Hariri Names 30 Member Cabinet

BEIRUT (Reuters)–Lebanon’s new prime minister–Rafik al-Hariri–on Thursday named a cabinet of 30 politicians and a few technocrats with the aim of bolstering a depressed economy.

The new administration comprised six Maronite Christians–six Shi’ite Muslims–six Sunni Muslims–four Greek Orthodox–three Catholics–three Druze–one Protestant and one Armenian.

Hard-line Christians–who oppose Syria’s dominant political and military role in Lebanon–were absent from the government–as they have been since the end of the civil war in 1975-90.

The announcement followed two meetings between Hariri and his former political foe–President Emile Lahoud.

Asbarez’s sister publication in Lebanon–the Aztag daily newspaper reported that Armenian Revolutionary Federation member Sebouh Hovnanian–who won a seat in parliament on the National Unity Bloc was named minister of youth affairs and sports.

However–per Lebanese law–based on the number of parliament members–the Armenian community must have two representatives within the cabinet.

Thus–the ARF Central Committee of Lebanon issued a statement calling on Hariri to appoint a second Armenian minister in his cabinet.

Hovnanian’s appointment proves wrong the speculations from certain circles–which thought that with Hariri’s ascent to the premiership–the ARF community would be left out of government.

Maronite Khalil Hrawi was appointed defense minister. The Interior Ministry portfolio was given to Elias Murr–Lahoud’s son-in-law and son of outgoing interior minister Michel al-Murr.

Fouad Siniora–a Sunni and close aide to Hariri–will be minister of finance.

Mahmoud Hammoud–a Shi’ite who is a former Lebanese ambassador to London–was appointed foreign minister. All the ministers were pro-Syrian. Damascus maintains 35,000 troops in Lebanon and has major say in the country’s affairs.

Hariri pledged on Monday to reverse Lebanon’s steep economic decline and restore investor confidence in the country–saddled with massive public debt.

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