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Mikati To Guide Lebanon Through Turbulent Times

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

And let's go next to Lebanon, which faces a political crisis all its own. In recent days the government fell and the potentially explosive issue that brought down that government is not resolved.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

NPR's Peter Kenyon reports.

PETER KENYON: A longtime acquaintance says while Mikati earned his business success, it might have turned out quite differently had he not received some timely and generous help from his early patron, one Rafiq Hariri.

INSKEEP: Takes me back to 30 years ago, when he was just a new graduate, when he and his brother - his older brother - were very close business proteges of Rafiq al-Hariri.

KENYON: Harik says the prime minister-designate has always felt close to another key player, Syria, probably because his family came from western Syria in the early 20th century.

INSKEEP: His family always felt that, you know, their national identity as Arab, rather than just simply Lebanese. And he always felt something has to be done between Lebanon and Syria.

KENYON: Lebanese University Professor Talal Atrissi says Hariri's missteps in dealing with the tribunal issue left him appearing duplicitous to his enemies and politically inept to some former friends, including the Saudis

INSKEEP: (Through Translator) It's not just the tribunal. It's really Saad's lack of political skills. In the Syrian-Saudi talks, Saad tried to go over the Saudi's heads to the Americans, and finally the Saudis washed their hands of him. He was left alone, without his Saudi cover. I'm sure at this moment, Mikati has more Saudi backing than Saad Hariri does.

KENYON: But now the problem that toppled Hariri is Mikati's problem. Political scientist Hilal Khashan says Mikati may have taken on a challenge too big even for his conciliatory skills. He says Mikati seems to be looking for a consensus view that doesn't exist, and he wonders if Mikati may once again prove to be a transitional leader.

INSKEEP: There is no question in my mind that under normal circumstances he would have made an excellent prime minister. But fact that he was nominated by Hezbollah, under these existing conditions, I think he has inadvertently committed politic suicide.

KENYON: Peter Kenyon, NPR News.

MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.