BEIRUT — Lebanon’s president asked Saad al-Hariri to form a new government on Thursday after he won the support of a majority of MPs and the endorsement of the influential parliament speaker.
Hariri’s nomination is part of a political deal that resulted in the election of Michel Aoun, a close ally Hezbollah, as head of state on Monday, ending a 2-1/2 year long presidential vacuum.
A big concession on the part of Hariri, the deal has underscored Hezbollah’s dominant position in Lebanon and the diminished role of Hariri’s main regional backer, Saudi Arabia, which appears more focused on confronting Iranian influence elsewhere in the region.
The quick formation of a new administration with cross-party support will help revive government in a country where political conflict has paralyzed decision-making, economic development and basic services, and raised fears for its stability.
The central bank governor said Aoun’s election and the formation of a government would boost confidence in the economy and attract foreign aid: Lebanon is hosting some 1.5 million refugees from the war in neighboring Syria.
Hariri, 46, said he aimed for the quick formation of a government of “national accord”.
Speaking at the presidency, he said “we owe it to the Lebanese to start working as soon as possible to protect our country from the flames burning around it, to reinforce its immunity in the face of terrorism”.
Lebanon has been buffeted by instability from the war in neighboring Syria, where Hezbollah is fighting in support of President Bashar al-Assad. Extremists have mounted terrorist attacks in Lebanon.
Underscoring Hezbollah’s continued mistrust of Hariri, who remains critical of its role in Syria, the group did not name him as prime minister, though it is expected to take part in his cabinet.