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Saturday, July 16, 2005 

Lebanese PM searches for unity, but Jumblatt wants Lahoud to quit, Hariri wants his party in government, and there's no space for Aoun

Shifting sands in Beirut as Fouad Siniora tries to form his fourth government since being elected less than a month ago.

He tried to form a government made up of non-politicians - a radical idea, but one which would get the difficult job done in Lebanon without playing political games. But his power-master Saad Al-Hariri slapped his wrists for that, even though an overwhelming majority (78%) of Parliamentarians supported him.

Druze leader - and Hariri ally - Walid Jumblatt spoke out most strongly against the plan. He doesn't see the need for a broad coalition government. He wants the Hariri bloc to press ahead and form its own government, even if the President rejects it. "If Lahoud rejects it, we will know what to do," he said, signalling that Lahoud would be forced to step down.

Meanwhile there's no space in the new government for warlord and turncoat Michel Aoun, after he demanded that he be made Justice Minister. The last time he was in government he was interim Prime Minister during the Civil War - but he refused to step down when Lebanon elected a new Prime Minister. Maybe Siniora's scared Aoun will never let go of the Justice Ministry either.

He's the man who extended the Civil War by a year by launching a war against Syria - then fled the country for fifteen years, and came back to form a political bloc with staunch allies of Damascus.

Siniora has now proposed a government of politicians and non-politicians, which has won the support of his own bloc, as well as Hizbollah/Amal, which will be given a seat in government. Outsider Aoun is still unhappy, as are Lebanese newspapers which as as extreme as he is:

"The formula was still-born and it's back to the drawing board for an alternative," said An-Nahar - who's head Tuwani, was appointed as one of Beirut's MPs.

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