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Christian leader backs Hariri for Lebanon PM


Lebanese Christian leader Samir Geagea called on Saturday for caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri to be re-appointed as government leader as the country's political groups jockeyed for power.

"We are in a tense conflict over every parliamentary vote," Geagea told a news conference at his residence in Maarab, 25 kilometres (15 miles) north of the capital Beirut.

"We will do everything possible to bring back Hariri as premier," he added.

Lebanon has had only a caretaker prime minister since Hariri's government collapsed last week when the powerful Shiite party Hezbollah pulled its ministers from the cabinet.

On Friday, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt backed Hezbollah in the struggle to decide who will be the next premier, giving the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah an edge in the power struggle.

On the side of Hariri's Saudi- and US-backed coalition, Geagea warned that if Hezbollah and its allies nominated pro-Syrian former premier Omar Karami then "the cabinet will be formed by Rustom Ghazaleh (a Syrian security official) and Wafiq Safa (Hezbollah security official)."

Hezbollah brought down Hariri's government in a dispute over a UN probe into the 2005 assassination of Hariri's father, former premier Rafiq Hariri.

Hezbollah believes it will be named in the special prosecutor's indictment.

In his remarks, Jumblatt accused the Netherlands-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon of seeking to sow discord in Lebanon, and warned the country stood at a critical juncture.

Hariri's coalition has 60 seats in the 128-seat parliament against 57 for the camp of Hezbollah, which has categorically rejected Hariri's bid to head a new government.

The Druze chieftain's bloc holds 11 deputies, including five Christians and a Sunni. If Jumblatt clinches the backing of enough of his MPs, he would guarantee Hezbollah and its allies can impose their own candidate for the premiership.