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Lebanon PM hopes for new govt soon

PM says cannot fix date for when new govt to be formed.

February 2, 2011 10:04 by

Lebanon’s newly-elected prime minister Najib Mikati said he hoped to form a government soon with the backing of former premier Saad al-Hariri’s camp, in an interview with a French daily to be published on Wednesday.

Mikati started talks last Thursday to form a government to succeed Hariri, who was brought down by resignations of Hezbollah ministers and their allies two weeks ago, and had urged his rival to join a government of all Lebanese factions.

But sources close to Hariri have told Reuters that neither he nor his political allies would join the government of his Hezbollah-backed successor Mikati.

Asked if he could say when a new government would be formed, Mikati told Le Figaro newspaper: “I cannot commit to a date. But I have a very good hope of being able to form my government, with the participation of the Hariri camp.

“This camp has never expressed any doubts about my convictions or political positions; whatever criticisms have been made were about the way I was nominated,” he said in an advance edition of the paper.

Hariri’s March 14 movement had earlier demanded Mikati maintain Lebanon’s ties to a U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 killing of Hariri’s father, Muslim statesman Rafik al-Hariri.

The tribunal is at the heart of a dispute between Hariri and Shi’ite movement Hezbollah, which expects the court to accuse some of its members in the killing. Mikati said that he would seek consensus in Lebanon on dealing with the court.

Mikati denied being backed by Hezbollah while saying that he was sympathetic to the group’s opposition to Israel and maintaining military preparedness for an attack.

“Of the 68 deputies that were elected, only 10 belong to Hezbollah … Hezbollah asked me for assurances before electing me but I said I could not guarantee them,” he said.

“I agreed to only one thing: protecting the resistance, because keeping weapons pointed toward Israel is a point of agreement among all Lebanese.”

(Reporting by Nick Vinocur; editing by Andrew Roche)

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