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French Version


Fouad Siniora set to take mantle of Lebanese premier

Lebanon's Parliament is set to appoint a close aide of assassinated former Premier Rafik Hariri to the post of prime minister later today. Former Finance Minister Fouad Siniora, who worked closely with Hariri during his premierships, is widely expected to become Lebanon's prime minister following consultations with MPs and President Emile Lahoud.

Under Lebanon's Constitution the pro-Syrian Lahoud has to accept whoever the majority nominates, and Saad Hariri and his opposition alliance currently holds the majority in Parliament.

Hariri's Future Movement, which will take part in today's consultations through a delegation headed by Beirut MP Mohammad Qabbani, named Siniora formally for the post yesterday following a meeting of its members.

Hariri and his allies, including Druze MP Walid Jumblatt, the Lebanese Forces and Christian Qornet Shehwan Gathering, hold a majority of 72 seats in the 128-member Parliament.

Hariri's political stock value was further increased after Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, Hariri's election rival, agreed to allow his party to serve in the new cabinet.

Joining hands with Aoun, whose party has 21 seats, will give the anti-Syrian groups extensive power as they seek to end the remaining vestiges of Syrian control and embark on a substantive reform of Lebanon's political and economic structure.

Aoun, who had earlier insisted he would not take part in any cabinet, said he agreed to work with Hariri after a meeting between the two men on Tuesday.

Asked whether he would be amenable to ex-Siniora's appointment as premier, Aoun said he would go along with whoever Hariri's bloc nominates.

He said: "Normally, this is democracy. Hariri has the majority in Parliament, so we will support his candidate."

Opposition figure Ghattas Khoury visited Aoun late last night, in what sources close said were talks aimed at discussing the details of FPM participation in the Cabinet.

Speaking earlier, Aoun said details such as the number of cabinet ministers from his bloc and ministries allocated to them would be further discussed in other meetings with the Future Movement.

Tomorrow's consultations will also witness the first meeting between Aoun and Lahoud in more than 15 years. The pair are to have two protocol meetings. Aoun will meet Lahoud first as a former premier, and for a second meeting in the afternoon as the head of a parliamentary bloc.

Beirut 29-06-2005
Majdoline Hatoum
The Daily Star



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