(Reuters) - Lebanon’s governing coalition says that Prime Minister Fouad Siniora will assume presidential powers when pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud leaves office at midnight on Friday.
But the opposition, backed by Syria and led by Hezbollah, disputes the legitimacy of the Siniora government, laying the ground for more political conflict unless rival leaders agree on a new head of state quickly.
Following are some facts on Siniora.
- He became prime minister in 2005 following parliamentary elections which resulted in a majority for the anti-Syrian March 14 coalition, headed by the son and political heir of assassinated former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri.
- Siniora, who has U.S. and Saudi backing, has been the focus of the opposition’s campaign against the governing coalition. He has spent most of the last year living in the government headquarters in central Beirut under tight security.
- Accused of being a U.S. stooge, the opposition label his administration as a servant of U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman. Hezbollah also accuses Siniora of conspiring to prolong a war between its guerrillas and Israel in 2006, hoping that the Jewish state would deal a heavy blow to the group.
- Siniora is a Sunni Muslim, as he must be to fill the post of prime minister under Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system. The presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian.
- Siniora made the establishment of an international tribunal for suspects in the Hariri assassination one of his government’s top priorities. The U.N. Security Council voted in May to establish the tribunal, which was one of the issues at the heart of Lebanon’s political conflict.
- Siniora had served as finance minister in successive Hariri governments following the 1975-1990 civil war.
Writing by Tom Perry in Beirut