Lebanon's Prime Minister Tries To Form Government
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Beirut.
PETER KENYON: At the downtown tent, where visitors have come since 2005 to see the burial site of slain Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, supporters of Hariri's son, Saad, have gathered each night since he was toppled from power by Hezbollah and its allies. Last night they vented their frustration at being relegated to minority opposition status.
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KENYON: Standing in the crowd, 60-year-old Leila Turk(ph) says as far as she's concerned, the new prime minister, Najib Mikati, was installed by force of intimidation. She is not among the many Lebanese who see Mikati as a unifying figure who has good ties with all of Lebanon's fractious communities. She hopes that he gets the message that the world is watching to see if Lebanon will continue to respect the international tribunal investigating Rafiq Hariri's assassination.
LEILA TURK: This is our first demand because there's never been justice in Lebanon. This is the first chance to have real justice with the international tribunal.
KENYON: But Omar Nashabe, editor of the leftist Al-Akhbar newspaper, which has supported Hezbollah, says there's no question that Mikati is expected to put some distance between Lebanon and the tribunal.
OMAR NASHABE: Yes, definitely. That was one of the main elements that led to Mr. Mikati being named the prime minister, because Mr. Mikati is the man who's going to find the solution for the problem with the tribunal.
KENYON: Critics have called for Lebanon to stop paying its share of the tribunal's budget and withdrawal all Lebanese participation. But Nashabe says the new prime minister is approaching the issue cautiously. He hopes that Mikati convenes a national conference to find a solution.
NASHABE: And as the conference is taking place, Prime Minister Mikati could request to put the tribunal on hold until a national consensus is reached.
KENYON: Standing away from the politicians and the cameras, a petite woman with an expressive wrinkled face considers the new situation. Zena Fallad(ph) says she's a 75-year-old Sunni woman who never thought she'd live to see the day when Hezbollah would be in power. When asked if she thinks this marks a new era in Lebanese politics, the rise of the Shiites, she doesn't mince words.
ZENA FALLAD: (Through Translator) No, we're not going to let them. We're going to bring the Israelis and the Americans to fight them.
KENYON: Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Beirut.
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