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Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati resigns

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced his government’s resignation on Friday after a cabinet dispute with Shi’ite group Hezbollah over preparations for a parliamentary election and extending the term of a senior security official, Reuters reports.

He called for a unity government to be set up to save the country from “regional fires and … internal divisions”.

“I announce the resignation of the government, perhaps as the only way for Lebanon’s main political blocs to assume their responsibilities, and come together to pull Lebanon out of an unknown tunnel,” Mikati said.

Mikati resigned just two hours after a cabinet meeting in which Shi’ite group Hezbollah and its allies blocked the creation of a supervisory body for the parliamentary vote and opposed extending the term of a senior security official.Major General Ashraf Rifi, head of Lebanon’s internal security forces, is due to retire early next month. Rifi, like Mikati, is a Sunni Muslim from Tripoli, and is distrusted by Hezbollah.

Mikati became premier in 2011 after Hezbollah and its partners brought down the unity government of Saad al-Hariri. Tensions over Syria have put him at odds with the militant group which brought him to power and which strongly backs President Bashar al-Assad’s battle against rebels and protesters.

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