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Lebanese Officials Agree on 20-Minister Government

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A Lebanese government lineup could be announced soon in Beirut after the latest round of talks agreed on a 20-minister cabinet, thereby pleasing all parties that had objected against the small size of their representation.

The deal was reached on Monday evening during a meeting between Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab, head of the Marada Movement Suleiman Franjieh, Amal’s representative in the caretaker government, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, and the political adviser to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Hussein al-Khalil.

Since his nomination a month ago, Diab has been struggling to form an 18-member cabinet of experts.

However, informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the four men agreed Monday that two ministers should be added to the 18-member government, reserving the two additional seats to the Marada and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP).

The sources added that the SSNP would be represented by a Druze minister, a step that should please the Druze sect, which has been requesting two ministers in the new lineup.

“This agreement should pave the way for the near announcement of a cabinet, if no unexpected developments appear at the last minute,” the source said.

Lebanon’s political impasse has deepened in the past few weeks as Diab failed to form a new government due to disagreements between political leaders over the size of their representation.

Presidential sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Diab did not object to a proposal to form a 20-member cabinet.

“The designate-PM only asked for some time to study the new suggestion,” the source said, predicting that the government should be announced in the coming few hours.

Lebanon's top security officials vowed Monday to crack down on vandalism after a week of rioting in Beirut that left hundreds of people injured and damaged public and private property — violence that comes against the backdrop of a deepening political deadlock.

The announcement followed a meeting that included President Michel Aoun, as well as the interior and defense ministers, at the presidential palace. The officials called for more coordination among the Lebanese security agencies to better deal with the unrest.

Lebanon has been roiled by three months of largely peaceful anti-government protests that over the past week turned into acts of vandalism in parts of Beirut.

Protesters first took to the streets in mid-October in a mass uprising against the country's ruling elite, which they blame for decades of corruption and mismanagement that have brought Lebanon to the brink of economic collapse. The country has since sunk deeper into a political crisis.

The outgoing premier, Saad Hariri tweeted Monday that Lebanon needs a new government as soon as possible to help stop the economic and security deterioration “that are increasing by the day.” He added that a caretaker government is not the solution and there should be new leadership that takes over full responsibility.

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