Lebanon News

Failure to elect new president destroys Lebanon: Berri

File - Speaker Nabih Berri speaks at his Ain el-Tineh residence in Beirut on Saturday, August 31, 2013. (The Daily Star/Stringer)

BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri warned Tuesday that failure to elect a new president will destroy Lebanon given the already dangerous situation in light of a crippled government and Parliament.

“Presidential elections are more than necessary,” Berri said.

“All lawmakers must attend the session to elect a new president, even those traveling abroad,” he told the local Al-Joumhouria newspaper Tuesday.

Berri said MPs should not rely on a mere two-thirds vote “because in light of the [power] vacuum in government and a crippled Parliament, if we fail to elect a new president we would be slaughtering the country.”

On his part, Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam ruled out a government formation in “the foreseeable future.”

“My mission becomes more difficult as we inch closer to presidential elections,” Salam told pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat in remarks published Tuesday.

He said he must choose between two bitter options: either resign or form a fait accompli government that may not please all the political parties and would fail to get a confidence vote.

A deepening political crisis has left the country without a functioning government for more than eight months, with a paralyzed Parliament that has been unable to meet for a lack of quorum due to political differences between March 8 and March 14 parties.

Although Salam has failed in his attempts to form a new Cabinet since he was named prime minister-designate in April, President Michel Sleiman said Monday there was a chance to form a government to oversee the presidential elections in May 2014.

He dismissed the possibility of forming a “fait accompli” government, one decided in the absence of consultation with political parties.

Sleiman, whose six-year-term in office expires on May 25, 2014, said he was confident a new head of state would be elected on time despite fears that Parliament might not be able to meet to choose a new president.

Salam attributed failure to form a new Cabinet to Hezbollah’s pompous conduct.

Without naming the Shiite party, Salam said “failure to form a government was the result of [Hezbollah’s] arrogant behavior with its [political opponents], stemming from the belief that they have emerged victorious in the Syrian war.”

Salam also called on Iran to “find a balance in its relations with the Arab countries.”

Berri, however, defended Hezbollah, saying the group has a primary role in fighting Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon, pointing to the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms and Kfar Shuba hills

“[What about] Shebaa Farms, Kfar Shuba hills and our waters, aren’t these Lebanese?” Berri said.

“We don’t support the use of arms domestically, but there is a big difference between these [domestically-used] weapons and weapons of the resistance,” he stressed.





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