The Lebanese prime minister-designate Saad Hariri said yesterday Hizbollah will be part of the next cabinet "whether Israel likes it or not," as his bid to form a government entered its eight week. "The national unity government will include the (ruling) March 14 alliance, and I also want to assure the Israeli enemy that Hizbollah will be in this government whether it likes it or not because Lebanon's interests require all parties be involved in this cabinet," Mr Hariri said at an Iftar feast to break the Ramadan fast last night.
There has been an escalating war of words in recent days between Israel and Hizbollah, which fought a 34-day war in 2006 that killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon and 160 Israelis. Earlier this month, Israel warned that the Lebanese government as a whole would be blamed for any attack from its territory if the Shiite militant group were part of the new government. "If Hizbollah joins the government it will be clear that the Lebanese government will be held responsible for any attack coming from its territory against Israel," The prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
But Mr Netanyahu later downplayed prospects of a new conflict with Lebanon. Mr Hariri, son of slain billionaire ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, was named prime minister on June 27 after his Western-backed alliance defeat a Hizbollah-led coalition backed by Syria and Iran earlier in the month. Tough negotiations have led to a deal on the number of ministers each political camp will have in Lebanon's 30-seat cabinet, with 15 going to Hariri's ruling alliance, 10 to the Hizbollah-led opposition and the president appointing five.
But the cabinet has yet to see the light of day as feuding political camps squabble over portfolios, particularly such key jobs as foreign affairs, finance, interior and telecommunications. * AFP