AFP – Lebanon on Saturday formed a compromise government after a 10-month political vacuum in the country, which has seen the war in neighbouring Syria exacerbate longstanding political divisions.
“After 10 months of efforts, of patience, a government protecting the national interest is born,” said Tammam Salam, Lebanon’s new prime minister.
“It is a unifying government and the best formula to allow Lebanon to confront challenges,” said Salam, who was tasked with forming the government back in April 2013 after the resignation of his predecessor Najib Mikati.
The announcement ends a 10-month political deadlock during which Lebanon’s security situation has deteriorated sharply.
Car and suicide bomb attacks linked to the conflict in Syria have rocked several parts of the capital Beirut as well as other areas of the country.
The new 24-member government includes both the powerful Shi’a Hezbollah group and its allies and the Sunni-led bloc of former prime minister Saad Hariri, uniting them for the first time in three years.
The two blocs sharply differ on a range of issues, including the war in Syria, where Hezbollah is backing the government by sending fighters and Hariri’s bloc supports the opposition.
Hezbollah is also accused of participating in the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father, former premier Rafiq Hariri, and five of its members are on trial in absentia before a special court in The Hague.
But last month, Hariri said he was willing for his bloc to participate in a government with the Shi’a group, removing a major obstacle.
The agreement announced Saturday divides the government’s 24 portfolios into three groups, with eight ministries going to Hezbollah and its allies, eight to Hariri’s bloc and the final eight to candidates viewed as neutral or centrist.
The arrangement is intended to ensure that neither of the two blocs has a veto power over the other.