Lebanese Parliamentarians Chose Next PM

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Hezbollah's candidate for prime minister garnered enough votes on Monday to form a new government, bringing the Shi'ite group to the forefront of Lebanese politics.

On January 12, Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri's unity coalition collapsed after 11 Hezbollah and allied cabinet members quit the government to protest indictments of its members by the U.N. Tribunal on Lebanon for the 2005 slaying of Hariri's father former premier Rafik Hariri.

At Suleiman's request, the Western-backed Hariri agreed to serve as interim prime minister. Last Thursday, he said he would seek reappointment in the next government. On Sunday, Nagib Mikati, a billionaire legislator and Hezbollah's pick for the premiership, announced his candidacy. On Monday, he won the vote.

In 2005, Mikati served for three months after the elder Hariri's assassination prompted Syrian troops to pull out of Lebanon. Today, Mikati reportedly maintains a close relationship with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said he will help work toward "a partnership government."  Hariri said earlier he will not join a government led by Hezbollah. Click here to read "What is Hezbollah?

After Druze leader Walid Jumblatt threw the support of his seven-seat faction behind Hezbollah last week, the group and its allies went from 57 to 65 seats, including Mikati, in the 128-member parliament. Hariri and his allies hold 60 mandates.

The Obama administration and other Western nations will now have to decide how to work with the new government. The U.S. State Department lists Hezbollah - founded, financed, and armed by Iran - as a terror group.

In 2006, Mikati and his partner, elder brother Taha, sold Investcom, a company they founded in the 1980s, to a South Africa's MTN Group for $5.5 billion.

Today Mikati - whose personal fortune was estimated at $2.5 billion by Forbes - and his brother run MI Group, a holding company dealing in oil and gas, real estate and telecommunications.

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The Jerusalem Post contributed to this report.

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