Hezbollah-Backed Candidate Poised To Become Lebanon PM

"(Guardian)

The prospect of a Hezbollah-led government in Lebanon now appears certain after a Syrian-backed businessman emerged from a crucial political summit with the numbers needed to lead the turbulent state.

A narrow majority of 65 of the Lebanese parliament's 128 members indicated their support for telecommunications tycoon Najib Miqati, which means that the ousting of Saad Hariri as prime minister of the US-allied government will soon be formalised.

The high-stakes talks were convened after the Hezbollah-led opposition walked out of a tenuous coalition government two weeks ago, forcing a political crisis with the potential to rupture already brittle sectarian fault-lines.

The support for Miqati means Hariri cannot secure the majority needed to hang on to the narrow mandate he won 18 months ago.

Today Hariri said he and his bloc would not take part in a Hezbollah-led government. Hariri was appointed caretaker prime minister just under two weeks ago, shortly after 11 Hezbollah-aligned ministers abandoned his government, causing it to fall.

Street demonstrations are tonightnight being staged in Sunni areas of Beirut, as well as Tripoli in north Lebanon and Sidon in the south. Tyres were burnt and roads and highways blocked in scenes that have stirred the ghosts of numerous past conflicts and spark fears of a return to sectarian chaos. Protests spread quickly after nightfall, but there were no reports of deaths, or injuries. Security forces seemed reluctant to intervene.

A member of parliament from Hariri's bloc, Khaled Dahar said: ""We announce our rejection of the candidate backed by the 'party of arms' [referring to Hezbollah]. What was plotted was a coup by a group that didn't respect the voters' freedom by relying on its weapons to threaten all Lebanese.

""We call on those who reject the Persian scheme in this defiant Arab country to stage a sit-in tomorrow ... in Tripoli,