June 29, 2005

Lebanon’s main parliament bloc names PM candidate

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon's biggest parliamentary blocnamed former Finance Minister Fouad Siniora on Wednesday as itscandidate for prime minister, making it almost certain he wouldhead the first government since Syrian troops pulled out.

"The Future Bloc has decided to name former minister FouadSiniora as (candidate for) prime minister ... to continue thereform and development march of martyr Rafik al-Hariri," theanti-Syrian Future Bloc said in a statement.

The Future Bloc is headed by Saad al-Hariri, son of theformer prime minister who was assassinated in February.

President Emile Lahoud is to begin consultations to decideon a new prime minister on Thursday. He will meet blocrepresentatives and independent lawmakers, who will eachnominate a candidate.

He is obliged to accept the majority's choice.

The bloc said it had named Siniora to "put a stop to thesecurity regime and establish a democratic system which willestablish stability and confidence in the country ... and facethe challenges of the public debt."

Elections that ended on June 19 returned an anti-Syrianmajority to parliament for the first time since the 1975-1990civil war. Syria pulled out in April under Lebanese andinternational pressure after Hariri's death.

But parliament re-elected pro-Syrian Nabih Berri as speakeron Tuesday in a compromise highlighting the struggleanti-Syrian lawmakers will face in erasing Damascus'sinfluence.