Najib Mikati to remain Lebanese PM, form new government

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BEIRUT, Lebanon, June 23 (UPI) — Lebanon’s outgoing Prime Minister Najib Mikati was chosen Thursday to form a new government after he secured enough votes in parliamentary consultations.

It is the fourth time Mikati, a 66-year-old politician and wealthy businessman, has been tapped as prime minister since 2011.

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Mikati won the support of 54 legislators of the new 128-member parliament, which was elected in May, during consultations by President Michel Aoun at the presidential palace of Baada, east of Beirut. Supporters mainly encompass deputies representing the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah and its Shiite ally, the Amal movement, as well as some other Sunni and Christian supporters.

Some 25 parliamentarians, mostly from opposition parties and “forces of change,” nominated Nawaf Salam, the former ambassador and permanent representative of Lebanon to the United Nations who served as a judge on the International Court of Justice in Holland since 2018.

While one legislator named former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who quit politics months ago, to the post, 46 parliamentarians, including the Free Patriotic Movement, abstained from nominating any candidate.

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Gebran Bassil, FPM leader and son-in-law of Aoun, said he did not name Mikati, saying it will be difficult to form a new cabinet “under such a short time,” as well as introduce essential reforms and achieve a recovery plan to save the crisis-ridden country.

Lebanon has been facing a compounded crisis since October 2019 that has resulted in soaring poverty and unemployment, with the Lebanese pound losing 90% of its value.

Mikati, who was summoned to the presidential palace after his nomination, called on all parties to put “our differences aside and cooperate to save our country.”

“I am extending my hand to all without exception with a good will… There is still an opportunity and we are capable of salvaging the country,” he said.

It is yet to be seen whether Mikati would succeed in forming a new government, which usually takes months because of political bickering and disputes among political leaders.

The new cabinet will serve until Aoun’s six-year term ends in October.