I’ll try to lead new Lebanon government: Hariri

Caretaker Lebanese PM defies calls by Hezbollah for him to stand aside.

Last Updated: Jan 21, 2011, 13:15 PM IST

Beirut: Caretaker Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said on Thursday he would try to form a new government next week, defying calls by Hezbollah and its allies for him to stand aside after they brought down his cabinet.

Hariri may still have trouble winning enough support in the parliamentary consultations due to start on Monday, and his challenging speech to supporters on Thursday could stiffen the determination of opponents to block his return to power.

Hezbollah ministers and their allies resigned from Hariri`s cabinet last week, days before a UN-backed tribunal issued a confidential draft indictment which is expected to accuse Hezbollah members of involvement in the killing of his father.

The group denies any role in the assassination and says the tribunal is serving US and Israeli interests.

Two days of mediation by Qatari and Turkish ministers ended in failure on Thursday and the political deadlock has raised fears of renewed sectarian conflict in Lebanon.

"They came back to (mediators) with only one demand: It is not acceptable that Saad al-Hariri return to (lead) the government," Hariri told supporters.

"They have put aside all terms of solutions and demanded Saad al-Hariri be excluded... We will go to constitutional talks on Monday with me as a candidate," he said to loud cheers.

Shortly after his announcement, fireworks erupted in Beirut`s Sunni district of Tariq Jadida.

In Lebanon`s power-sharing political system, the prime minister should be a Sunni, the president a Christian Maronite and the speaker a Shi`ite. President Michel Suleiman has called parliamentarians for consultations next Monday.

Shi`ite Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and Syria, brought down the fragile unity government after Hariri, a Sunni Muslim who has US and Saudi support, rejected its demand that he repudiate the tribunal.

Bureau Report