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Lebanese gov't deadlock raises fears of security flare-up
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Deadlock over the formation of a national unity government in Lebanon still persists, as fears of renewed clashes and security flare-up are increasing.

Long-awaited cabinet formation

Designated Prime Minister Fouad Seniora has been carrying out contacts with political leaders in the country to reach an agreement on a cabinet line-up accepted by both the majority and the opposition, but many obstacles have delayed such an agreement for over a month so far.

Majority leaders have been refusing to give Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun a key cabinet portfolio out of four "sovereign ministers", the foreign, finance, defense and interior.

The opposition, on the other hand, refuses President Michel Suleiman's wish to give the ministry of defense to Elias Murr, who is considered affiliated to the majority and not a neutral figure.

As stipulated in Doha accord, Suleiman has the right to appoint two sovereign ministers in the cabinet, while the other two would be one for the Shiite and the other for the Sunni.

Doha accord reached on May 21 between Lebanese rival leaders gave the president three portfolios in the new cabinet on condition that they would be given to neutral personalities, the agreement also gave the majority 16 portfolios, and the opposition11, guaranteeing the long-awaited veto power for the latter.

International obstacles still face cabinet line-up

"There is an American and Saudi Arabian demand to delay the formation of the cabinet until the end of July," local political analyst Wasif Awada told Xinhua.

He pointed out that this delay would help the Americans reach the settlement they are working for in Iraq.

The US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was reported to have told majority leaders during her surprise visit to Beirut last week, that there is no need to form the government quickly, Awada said.

Rice told the Lebanese majority leaders that the reassignment of Seniora to form the new cabinet is a victory of the majority, thus, she considered that Seniora is the person who will implement US policy in Lebanon.

The US is keen on supporting the government of Seniora, which is standing up against the Hezbollah-led opposition backed by Syria and Iran, he said.

Fears rise over renewed clashes

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman warned Tuesday that differences in the country have reached the level of "suicide".

Suleiman made the remarks during a spiritual meeting which he called for at the presidential palace, adding that "the government should be formed soon to express our will for national unity and coexistence."

Earlier this week, deadly clashes between pro- and anti-government supporters raged northern Lebanon, leaving 10 people dead and 55 others wounded.

Similar clashes erupted in various regions of the country in May when at least 70 people were killed and over 200 others wounded.

"If a government is not formed by the end of this week, there are fears that clashes could erupt in some other Lebanese areas," Awada said.

The local Central News Agency also reported Tuesday that "several local and regional powers are preparing for a new round of fighting in Lebanon as an extension of Arab and regional conflicts."

(Xinhua News Agency June 26, 2008)

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