BEIRUT - The candidate of the powerful Hezbollah, billionaire Najib Mikati, was charged Tuesday in forming the next government in Lebanon, an appointment denounced by rival Saad Hariri, thousands of whose supporters have sometimes violent demonstrations in several cities.
This appointment followed the fall of the Hariri government caused by the resignation on January 12 ministers of Hezbollah camp hostile to the investigation of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) to try those responsible for the assassination of ex- Prime Minister and father of Saad Hariri.
It allows Hezbollah Shi'ite armed control the government. Mr Hariri's coalition had control of Parliament after the parliamentary elections of 2009, but with the change of ends allies of Mr. Mikati, a Sunni, and those of the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, the camp of Hezbollah now holds a de facto parliamentary majority.
Supported by Damascus and Tehran but considered a terrorist group by Washington, Hezbollah expected to be involved in this indictment and had unsuccessfully sought to disallow such Saad Hariri tribunal.
Aged 55, Najib Mikati, telecom tycoon, will tackle the thorny issue of the TSL, the subject of a tussle between the two camps. Hezbollah wants the government to cease all cooperation with the STL, including funding by suspending and removing Lebanese Lebanese judges.
This appointment "is not a victory of one camp against another. It is the victory of reconciliation (...)", Mikati said after his meeting with President Michel Sleiman who issued the Decree appointing him. He said "reach out to all parties."
The Hariri camp has already said it would boycott all cabinet led by a Hezbollah candidate.
The announcement of this appointment was preceded by demonstrations to call supporters of Saad Hariri accusing Hezbollah of "coup," Mr. Hariri was seen as the most popular leader of the Sunni community in Lebanon.
In Tripoli (north), where the majority of schools and shops were closed, thousands of people marched in carrying Lebanese flags and pictures of Saad Hariri.
Some burned a photo of Mr. Mikati, a native of Tripoli. "The Iranian project will not go through Tripoli," reads the signs.
An angry mob also attacked and burned a vehicle of transmission of satellite Al-Jazeera, which is considered a supporter of Hezbollah, and ransacked the office of a rival MP in Tripoli.
In the south, the main axes in Sidon were blocked by protesters, while in Beirut, demonstrators burned tires and buckets.
The army was deployed in strength in many areas.
Mr Mikati, telecom tycoon who has good relations with Syria, a former supervisory power in Lebanon, has won the support of 68 MPs out of 128. According to Forbes magazine, he has amassed a fortune estimated at $ 2.5 billion.
The prime minister is traditionally reserved for the Sunni community in Lebanon.
A Hezbollah candidate to head the government fears the international community to form a firm pro-Iranian Hezbollah denies this.
The United States immediately warned against the impact that increased power of Hezbollah might have on U.S. aid to Lebanon.
The crisis has revived the specter of sectarian violence in 2008, when fighting between Sunnis and Shiites had a hundred people dead and brought the country to the brink of another civil war.
France expressed "its concern for the stability" of Lebanon after the violent protests, while Qatar has called for restraint.