Hezbollah candidate appointed Lebanon PM

BEIRUT – Lebanon’s president has appointed the candidate of the Shia Islamist movement Hezbollah and its allies, Najib Mikati, as prime minister-designate, according to BBC. The move came despite demonstrations by thousands of supporters of caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri in the city of Tripoli as part of a “day of rage”. Smaller protests were also reported in the capital, Beirut, and elsewhere. Hariri has condemned acts of violence. Analysts say protesters are alarmed by Hezbollah’s growing political power. They accuse the Iran-backed group of staging a “coup”, after it brought down the Western-backed government earlier this month.

On Tuesday, it became clear that Hezbollah had gained enough support from parliamentary deputies to allow Mikati, a billionaire Sunni businessmen, to form the next government. The US has said it would have “great concerns about a government within which Hezbollah plays a leading role”.

Lebanon’s national unity cabinet collapsed on 12 January after a row over a UN tribunal investigating the 2005 murder of Rafik Hariri, the father of Western-backed caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Hariri had refused to renounce the UN inquiry that correspondents say will blame senior Hezbollah figures for his father’s murder. Hezbollah says the investigation is politically motivated.

Protests were also reported in the capital Beirut, where crowds overturned rubbish bins and blocked streets, and the mainly Sunni southern coastal city of Sidon. Hariri urged his supporters not to turn to violence. “You are angry but you are responsible people,” he said in a televised speech. “This anger should not lead us to what disagrees with our values… our belief that democracy is our refuge.”

Under Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the post of prime minister is reserved for a Sunni, while the president must be a Maronite Christian and the speaker of parliament a Shia. During consultations with President Michel Suleiman at the presidential palace on Tuesday, 68 parliamentary deputies expressed support for Mikati – a Sunni and US-educated billionaire businessman, as well as a former premier – as opposed to 60 for Hariri.

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