Lebanese government wins parliament vote

Government of Hezbollah-backed PM Najib Mikati secures its position as Western-backed opposition walks out before vote.

    Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati speaks after the announcement of a new government [Reuters]

    Lebanon's government on Thursday won a vote of confidence in parliament, after the country's Western-backed opposition walked out moments before the vote.

    The government of Najib Mikati, Lebanon's prime minister, secured 68 out of a possible 128 votes in parliament, where the Iranian-backed Shia group Hezbollah and its allies hold a slight majority.

    Earlier in the day, Mikati said his cabinet, which includes members of Hezbollah, would continue to co-operate with the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) into the murder of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

    "The government confirms it will continue the path of the tribunal ... and continue to cooperate in this regard as per the UN Security Council Resolution which set up the tribunal to see justice served," Mikati said.

    Last week, the STL issued an indictment in the assassination of Hariri, a powerful Saudi-backed Sunni billionaire and politician, and ordered the arrest of four Hezbollah members over the murder.

    Thursday's vote capped three days of parliamentary talks on the government's political programme, which had triggered a heated debate between the majority and the opposition, led by Hariri's son and political heir Saad al-Hariri, who did not attend Thursday's session.

    Mikati's programme includes an ambiguously worded clause stipulating that Lebanon will "respect" international resolutions as long as they do not threaten peace and stability.

    "I am following my conscience, my ethics, my loyalty to [late] prime minister Rafiq Hariri," Mikati said when interrupted by a member of the opposition, prompting a round of applause from the audience.

    New prime minister

    Najib Mikati, a Sunni Muslim and Forbes-listed billionaire businessman, was appointed prime minister on January 25 with the blessing of Hezbollah.

    After five months of wrangling, Mikati announced the formation of a 30-seat government in which Hezbollah and its allies control 18 seats, including the key justice and telecommunications ministries.

    The Hezbollah-led alliance had pulled its ministers from Saad Hariri's unity government on January 12 when he refused to end all cooperation with the STL, forcing its collapse.

    Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Syrian- and Iranian-backed militant group, has slammed the STL as a US-Israeli conspiracy and last week said he doubted the four Hezbollah members wanted by the court would ever be found.

    Among the four is Mustafa Badreddine, brother-in-law of top Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh, who was assassinated in a 2008 explosion in Damascus.

    Badreddine is suspected of masterminding the February 14, 2005, bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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