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Middle East
Lebanon's Jumblatt backs Hezbollah
Druze leader's decision deals a blow to caretaker PM Saad Hariri's effort to form a new government.
Last Modified: 21 Jan 2011 17:03 GMT
Saad Hariri, centre, has said he will seek to form a new government despite mounting opposition pressure [Reuters]

Walid Jumblatt, a Druze leader from Lebanon's opposition camp, has announced his support behind Hezbollah in a move that could give the group and its allies a veto over who becomes the country's next prime minister.

Hezbollah, which has a parliamentary bloc as well as a powerful military wing, commands overwhelmingly support among Lebanon's Shia Muslim community.  

Jumblatt said the aim of his decision on Friday was to preserve Lebanon's stability.

"I am announcing the right political stand ... by assuring the steadfastness of the group [Progressive Socialist Party] alongside Syria and the resistance [Hezbollah]," he said.

Jumblatt leads a bloc of 11 parliamentarians and his support is crucial to decide who forms the new government out of the two rivals: Hezbollah or Saad Hariri, the caretaker prime minister.

Hariri announced on Thursday in a televised speech that he would seek to form a new government despite strong pressure from Hezbollah for him to step down.

His speech comes after talks to try to end the stalemate over the formation of a new government in Lebanon came to a complete halt.

The Hezbollah-led opposition brought down Hariri's government last week after he rejected their demands to repudiate a UN-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 killing of his father, Rafiq al-Hariri.

"We have said Hariri should not come back, and yes he should not come back," said Michel Aoun, a Christian leader allied with Hezbollah.

Open to different outcome

Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, said Hariri made it clear in his speech that he will accept any outcome from political consultations expected to be launched by Michel Suleiman, the country's president, on Monday.

Suleiman has called parliamentarians for consultations to name a new prime minister after which he will ask the candidate with most backing to form a new government.

"He seems to feel that he might lose the battle with the Hezbollah-led opposition if they get enough votes to nominate their own prime minister and form the next government without him," our correspondent said.

She said Hariri blamed the opposition for the failure of his effort to preserve Lebanon's stability and security.

He also appealed for calm, saying: "Any drop of blood that falls from any Lebanese citizen is more important to me than any post."

Hezbollah and its allies are widely expected to nominate the veteran Omar Karameh, who has already served twice as prime minister.

In Lebanon's power-sharing political system, the prime minister must be Sunni Muslim, the president Maronite Christian, and parliamentary speaker a Shia Muslim.

It was not clear whether Hariri will get enough support on Monday.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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