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Lebanon forms government after 10-month deadlock

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[February 15, 2014]  By Laila Bassam

BEIRUT (Reuters)  Lebanon announced new government on Saturday, breaking a 10-month political deadlock during which spillover violence from neighboring Syria worsened internal instability.

A caretaker government has run the country since former Prime Minister Najib Mikati resigned in March as parties aligned with the Shi'ite Hezbollah movement and a Sunni-led rival bloc pursued a power struggle exacerbated by their support for opposing sides in Syria's almost three-year-old civil war.

"A government in the national interest was formed in a spirit of inclusivity," new Prime Minister Tammam Salam declared on live television.

He said he hoped the new government would allow Lebanon to hold presidential elections before President Michel Suleiman's mandate expires in May and finally conduct parliamentary polls that were postponed last year due to the political impasse.

"This comprehensive government is the best formation to represent Lebanon as it faces its political, security, economic and social challenges," Salam said.

Parliament designated the Sunni lawmaker as prime minister in April 2013, but he had been unable to form a government for months due to rivalries between the Hezbollah-dominated March 8 bloc and the March 14 alliance, led by the Sunni Future Party.

Among the top posts announced, former Energy Minister Gebran Bassil, from the March 8 bloc, becomes foreign minister. Former Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, also from March 8, takes the finance portfolio. Nouhad Machnouk, a March 14 legislator, was named interior minister.

(Writing by Erika Solomon; editing by Alistair Lyon)

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