Prime minister wins new term in Lebanon
Fuad Saniora's victory, backed by a pro-U.S. coalition, angered Hezbollah-led foes.
BEIRUT, Lebanon - Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora won a new term yesterday with the backing of a pro-U.S. coalition, angering the Hezbollah-led opposition, which had pressed for a change in leadership.
The decision came amid a two-day outbreak of low-level violence between supporters of the country's two main political camps.
Saniora was named anew to the government's most powerful executive position just three days after former army chief of staff Michel Suleiman was elected president and assigned to name a government after an accord meant to end a 19-month political crisis.
"Our national unity and coexistence are what we hold most precious and are the secret to the survival of this country," Saniora said in a televised address. "I address myself to my brothers in the nation from all sides and backgrounds with an open mind."
Saniora's victory appeared to catch the opposition off guard. Syrian- and Iranian-backed factions and most analysts said they believed the majority pro-U.S. coalition known as the March 14 movement would nominate parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri, leader of the country's Sunni Arab community.
Hariri had met for more than an hour Monday with Manoucher Mottaki, the foreign minister of Iran. The meeting suggested that he might have gained the blessings of Hezbollah's primary international patron.
Although the pro-government camp denied any intent to rile the opposition, the move was seen as an attempt by the March 14 coalition to show its independence. The powerful opposition bloc had won numerous concessions, including the ability to veto any cabinet decisions by the government, in the agreement early this month after Hezbollah fighters seized control of western Beirut for a short time.
Although opposition leaders said they would abide by the decision of the pro-government camp, Hezbollah's television channel, Al Manar, attacked the prime minister as having brought the country to "political, economic and social catastrophe," noted that he received the approval of only 68 out of 127 lawmakers and warned of political instability in the next government.