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Lebanon announces long-awaited formation of new government

News comes after more than eight months of political wrangling as Lebanese factions were unable to agree on cabinet make-up
Prime Minister Saad Hariri says new government will focus on economy (AFP)

Lebanon's presidency on Thursday announced the formation of a new national unity government, ending months of political wrangling amid concerns over the country's struggling economy.

The news comes after more than eight months of deadlock as politicians from rival Lebanese factions could not agree on the make-up of the cabinet following parliamentary elections in May.

The Future Movement's Raya al-Hasan will be the country's new interior minister, a crucial position that oversees policing, national security and elections.

Hasan is one of four women appointed to the cabinet and the first woman to hold this position. She previously was Lebanon's first female finance minister.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri apologised for taking so long to form the new government, and said the economy would be its main focus.

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"The time of treatment with painkillers is over. No one can put their head in the sand any more. Matters are as clear as the sun. All the problems are known and the causes of the corruption and waste and administrative deficiency are also known," he said.

"Lebanese are living in concern about the economic situation," said Hariri, adding that the work of the new government would not wait.

"To work," Hariri also wrote on Twitter on Thursday, shortly after the announcement.

Lebanon is facing a dire financial situation and Hariri has sought to secure billions of dollars in aid and loans to boost slow economic growth.

The country's main political factions will be represented in the new cabinet, which will be composed of 30 ministers.

Gebran Bassil, head of President Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement, will retain his post as foreign minister, while Elias Bou Saab will be defence minister.

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Ali Hasan Khalil, from parliament speaker Nabih Berri's Amal Movement, will retain his position as minister of finance, while Hezbollah-backed Jamil Jabak was named as the country's health minister.

Lebanon is governed by a complex system that guarantees a delicate balance among religious communities and their political parties, so decisions are made by consensus, which leads to protracted bargaining.

The country's parliamentary elections took place last May, but lawmakers had since failed to form a government.

Their efforts were obstructed by conflicting demands for cabinet seats that must be parcelled out in line with a sectarian power-sharing system.

The news boosted Lebanon's bonds on Thursday, Reuters news agency reported, with a 2037 dollar issue jumping in price by 4.3 cents to its highest since August.

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