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Page last updated at 16:31 GMT, Friday, 11 July 2008 17:31 UK

Lebanon agrees unity government

Lebanese PM Fouad Siniora on government

Lebanese political leaders have agreed on the make-up of a national unity government after six weeks of talks.

The Western-backed parliamentary majority is set to control slightly more than half of the cabinet.

Former opposition groups supported by Syria and Iran will meanwhile have enough seats to veto major decisions.

The recently elected President, Michel Suleiman, who is generally seen as a neutral figure, will appoint the key ministers of defence and the interior.

An agreement to form a national unity government was reached in May following and a long period of political paralysis and the worst sectarian violence in Lebanon since the end of the civil war in 1990.

Qatar deal

The presidential decree announcing the formation of the new government finally came after a meeting between Prime Minister-designate Fouad Siniora and Mr Suleiman.

Our differences will not be resolved overnight, but we have decided to resolve them through institutions and dialogue rather than in the streets
Fouad Siniora
Prime minister

"The government of national unity is the government of all the Lebanese," Mr Siniora said.

"This government has two main tasks: regaining confidence in the Lebanese political system... and securing the holding of a transparent parliamentary election," he added.

"Our differences will not be resolved overnight, but we have decided to resolve them through institutions and dialogue rather than in the streets."

Under a Qatari-mediated deal struck in May, the opposition was granted 11 of the cabinet's 30 seats.

The formation of a new government was an important part of the agreement struck in Qatar.

Negotiations have been tortuous, often angry, says the BBC's Crispin Thorold in Beirut, and there has been considerable international pressure on the Lebanese politicians.

The politicians will now have to make even more difficult decisions, our correspondent says.

Perhaps most sensitive will be the status of Hezbollah's weapons.

The movement says that it should keep its guns to protect Lebanon from Israel. Others believe the militia should, over time, be incorporated into the national army.




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