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Pope, Suleiman Hope New Govt Will Bring 'Longed-For Stability' to Lebanon

President Michel Suleiman and Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday expressed hope that a new government in Lebanon would bring "longed-for stability to the country, as it faced major internal and international challenges", the Vatican said.

The pontiff and Suleiman during their half-hour meeting also "stressed the importance of involving religious and civil authorities to make people aware of peace and reconciliation," the Vatican said in a statement.

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Hamadeh: Jumblat Was Not under Any Threat When he Voted for Miqati

MP Marwan Hamadeh revealed on Thursday that Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat was not under any threat when he voted for Najib Miqati to assume the position of prime minister-designate.

He told al-Balad French that Miqati is facing several hardships in the process of forming a new government, advising him to establish a technocratic Cabinet.

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Saqr Demands Formation of International Tribunal to Address Imam Sadr’s Case after Reports of his Assassination

Lebanon First MP Oqab Saqr stressed on Thursday the need to establish an international tribunal to look into the case of Imam Moussa al-Sadr in light of claims that he was assassinated.

The popular revolts in the Arab world will stand as a lesson for Lebanon that dictatorship and a single governing party will have a worse end than that suffered by Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi and ousted Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Saqr added.

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Saudi-Syrian Summit in Riyadh Next Week to Discuss Lebanon among Other Issues

Informed Syrian circles revealed on Thursday that a summit between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Saudi King Abdullah may be held in Riyadh next week.

The Italian news agency AKI reported that should the meeting take place, it will be non-political, but it will be a congratulatory visit by Assad to the monarch after the latter’s recovery from his health setback.

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New Commander for UNIFIL Maritime Task Force

Rear Admiral Luiz Henrique Caroli of Brazil assumed command of the Maritime Task Force (MTF), the naval component of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), in a ceremony Thursday aboard a ship at Beirut Harbor.

The first Naval Force to be part of a U.N. peacekeeping mission, UNIFIL-MTF has been deployed at the request of the Lebanese government to assist the Lebanese Navy to help prevent the unauthorized entry of arms or related materiel by sea into Lebanon. MTF has been working jointly with the Lebanese Navy to that end.

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Cabinet Formation Delayed Amid Report Independent Figure Would Get Interior Ministry

The task of Premier-designate Najib Miqati to form the new government has become more difficult as President Michel Suleiman continued to hold onto the interior ministry portfolio which Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun is demanding as part of his share in the cabinet.

Speaker Nabih Berri’s sources told As Safir daily that the speaker stressed to Miqati during their meeting on Wednesday to speed up the government formation process. However, Miqati’s sources said no major progress was made in solving the deadlock over the interior ministry.

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Fears over Gasoline Shortage as Lebanese Await for Update of Prices

Head of the syndicate of gas station owners Sami Brax confirmed that stations will sell their reserves on Thursday but won’t provide consumers with gasoline the next day if the energy ministry fails to release the weekly update of prices.

“We will sell what’s left of gasoline at stations but there won’t be gasoline in the market starting tomorrow,” Brax told Voice of Lebanon, Voice of Freedom and Dignity, radio station.

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March 14 Likely to Announce Boycott of Cabinet Soon

The March 14 forces will reportedly announce their official stance not to participate in the new government in the next 48 hours, paving the way for Premier-designate Najib Miqati to form a one-sided cabinet.

Caretaker Labor Minister Butros Harb told An Nahar daily in remarks published Thursday that “nothing encourages (us) to participate in the cabinet particularly that the other team’s stance from the March 14 principles is not clear.”

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Leader of Bahraini Opposition Movement Arrested at Beirut Airport

Lebanese authorities arrested the leader of the Bahraini opposition Haq movement after arriving at Rafik Hariri international airport on Tuesday, An Nahar daily said.

Hassan Mashaima was arrested after Lebanese authorities discovered he was wanted by Bahraini Interpol, the newspaper said Thursday.

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In Rome, Sfeir Denies Political Reasons behind Resignation

Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir on Wednesday denied media reports that he has submitted his resignation to the Holy See for "political reasons."

In an interview with OTV in the Vatican on the sidelines of a ceremony to unveil the statue of Saint Maroun, Sfeir said: "They're free to say what they want, but the real reason is that I have reached the age of 90."

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