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President Aoun asks Hariri to form government

3 November 2016 14:57



Lebanon’s new president has asked former prime minister Saad al-Hariri to form a new government after the parliament speaker dropped opposition to the idea.

Hariri’s nomination is part of a political deal that resulted in Michel Aoun becoming head of state earlier this week.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri had opposed the deal but on Thursday he announced his decision to endorse Hariri for prime minister.

Berri indicated he would cooperate in efforts to set up the new administration. “If there was no intention to cooperate, we would not have named him,” he said.

Hezbollah’s MPs did not nominate anyone for the post of prime minister, but they are expected to take part in his cabinet.

Hariri is backed by Saudi Arabia which has imposed a raft of sanctions on Lebanon and withdrawn a military aid pledge to the country which is under threat from Takfiri terrorists and Israel.

A handout picture dated October 31, 2016 shows Saad Hariri (L) giving his congratulations to President Michel Aoun (R) after the presidential election session at parliament in downtown Beirut. (Photo by AFP)

In Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the post of prime minister is reserved for a Sunni Muslim, the president must be a Maronite Christian, and the parliament speaker must be a Shia Muslim.

Parliament elected Aoun as president on Monday, ending a 29-month vacuum in the post.

Hariri returns to the post of prime minister five years after his last cabinet collapsed when Hezbollah and its allies pulled their ministers from his government.

Saudi ties

He is returning to power at a time when Lebanon is facing a threat of the Syria war spillover, with Hezbollah fighters helping Damascus keep Takfiri terrorists in check.

Like his mentor, Saudi Arabia, Hariri has backed the foreign-backed campaign to topple President Bashar al-Assad in Syria through aiding militant groups.

Born in Saudi Arabia, where his father made his fortune, he was running the family’s Oger construction firm when Rafiq Hariri was assassinated in February 2005.

Hariri has Saudi citizenship and has tirelessly praised the kingdom, to which he returned after the collapse of his government. His wife and their three children live in Saudi Arabia.

In June 2016, Hariri announced his permanent return to Lebanon but continued to spend periods in Saudi Arabia, where the Hariri business empire has struggled of late.

While he has faced criticism within his constituency for his lengthy absence in Lebanon, Hariri’s influence with the Saudi royal family is also believed to have dwindled since the death of King Abdullah.

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