BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) – Lebanon’s parliament approved a new government by a wide margin Saturday – the first Cabinet in years to be dominated by anti-Syrian politicians.

Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said he would visit Damascus on Sunday for talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad and other officials on how to improve relations strained after Syria was forced to end its 29-year military presence in Lebanon.

Saniora told Associated Press Television News he was “hopeful that we will have excellent discussions to the best of the two countries. Lebanon and Syria are brotherly countries, very friendly.”

The prime minister put together his Cabinet after the anti-Syrian coalition seized a parliament majority in June elections, further crumbling Syria’s once overwhelming domination of Lebanon. Syrian troops withdrew from the country in April.

The 128-member Parliament approved the government by a vote of 92-14, with two abstentions The remaining members were absent. Most of the “no” votes came from the parliament bloc of the anti-Syrian Christian leader Gen. Michel Aoun. Aoun was left out of Saniora’s government.

The Cabinet lineup includes for the first time a member of the militant Hezbollah group, which Washington brands a terrorist organization.

“We need reforms. We need security, political, economic and social stability,” Saniora told Parliament before the vote.

Lebanon has seen a string of bomb assassinations targeting mainly anti-Syrian politicians and other figures in recent months. Other bombings targeted shopping and commercial areas in Christian areas, killing three people and injuring more than 40.

In past weeks, Syria has begun what many Lebanese say amounts to a land blockade, holding up hundreds of transit trucks on Lebanese-Syrian border crossings. Syria says the strict measures are aimed at catching saboteurs and militants but many Lebanese believe Syria is trying to exact revenge following the withdrawal of its troops.

AP-ES-07-30-05 2241EDT


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