Lebanese prime minister belatedly forms Cabinet

BEIRUT — Lebanon’s prime minister formed a Cabinet more than 10 months after taking office on Saturday, including a wide range of political groups after bridging serious divisions among them mostly over Syria’s civil war.

Tammam Salam’s 24-member national unity Cabinet was announced at the presidential palace and includes members of the Western-backed coalition and those of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group and its allies.

Fears of a spillover of Syria’s civil war to its smaller neighbor have intensified pressure on Lebanon’s rival faction to make concessions, facilitating Salam’s job.


‘‘This is a unity Cabinet that represents at the present time the best formula for Lebanon with all the political, security, economic, and social challenges it is facing,’’ Salam told reporters shortly after his government was announced. ‘‘The national interest Cabinet was formed with the spirit of gathering, not divisions, and meeting, not defiance.’’

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Salam said the Cabinet aims to ‘‘strengthen national security and stand against all kinds of terrorism.’’ He said that the Cabinet will also face the social issue of nearly a million Syrian refugees who fled for safety in Lebanon, which has a population of some 4 million.

The Cabinet is not expected to remain in office long, as a new government should be formed after President Michel Suleiman’s six-year term ends in May and a new head of state is elected.

The Syrian civil war has spilled over into neighboring Lebanon and sharply divided its population, who support rival Syrian groups.

Many Shi’ite Muslims in Lebanon back Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, while Sunnis support rebels trying to remove him from power. Clashes between pro- and anti-Assad groups have killed scores of Lebanese over the past months. A wave of car bombs also claimed the lives of dozens.


Hezbollah openly sent fighters to Syria last year to fight along Assad’s forces while some Sunnis have joined the rebels.

The Western-backed coalition, known as March 14, had previously said it will not take part in any national unity government until the militant Hezbollah group, Lebanon’s most powerful, withdraws its members fighting in Syria.