Hezbollah and its allies solidified their hold on Lebanon's government Friday with the formation of a national unity Cabinet that gives them veto power over government decisions.
Still, the Western-backed parliamentary majority managed to deny Hezbollah any of the most important Cabinet positions, except for the one it already held – foreign affairs.
The Cabinet's formation ends six weeks of wrangling over how to distribute the posts and is another step toward healing the country's deep political divide.
The unity government is the outcome of a deal brokered by the Arab League in May under which Hezbollah agreed to rejoin the government after its rivals gave in to demands to have a final say in all decisions.
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That deal came after Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants clashed with government supporters in May. The violence killed at least 81 people and brought the country to the brink of another civil war.
“We have decided to manage our disputes through democratic institutions and dialogue,” Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said after names of the new Cabinet ministers were announced. But problems “will not cease to exist overnight.”
In the new Cabinet, the parliamentary majority holds 16 seats and the opposition gets 11. Three others were distributed by the president.
The U.S. State Department praised the creation of the new government as a critical step in restoring democracy to Lebanon but stressed that it still would not have contact with Hezbollah members.
Hezbollah's rise is a setback for the U.S., which had backed the outgoing Lebanese government and is concerned that Iran's influence is spreading.