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Opposition Candidate Poised to be Next Lebanese PM


Lebanese MP and former PM Najib Mikati smiles as he delivers a news conference after meeting Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman at the presidential palace in Baabda, near Beirut, during the start of the two-day parliamentary consultations to choose a new

Lebanese MP and former PM Najib Mikati smiles as he delivers a news conference after meeting Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman at the presidential palace in Baabda, near Beirut, during the start of the two-day parliamentary consultations to choose a new

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah appears to have secured enough votes to nominate its candidate for prime minister, giving the opposition control of the next Lebanese government.
A parade of Lebanese politicians streamed through the presidential palace as consultations got underway on who would head the next government, announcing who they would support for prime minister.

But it was Druse leader Walid Jumblatt's announcement that he and six of the deputies in his bloc would support Najib Mikati as prime minister that swung the race in favor of the Hezbollah-led opposition.

Jumblatt's seven votes added to the opposition's 57 seats in parliament, plus Mikati's vote, gives them the 65 deputies needed to tip the nomination to their candidate, a billionaire businessman who represents the northern city of Tripoli.

Najib Mikati announced his candidacy in a statement late Sunday calling for dialogue and the re-establishment of trust among Lebanese leaders.

After his meeting with President Michel Sleiman, Mikati told reporters he told the president that in this time of political crisis there must be an effort to save the country and he called for unity.

But caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri said he and his Future bloc would not participate in a government headed by a candidate from the March 8th opposition.

Meanwhile, some disturbances were reported in the city of Tripoli, a Sunni stronghold where both Najib Mikati and Saad Hariri have a large number of supporters, as well as in Sidon, Hariri's hometown.

If the Hezbollah-led opposition secures its influence over the next government, they will likely move to cut off all cooperation with the U.N.-backed international tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, including ceasing financing and withdrawing all Lebanese judges from the international court.

Hezbollah, which gets its backing from Iran and Syria, is angry that Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Rafiq Hariri's son, is supporting the work of the U.N.-backed tribunal for Lebanon. It is widely believed in Lebanon that members of Hezbollah will be implicated in the massive truck bombing that killed Mr. Hariri and 22 others.

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