Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lebanon Hezbollah-led Coalition Has Majority In New Cabinet

Peace and freedom breaking out all over, eh?

From the Jerusalem Post:
BEIRUT - Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced on Monday a long-delayed new government dominated by allies of Iranian-backed Hezbollah, which is likely to cause alarm among Western powers.

Mikati was appointed to form a government after Hezbollah and its allies toppled Western-backed former premier Saad Hariri's coalition in January over a dispute involving the UN-backed tribunal investigating the assassination of statesman Rafik al-Hariri, Saad's father.

The Cabinet's majority is made up of the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition, and Mitaki was quoted as saying by the Lebanese Daily Star that the "government will be a government for all Lebanon and will work for all the Lebanese people without discrimination."

Political wrangling had held up the formation of the cabinet, including disagreements over sensitive posts.

The new government gave three ministers to President Michel Sleiman, seven to Mikati, and three to Walid Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist Party, with the March 8 coaltion claiming the remaining 18 seats.

Mohammed Safadi, the former economy minister, was named finance minister and will try to improve Lebanon's growth outlook which stands at about 2.5 percent this year, driven down by the political stalemate.

Fayez Ghusn was named defense minister and Marwan Charbel as the interior minister. Nicolas Sehnawi was given the telecommunications portfolio, a post ridden with controversy due to disagreements over privatizing the sector.

Hariri, who is supported by the West and Saudi Arabia, has refused to join Mikati's government.

A main aim of the government will be to agree on a unified stand to face indictments by the tribunal expected to implicate members of Hezbollah in the 2005 killing of Hariri. The group denies any link to the attack.

Mikati, who says he is politically neutral, said the Lebanese government would seek to maintain positive ties with all Arab countries.

Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has been fighting a popular revolt against his 11-year rule, telephoned Mikati to congratulate him, Lebanese media said. Syria is a strong ally of Hezbollah, the main player in the political coalition which helped bring Mikati to power in January.
WASHINGTON — A key US lawmaker called Monday for cutting all US aid to Lebanon's new government, in which Hezbollah and its allies hold the majority, and to any Palestinian government in which Hamas is a partner.

"The US should immediately cut off assistance to the Lebanese government as long as any violent extremist group designated by the US as foreign terrorist organizations participates in it," said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican and frequent White House critic.

Ros-Lehtinen warned in a statement that "Hezbollah and its cohorts will control the Lebanese government and likely benefit from the years of US assistance, including to the Lebanese military."

"We cannot undo past mistakes, but we can learn from them and safeguard taxpayer dollars going forward," she said.

It is the first time a coalition led by Hezbollah, which fought a deadly summer war with Israel in 2006 and is blacklisted in Washington as a terrorist organization, has dominated a government in Lebanon.

"The US should likewise stop funding the Palestinian Authority, where Hamas appears to be following in Hezbollah's footsteps," said Ros-Lehtinen.

"It is time for US assistance to truly advance our interests, rather than benefit the likes of Hezbollah, Hamas, and their partners," she said.