Middle East News
Lebanese president appoints Mikati as premier (2nd Lead)
Jan 25, 2011, 12:29 GMT
Beirut - Najib Mikati, a billionaire turned politician, was appointed Tuesday as Lebanon's prime minister after securing the backing of a majority of lawmakers in the country's 128-member parliament, a presidential palace decree said.
Mikati, who enjoys the backing of the militant Shiite movement Hezbollah, secured 68 votes, while outgoing caretaker premier Saad Hariri received the backing of 60 lawmakers.
His appointment is set to give Iranian ally Hezbollah a greater voice in the way the government is run, a development that has already sent alarm bells ringing in Washington.
A source close to Mikati describe the new premier as 'a man of unity' ready to work with 'all political rivals in Lebanon.'
His appointment had looked certain after political consultations with President Michel Suleiman showed that Hariri would no longer be able to command a majority.
Hariri supporters were already protesting in the streets over Mikati's likely appointment earlier on Tuesday, setting fire to a vehicle used by the Arab television channel al-Jazeera during a 'day of rage' in the northern city of Tripoli, a Hariri stronghold.
The protesters also burned pictures of Mikati, who hails from Tripoli.
'We want Najib Mikati to resign before he is appointed as prime minister because he has defied his Sunni-sect and went with the Hezbollah opposition to carry a coup against premier Saad Hariri,' a Hariri follower told the German Press Agency in Beirut.
'Hezbollah will not scare us with their weapons ... We will not stop,' another follower said as he set tyres ablaze, blocking the main road leading to the area.
Hariri's government collapsed on January 12, after Hezbollah and their allies resigned from the cabinet, plunging the country into a political crisis which many fear might lead to civil strife.
The resignations were triggered by disagreements concerning a United Nations probe into the 2005 assassination of Hariri's father, former prime minister Rafik Hariri.
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