Thair Abbas
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on : Saturday, 6 Apr, 2013
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Salam Named Lebanon’s PM

Tammam Salam closes in on the Lebanese premiership

Lebanese former minister Tammam Salam attends a meeting of the pro-Western March 14 political coalition in Beirut April 4, 2013. (REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir )

Former Lebanese minister Tammam Salam attends a meeting of the pro-Western March 14 political coalition in Beirut on April 4, 2013. (REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir )

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Well-known Sunni lawmaker Tammam Salam has been named Lebanon’s new prime minister, breaking the political crisis that has engulfed the country since Najib Mikati’s surprise resignation last month.

Speaking at a press conference after the announcement, Salam vowed to protect Lebanon from the war that is raging in neighboring Syria.

“I have accepted this nomination… out of conviction that it is my duty to work for my country’s interest, in cooperation with all political parties,” he said.

“I start from the necessity of taking Lebanon out of divisions and political tensions that were reflected in the security situation,” he added.

President Michel Suleiman began two days of consultation with MPs to pick a new prime minster on Friday, but consensus has already emerged backing Salam’s candidacy. Salam is a well-respected Sunni MP and former minister of culture.

At the end of the first day of consultations, Salam had the backing of 87 members of the 128-member parliament, including his own influential March 14 bloc, Walid Jumblatt’s National Front bloc, and the 12-member Hezbollah bloc. At the end of consultations on Saturday, he had received a total of 124 votes.

Salam is expected to form a national unity government, although this may prove difficult owing to the sharp divisions on the Lebanese political scene which have only escalated in the shadow of the Syrian crisis.

Although Salam has personally won endorsements from across the Lebanese political spectrum, it is not certain whether his own March 14 Alliance and Hezbollah will be able to reach an agreement on the form of a proposed government.

Leading figures within the March 14 Alliance, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, stressed that the talk about the composition of the next government is premature. However, the source emphasized that Hezbollah’s commitment to its “people, army and resistance” formula is doomed to failure.

The source said that the ball is now in Hezbollah’s court, adding that the Shi’ite militia was responsible for the failure of Mikati’s government, through which it was controlling Lebanon’s executive authority.

The March 14 Alliance source also claimed that Hezbollah’s retreat is due to a “regional resolution” put forward by Tehran related to Iran’s current negotiations with the Europeans and the US over its nuclear programme. The source stressed that this “retreat” is a goodwill gesture on the part of Iran, adding that this may even be followed up with Hezbollah taking a step back from the Syrian crisis.

The source, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said that Hezbollah has demonstrated a degree of commitment to Salam’s candidacy, including convincing ally Michel Aoun to switch his bloc’s votes from Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi.

Salam is a member of a prominent Sunni political dynasty; he previously served as culture minister between 2008 and 2009. He is the son of former prime minister Saeb Salam, who served as Lebanese premier six times.

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