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Lebanon Forms Unity Government after Months of Political Deadlock

After weeks of political deadlock, Lebanon's Prime Minister announced Friday that a new 30-member cabinet had been formed, opening the door to reconciliation among fighting factions. The country, which has suffered repeated bouts of violence over the past two years, had been without a cabinet for six weeks. Aya Batrawy has more from our Middle East bureau in Cairo.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Fuad Siniora's new unity government gives 16 seats to the Western-backed parliament majority, 11 to opposition groups such as Hezbollah and three to be chosen by the Maronite Christian president.

Prime Minister Siniora expressed hope that this newly formed cabinet will bring peace among the various factions vying for power in Lebanon.

"Today, through this national unity government, we have decided to manage our disputes through democratic institutions and dialogue, and not through force and intimidation," he said.

In May, after months of internal strife and violence, the Arab League brokered the layout for the newly formed Cabinet, which gave Hezbollah and its supporters in the government veto power over government decisions.

The announcement of a cabinet comes at a crucial time for Lebanon. The country was left without a president for nearly six months until former military chief General Michel Suleiman was chosen. During that time and after, violence spilled to the streets between the Muslim Sunni and Shiite and Maronite Christian communities. Over 80 people died in May alone.

There were fears that a second civil war would erupt, just eight years after the country's 15-year civil war was put to rest.

Analyst Jamil Mroueh of the Lebanese Daily Star newspaper expressed skepticism that this newly formed Cabinet will be able to revive Lebanon's economy, which was once a hub for tourism in the region, and settle deep political rifts.

"I don't think that this Government is capable of doing anything about the economy or political stability if it does not set down to talk about issues in a manner that reconciles in a positive way," he said.

Some of these issues include restoring political confidence among the Lebanese people and bringing Hezbollah in the fold again after it boycotted formal participation in the government near the end of 2006, just after its war with Israel that summer.

The majority bloc agreed to support the opposition's proposal to include a pro-Syrian politician, Ali Kanso, in the newly formed cabinet.

The new cabinet gives the opposition the posts of foreign minister and deputy prime minister while the ruling bloc will be in charge of the ministry of finance and other key posts.