09/11/2009, 00.00
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United Nations and Qatar to the rescue of crisis-bound Lebanon

by Paul Dakiki
Hariri hands in his resignation as prime minister-designate to Lebanon’s president after failing to form a national unity government. Divisions between majority and opposition as well as within the majority prevail.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – The United Nations secretary general and the prime minister of Qatar said they were disappointed by Saad Hariri’s resignation as Lebanon's prime minister-designate three months after the last election. None the less, both are hopeful that a national unity government can still be put together. Qatar on Thursday offered to host more intra-Lebanese talks.

Following the June poll Saad Hariri, head of the 14 March coalition that won the 7 June election, was tasked with forming a new government after almost two years of political stalemate.

Yesterday he handed his resignation to President Michel Suleiman, accusing Hizbollah and the opposition, without naming them, of imposing “extravagant conditions”.

The Hariri-headed coalition won 71 seats (out of 128) in the elections. The Hizbollah-led opposition took home the other 57 seats.

The opposition wants a national unity government to ensure that the new executive will reach decisions acceptable to both sides, especially in relation to Hizbollah’s military hardware, which the Shia-dominated party does not want to give up.

After two months of trying to patch together a cabinet Hariri submitted a list to the president, incurring in Hizbollah’s displeasure, ostensibly for not seeing it beforehand. In reality in both opposition and majority camps many did not like the names of several ministers-designate.

This comes at a time when the country is just getting over a period of instability and violence. First in 2005 former prime minister Rafik Hariri (Saad’s father) was assassinated. This was followed by a wave of murders involving anti-Syrian public figures. In 2006 Israel launched its war against Hizbollah. And lastly in May 2008 clashes between groups linked to the majority and the opposition ended in a intra-Lebanese agreement penned in Doha.

Now as then Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad Ben Jassem is a willing host to a new meeting in Doha to find a solution to the crisis.

Lebanese media believe that Suleiman will give Hariri another go at forming a government.

UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe said that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “hopes that the consultations that President Michel Suleiman will hold with all parties will be successful and that the Lebanese [will] continue working towards the goal of a unity government.”

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