Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Lebanon’s president begins talks to pick new PM | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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BEIRUT, (Reuters) – Lebanon’s president began talks on Tuesday expected to result in Saad al-Hariri being nominated for a second time to form a government — a task seen as complicated by rising political tension.

President Michel Suleiman began receiving Lebanon’s 128 lawmakers at his palace overlooking Beirut on Tuesday morning. He is obliged to designate the figure with the most support among MPs. The consultations conclude on Wednesday.

Hariri, a U.S.- and Saudi-backed billionaire businessman, is expected to be nominated by members of his parliamentary majority coalition, which defeated a rival alliance including the Syria- and Iran-backed Hezbollah in a June election. He was nominated later in June to form a cabinet but abandoned his efforts last week after more than 10 weeks trying to forge a unity government including Hezbollah and its allies.

Hariri, Lebanon’s main Sunni politician, and rival groups have traded accusations of blame since the failure of the talks.

There has been no sign of compromise over the differences that derailed Hariri’s first attempt, chief among them his refusal to yield to the demands of Christian politician Michel Aoun, an ally of Shi’ite group Hezbollah.

Reflecting a less cordial political climate, the pro-Syria parliamentary bloc of Shi’ite parliament speaker Nabih Berri, which nominated Hariri for prime minister in June, did not nominate anyone for the post on Tuesday.

Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah will not nominate Hariri, political sources said. Neither nominated him in June.

Politicians say the deadlock reflects a relapse in ties between Saudi Arabia and Syria, states with great influence in Lebanon and whose rivalries have fuelled political instability and violence in the country over the past four years.

Rapprochement between Damascus and Riyadh this year has helped Lebanon enjoy its longest spell of political stability since the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, Saad’s father.

But the postponement of a visit Saudi’s King Abdullah was due to make to Damascus has signalled a freeze in the rapprochement. Many Lebanese fear that could be reflected in a protracted political standoff over the new government.