resistance bloc, Fneish was re-elected for that seat in 1996 and 2000. In 2005 he was elected to represent Tyre and appointed minister of energy and water. Fneish was one of the six ministers who resigned from the cabinet in November 2006. Before entering politics, he worked as a teacher. Fneish is married with seven children.
Ali Qanso was born in 1948 and spent the early years of his career as a teacher. Qanso is a strong supporter of Syria and has served as the president of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP). He served as minister of labor in former Prime Minister Rafik Hariris fourth cabinet from October 2000 to April 2003. Hezbollah nominated Qanso for the current cabinet, and it sparked a controversy when, on Wednesday, July 9, then-Prime Minster designate Fouad Siniora vetoed his name. On Friday, July 11, Saad Hariri announced that he told Siniora to withdraw his objection and within two hours, the cabinet was announced.
Talal Arslan, Minister of Youth and Sports (Druze, Lebanese Democratic Party)
Talal Arslan was born in the coastal town of Choueifat in 1963. Arslan hails from the Yazbak clan, which has long jockeyed for power in Lebanon with the other prominent Druze clan, the Jumblatts. He is married with two children and studied political science and economy in the U.S. before receiving a masters degree from AUB. Arslan heads the Lebanese Democratic Party which he founded in 2001 and has been involved in politics since 1988. In 1992, 1996 and 2000 he was elected to represent the Baabda-Aley district in Parliament but lost to rival Walid Jumblatts Progressive Socialist Party in 2005. Arslan has also served several times as a cabinet minister in the governments of former prime ministers Omar Karami and Rafik al-Hariri. He was minister of tourism between 1990 and 1992, minister of emigrants from 1996 to 1998, minister of state from 2000 to 2004 and minister of the displaced from 2004 to 2005. Arslan is staunchly pro-Syrian.
Mario Aoun, Minister of Social Affairs (Maronite, FPM)
Mario Aoun was born in Damour in 1951 and is a political advisor with the Free Patriotic Movement. He graduated from the University of Bordeaux with a medical degree in endocrinology and metabolic illnesses in 1982. Aoun worked as both chief of service at the Lebanese Hospital in Jeitawi and on the staff of St. Charles Hospital in 2004, and was the Free Patriotic Movements coordinator in Damour. He was elected the first FPM head of the Lebanese Order of Physicians that same year. The FPM lost control of the Order of Physicians in 2007, when March 14s list won. Aoun also ran for the Maronite seat in the Chouf district in 2005, losing to Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan, who ran on Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt's list. Aoun went to Doha with the FPM contingent in mid May of 2008.
Gebran Bassil, Minister of Telecommunications (Maronite, FPM)
Gebran Bassil is the political relations officer of Michel Aouns Free Patriotic Movement and a close Aoun aide as well as his son-in-law. In 2005 he unsuccessfully ran for the Maronite parliamentary seat in Batroun. He is a long-time FPM activist and was particularly active during the 1990s while Aoun was in exile in Paris. Bassil is a likely candidate for becoming the deputy president of the FPM, the partys second-highest position, which is allegedly creating tension within the party. Bassil was instrumental in negotiating the memorandum of understanding the FPM signed with Hezbollah in February 2006.
Issam Abu Jamra, Deputy Prime Minister (Orthodox, FPM)
Former Major General Issam Abou Jamra was born in the South Lebanon town of Al-Kfeir in 1937 and has been an important official in the Free Patriotic Movement since the movement was founded. Abou Jamra joined the Lebanese army in 1956. He graduated from the military academy in 1959 as an artillery officer, served as secretary of the army, commander in chief, commander of the second artillery battalion, commander of the second brigade, commander of the seventh brigade, inspector general of the defense ministry, and attended military courses in France and the US. Abou Jamra also received a law degree in 1984. He served in General Michel Aoun's military cabinet in 1988-89 as deputy premier and head of six ministries, after which he was exiled to France with Aoun in 1990. He returned with him as well in 2005.
Elie Skaff, Minister of Agriculture (Catholic, Popular Bloc)
Elias Skaff is from the Bekaa and a member of the Aoun-aligned Popular Bloc. He was industry minister in Rafik Hariri's fifth cabinet from 2003 through October 2004 and was minister of agriculture in Omar Karami's cabinet from 2004 to 2005. He has represented Zahle as an MP since 1992 and was the deputy during the April 2008 scandal when two of his blocs supporters shot up a Kataeb party headquarters ceremony, killing two before escaping. He denied giving the perpetrators cover.
Tabourian was born in Beirut in 1964. Tabourian is the son of former MP Andre Tabourian
and is a graduate of Harvard University. He previously served as minister in governments
led by Omar Karami and Najib Mikati.
Ziad Baroud is a lawyer and human rights
activist. He is a lecturer at St. Joseph University, where he received his masters in law
in 1992. Barouds areas of specialty are public and administrative, civil,
educational, and syndicate law. He also works as a consultant with the United Nations
Development Program, offering advice on local governance and decentralization, and is the
retainer legal counselor for the World Banks office in Beirut. Baroud served as
secretary general of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections and was a member of
the National Council for a New Electoral Law, which wrote a draft law in 2006. He
disagreed with the laws mandate to divide the mohafaza of Mount Lebanon into two
constituencies and lodged a formal objection, which was submitted to parliament along with
Elias al-Murr was born in the Metn town of Bteghrine in 1962, son of political heavyweight Michel al-Murr. He studied law in Switzerland and worked as a lawyer in Beirut, Paris and Geneva. Murr also serves as chairman for over 20 corporations in Lebanon and abroad. He married Carine Lahoud, daughter of former President Emile Lahoud. The two have three children and are now divorced. Murr entered government in 2000 as interior minister after Rafik al-Hariri and his allies won big in parliamentary elections and Hariri demanded Murrs father resign the post. Murr maintained that position until 2005 when he became both defense minister and deputy prime minister. Murr and his father were long-time supporters of Syria and closely tied to former President Lahoud. He survived an assassination attempt on July 11, 2005, in the northern town of Naccache. Murrs father has been moving closer to the March 14 coalition in recent months, and he formally left Michel Aouns Change and Reform bloc in April 2008.
Youssef Taqla, Minister of State (Catholic, Presidents quota)
A lawyer by profession, Taqla, who hails from Zouk Mikael, is the grandson of Selim Taqla, a prominent figure in the Lebanese independence movement, and son of banker and eight-time minister of foreign affairs Philippe Taqla.