(MENAFN - Arab News) Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced Monday a long-delayed government dominated by Hezbollah and its allies, which is likely to cause alarm among Western powers at a time of regional turmoil.
Formed after five months of political stalemate, the new Lebanese leadership was welcomed by President Bashar Assad of neighboring Syria.
"This government is committed to maintaining strong, brotherly ties which bind Lebanon to all Arab countries, without exception," Mikati said at the Baabda Presidential Palace.
"Let us go to work immediately according to the principles ... (of) defending Lebanon's sovereignty and its independence and liberating land that remains under the occupation of the Israeli enemy."
Mikati was appointed after Hezbollah and its allies toppled US-aligned Premier Saad Hariri in January over a dispute involving the UN-backed probe into the 2005 assassination of statesman Rafik Hariri, Saad's father.
Hezbollah and its Christian and Druze allies secured 18 posts in the new government, up from 11 under Hariri's coalition, enabling them to pass or block decisions more easily.
Mohammed Safadi, Lebanon's former economy minister, was named finance minister and will try to improve growth expected at around 2.5 percent this year, dampened by delays in key Cabinet appointments and a rash of violent incidents. The deadlock had also snagged both the 2010 and 2011 budgets, holding up 2 billion in infrastructure projects.
Mikati, a telecoms tycoon from northern Tripoli who deems himself politically neutral, is Sunni, in accordance with the Lebanese power-sharing system that allots senior political roles along sectarian lines. The president must be a Maronite Christian and the Parliament speaker a Shiite.
Fayez Ghusn was named as Mikati's defense minister, Marwan Charbel as interior minister and Nicolas Sehnawi as telecommunications minister - the latter a post loaded with controversy due to long-running privatisation disputes.
Adnan Mansour, an aide to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, was named foreign minister. Druze politician Talal Arslan, who had been named as minister of state, resigned citing dissatisfaction with his post.
The government, which must still pass a confidence vote in Parliament, will convene Wednesday to task a committee with drafting a policy statement.
In an interview with AFP shortly after announcing his government formation, Mikati insisted that the new government line-up, in which the powerful Hezbollah and its allies have a majority, will not place the country in the radical camp.
"The fact that Hezbollah and its allies have 18 seats in the 30-member Cabinet does not mean that the country will join the radical camp in terms of its relations with the international community," Mikati said.
He pointed out that it was significant that more than one-third - 12 - of the Cabinet ministers were appointed by himself, the president and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, thus ensuring Hezbollah and its allies could not control the government.