Lebanon president airs cabinet plan

Emile Lahoud proposes new 'national unity' cabinet to alleviate political crisis.

    Lahoud, left, made the proposal in a meeting attended by the Maronite patriarch [AFP]

    Lahoud said the six-member cabinet would allow presidential elections to go ahead as scheduled for autumn.


    Increasing tension


    The meeting comes amid rising political tension in Lebanon.


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    An opposition boycott, led by Shia group Hezbollah, has severely restricted the authority of the government of Fouad Siniora, the country's prime minister.


    Officials close to Lahoud said the president made the proposal because of difficulties in forming a government of national unity.


    The opposition has sought a national unity government since six allied ministers resigned from the cabinet last November.


    An opposition sit-in in the centre of Beirut has been ongoing since the start of December.


    Soldier dies


    Also on Tuesday, a Lebanese army soldier died after being shot in more clashes with fighters sheltering in a Palestinian refugee camp.


    The soldier was hit in the head by sniper fire on Monday afternoon in battles with Fatah al-Islam fighters in the Nahr al-Bared camp near Tripoli.


    The solider died in hospital the following day, security officials said.


    Hundreds of Lebanese troops have encircled the camp, with the government threatening to storm the area if Fatah al-Islam fighters do not surrender.


    A sharp escalation in gunfire exchanges between the Lebanese army and Fatah al-Islam at Nahr al-Bared was reported before sundown on Tuesday.


    The latest fighting threatens the end of a week-long truce that has generally held amid sporadic clashes.




    In Beirut, a man suspected of belonging to Fatah al-Islam was arrested after police raided an apartment in Ashrafieh, a Christian neighborhood in the heart of the Lebanese capital.


    Police officials said the man was using a forged Lebanese name and forged passports.


    They said police also confiscated several CDs from the apartment that appeared to be related to the group's work.


    Also in Beirut, a woman died from gunshot wounds when police opened fire on a car in which she was travelling.


    Officials said the car failed to stop at a police checkpoint.


    The driver of the car was identified as the woman's husband and had several arrest warrants against him.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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