INTERNATIONAL

Pro-Syrian named Lebanese Premier

BEIRUT: : Lebanon's President has named moderate pro-Syrian lawmaker Najib Mikati as Prime Minister, breaking a political deadlock and reviving chances for holding parliamentary elections next month. The elections are crucial for the Opposition, which backed the Harvard-educated millionaire businessman in an effort to end the impasse in forming a Government and open the way for the balloting that many believe will end Damascus' hold on Parliament. The legislature's term expires at the end of May. The U.S. has increased pressure on Lebanon to hold the vote without delay. The focus now should be on holding ``free elections as soon as possible on schedule,'' the U.S. Ambassador, Jeffrey D. Feltman, said after meeting the Foreign Minister. Mr. Mikati's appointment came two days after Prime Minister-designate, Omar Karami, quit following failed efforts at forming a government. Mr. Mikati still maintains business ties to Syria and a personal relationship with Syrian President Bashar Assad. — AP

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