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Lebanon's Unity Government Convenes for First Time

Lebanon's Unity Government Convenes for First Time

Lebanon's Unity Government Convenes for First Time

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Lebanon's unity government has held its first meeting, one day after the formation of a government ended the country's five-month power vacuum.

The newly announced Cabinet ministers met with Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman at the presidential palace Tuesday.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced the new 30-member Cabinet Monday. It includes five ministers appointed by Mr. Suleiman, 15 ministers from Mr. Hariri's coalition and 10 from the opposition.

Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria, was given key positions in the new government, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The international community has welcomed the formation of the unity government. Statements of congratulations came in from the European Union, the United States, the United Nations, Syria, Iran and elsewhere.

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, called on all parties involved to ensure Lebanon's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs Tuesday said the United States looks forward to working with the new government.

Iran's official news agency, IRNA, Tuesday quoted an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, as saying Tehran believes that a powerful Lebanese government that cooperates with regional countries could help Lebanon's development.

And Syria's official news agency, SANA, reported Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sent a congratulatory note to Lebanese President Suleiman.

The report says Mr. Assad "expressed hope that this stage would be good" for Lebanon and its people.

Late Monday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the formation of the unity government and urged it to comply with a Security Council resolution to disarm Hezbollah's militia and end arms smuggling.

Mr. Hariri has been trying to form a government since the June general election, when his coalition defeated politicians allied with Hezbollah.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.