BEIRUT — Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati formed a new government Tuesday, boosting the chances that a general election can be held on time, and said he would immediately seek the removal of pro-Syria security chiefs.
"I demanded the resignation of the security chiefs when I was [just] Najib Mikati. Now I'm prime minister and I will relay my point of view to the Cabinet ... and I promise that it will agree with me," Mikati said.
The move was a key concession to the opposition by Mikati, a wealthy businessman with close ties to Syria, Lebanon's longtime political master.
Mikati named retired security official Hassan Sabaa, a moderate, as interior minister and respected Judge Khaled Qabbani to head the Justice Ministry.
The 14-member Cabinet must now win a confidence vote in parliament and draft an electoral law and steer it through the assembly, all within 10 days, if the polls are to be held by May end.
Mikati promised to try to meet the deadline.
None of the ministers will run in the election, which was threatened with delay after the Feb. 14 killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri threw Lebanon into its most serious political crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
Mikati, a friend of Syrian President Bashar Assad, was appointed last week after winning the surprise support of opposition lawmakers.
Lebanon had been without a Cabinet since his predecessor, Omar Karami, resigned Feb. 28 in the face of street protests over the killing. The staunchly pro-Syria Karami was reappointed but quit again after failing to form a government.
Mikati secured some opposition support with his pledge to seek the removal of the security chiefs, one of the key demands alongside an end to Syria's 29-year military presence and an international investigation of the bombing that killed Hariri.
Witnesses said about 100 Syrian military trucks crossed into Syria overnight, leaving fewer than 1,500 troops in Lebanon.