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Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Picks Cabinet

Najib Mikati
Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati announced he has succeeded in forming a new government, after a month and a half of political wrangling by pro-Syrian and opposition politicians.

Lebanon's fledgling Prime Minister Najib Mikati made the eagerly-waited announcement that he had put together a new government at the presidential palace.

The government, with those named today, he insisted, will be a short-term administration, destined to supervise parliamentary elections, quickly, and within the constitutional time frame, "God willing," as he put it.

Mr. Mikati denied that there had been a tug-of-war between Lebanon's opposition movement and pro-Syrian politicians, in choosing his ministers.

Just 14 ministers make up the new government, which has representatives from Lebanon's major religious communities. The previous government of out-going Prime Minister Omar Karami was nearly double its size, with more than 30 ministers.

The Beirut press says opposition and pro-Syrian leaders had compromised in order to avoid further political and economic turmoil.

Christian opposition leader Dory Chamoun expressed some displeasure, noting that the new government was made up completely of loyalist, or pro-Syrian politicians:

"It is mostly a loyalist composition, in other words, most of the guys inside are all of the loyalist camp, said Mr. Chamoun. “None of them are from the opposition."

Despite some reservations, Mr. Chamoun added that the opposition would be satisfied if the government fulfilled its obligations to hold parliamentary elections this May.

"As I said, it does not make much difference how you scratch your ear, as long as you scratch it," he added.

The new Lebanese government's first task will be to propose an electoral law to parliament, dividing the country into electoral districts.

Pro-Syrian politicians want large, provincial-sized electoral districts, to gain more seats in parliament, while Lebanon's opposition favors smaller voting districts.

According to rules of Lebanon's constitution, parliamentary voting must begin by the end of May. Elections are usually staggered over several weekends to accommodate different regions of the country.