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Obama Appoints Lebanese Woman to Commission on International Religious Freedom

U.S. President Barack Obama has appointed a woman of Lebanese origin to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

Dr. Azizah al-Hibri, who is the founder and chair of KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, was appointed to the two-year term earlier in the week.

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Syria: Suleiman’s Role in Govt. Formation Will Not Be Weakened

The Syrian leadership stressed to President Michel Suleiman that no side will in no way attempt to weaken his position or his pivotal role in forming a government, reported al-Liwa newspaper on Friday.

This message was delivered by caretaker minister Wael Abu Faour to the president from Progressives Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat who met with Syrian President Bashar Assad on Thursday.

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March 8 Says it Overcame 95% of Obstacles as Draft Lineup Makes the Rounds

Parties involved in the formation of the new cabinet overcame 95 percent of the obstacles paving way for President Michel Suleiman to name the ministers that are part of his share in the government, high-ranking March 8 sources said.

The sources told An Nahar daily published Friday that consultations are now underway for Suleiman to name the second Maronite minister after agreement has been reached on naming retired Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Marwan Charbel for the interior ministry post.

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Berri Stresses Strong Ties with Jumblat, Optimistic about Cabinet Lineup

Speaker Nabih Berri expressed his optimism about the positive developments concerning the formation of the new cabinet, urging different parties to speed up the process.

The speaker’s visitors quoted him as saying that “if we continue moving in this manner, the government will be formed soon.”

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Reports: Optimism on Cabinet Formation is March 8 Tactic to Achieve Political Gains

The optimism expressed by the March 8 forces about the possible formation of the new cabinet in next few days is exaggerated and is a tactic aimed at achieving political gains, a centrist politician told al-Liwaa daily.

The source said in remarks published Friday that Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun and his ally Hizbullah believe that the delay in the formation of the government was weakening them and strengthening Premier-designate Najib Miqati.

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Miqati ‘Liberates’ Telecom Ministry from ‘Troublemaker’ Nahhas

Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun has allegedly accepted to give up his demand to keep Caretaker Telecommunications Minister Charbel Nahhas in his post after being pressured by his allies.

Al-Liwaa daily said that a settlement was reached between Aoun and Premier-designate Najib Miqati who succeeded in “liberating” the telecom ministry from “the grip of troublemaker” Nahhas and allotting the labor portfolio to him instead.

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Suleiman Upset by Aoun’s Conditions, Says he Would Name his Ministers Only when Lineup is Ready

President Michel Suleiman has clearly announced his rejection of Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun’s attempts to impose on him a candidate for the second Maronite minister that is part of his share in the new cabinet.

Baabda palace sources told al-Liwaa newspaper published Friday that “Suleiman rejects preconditions set by any side on his choice of his representatives in the government.”

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Miqati Slams Geagea, Says the Cabinet is for All Lebanese

Sources close to Premier-designate Najib Miqati snapped back at Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Friday saying the new cabinet will be a government for all the Lebanese.

Miqati “waited for the March 14 team around two months to participate in the cabinet and he still calls for the participation of everyone,” the sources told An Nahar daily.

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Geagea for Technocrat Cabinet, Says March 8 Rejects to Consolidate the State

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea accused the March 8 forces on Thursday of seeking to consolidate Hizbullah rather than forming a strong state.

“Some of them consider their party essential and (use) the rest of the state’s institutions to support the resistance,” Geagea told reporters in Maarab.

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Jumblat Meets Assad: Forming New Govt Boosts Lebanon, Syria Stability

Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat held talks Thursday with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, in the presence of caretaker Public Works and Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi.

During the meeting, Jumblat “voiced his hope that Syria will be able to overcome this critical period in its history through endorsing the reforms launched by President Assad,” according to a statement issued by the PSP following the Druze leader’s return to Beirut.

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