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Monday, January 24, 2011

Great news: Hezbullah has enough votes to take over Lebanon

Hezbullah has lined up enough votes in the Lebanese parliament to name that country's next Prime Minister. They plan to name billionaire businessman Najib Mikati, a 'moderate' politician and former premier. Hezbullah's opponents in the March 14 movement rioted in Tripoli in response.
Several hundred Hariri supporters in the northern city of Tripoli, a predominantly Sunni area and a hotbed of fundamentalists, staged protests Monday chanting slogans against Mikati, a lawmaker from Tripoli.

The protesters waved pictures of Hariri and shouted: "Mikati you are not one of us, leave Tripoli and go away." Some banners read: "The blood of Sunnis is boiling."

The protesters briefly closed a main road in the town of Minyeh in Tripoli.

Mikati appealed for calm and, in a statement, called on Hariri supporters not to upset stability.

Hizbullah and its allies had the support of at least 57 seats and gained seven more from the bloc of Walid Jumblatt, the influential leader of the Druse sect. With Mikati's vote, Hizbullah reached 65. The voting in parliament on a new candidate for prime minister was to continue on Tuesday.

Hizbullah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said Sunday if their candidate gets the post of prime minister, the group will try to form another national unity government with Hariri's Western-backed bloc.

But Hariri said Monday he will not join a government headed by a Hizbullah-backed candidate.

On Sunday, Hizbullah's bloc chose Mikati, who served briefly as premier in 2005. He presented himself as a candidate reaching out to all sides.

"I don't distinguish between anyone. I extend my hand to everyone without exception. ... I say to Prime Minister Saad Hariri, let us all work together for the sake of Lebanon," he told reporters.

But Mikati dodged a question if he would end Lebanon's cooperation with the international court — a key Hizbullah demand — saying only that "any dispute can be solved only through dialogue."

A statement issued by Hariri's office said there is no "consensual candidate" and made clear Hariri remained the Western-backed camp's choice for prime minister.

Lawmaker Oqab Sakr said Mikati's candidacy was "a clear challenge to the will of the parliamentary and popular majority."

A Harvard graduate, Mikati is seen as a relatively neutral figure who enjoys good relations with Syrian President Bashar Assad and with the pro-Western Hariri, who himself is seeking to keep the post.

Mikati, whose wealth is estimated at $2.5 billion is on the Forbes list of world billionaires. In the 1980s, during Lebanon's civil war, he founded telecom company Investcom with his elder brother, Taha. They sold the company to South Africa's MTN Group for $5.5 billion in 2006.

The Mikati brothers now run M1 Group, a multibillion dollar holding company with interests in telecom, oil and gas and real estate among other things.

Last year, M1 bought a 13.95 percent stake in Bank Audi, Lebanon largest bank, for $450 million.
Israel radio has just reported that the United States says it would 'find it difficult' to support Lebanon if Hezbullah plays any key role in the government.

What could go wrong?

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