Saad Hariri named Lebanon’s new prime minister

Beirut, Nov 03: Leading Sunni political figure Saad Hariri was named as Lebanon’s new prime minister on Thursday, the office of President Michel Aoun announced.

“After the necessary parliamentary consultations… the president has entrusted Saad Hariri with the formation of a government,” said a statement read by the president’s chief of staff Antoine Choukeir.

This will be Saad Hariri’s second stint as Lebanon’s Prime Minister; his first term ended with his departure from the country.

Hariri has been accused of aiding jihadists in Lebanon and Syria by Hezbollah and several politicians from the March 8th bloc  – he has denied these allegations.

In the country’s sectarian-based political system, the prime minister, always a Sunni, is likely to face a daunting job, balancing different and often rival groups, to form a new Cabinet.

Gebran Bassil, who heads the Free Patriotic Movement of Aoun, said they back Hariri’s nomination for the premier post.

“We accept whoever accepts us. All our votes will go to Hariri because he recognized us and we will side with him in all the difficulties he will face,” Bassil told reporters.

Lebanon has been without a head of state since May 2014. According to the power sharing system governing Lebanese politics since the 1990s, the president must be a Maronite Christian.

Parliament failed in 45 different sessions to vote for a president, amid political infighting and boycotts, before Monday’s election of Aoun.

Hariri’s about-face in support of Aoun last month broke the deadlock and changed the political landscape in Lebanon, bringing old-time foes on the same side, while allies differed.

Hariri, 46, served as prime minister briefly between late 2009 and 2011, when his government was brought down by powerful Lebanese Hezbollah group, now a major Aoun backer. He since left Lebanon, and was a vocal critic of Hezbollah. He returned earlier this year, sounding a more conciliatory tone.

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