BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam and ministers of his new government were overwhelmed with well-wishers over the weekend who came together to celebrate the birth of the government, the fruit of monthslong deliberations. Cheerful locals, relatives, politicians, religious figures and others flocked to Salam’s Ottoman-era mansion in the Moseitbeh neighborhood of Beirut to extend their greetings.
Wearing a black jacket and a white shirt, 68-year-old Salam received visitors Sunday, standing with his wife Lama to his right. He was often interrupted by phone calls from well-wishers. Also standing with Salam was his son Saeb, named after his charismatic grandfather and Beiruti leader, late Prime Minister Saeb Salam. As the mansion got crowded, Salam took off his jacket, keeping a bottle of water close-by.
Mohammad Kanaan, a well-wisher, said that he was very happy that Salam had become the head of Lebanon’s new Cabinet.
“I grew up in Moseitbeh and I am very happy that our neighbor has become a prime minister and was finally able to form his government,” Kanaan said.
Also receiving visitors at Salam’s house was Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk.
Ahmad Naamani, who works in a bakery near Salam’s residence, expressed his satisfaction.
“Salam has good traits, although he was nominated a prime minister, he did not block the roads near his residence like another politician might have done,” he said. “He is a humble man, he greets everybody in the neighborhood, and his bodyguards are polite.”
Salam’s residence is near the neighborhood of Hay al-Lija, an area where Hezbollah and Amal enjoy support. Posters of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, the party’s slain top commander Imad Mughniyeh and other Hezbollah martyrs are posted by supporters on the fence of Salam’s mansion.
“I was born in this area and I’ve known Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s parents for 68 years,” said Hasan Mubarak, standing in his shop in the neighborhood. “Members of his family are not arrogant and perform all their social obligations toward their neighbors, on happy and on sad occasions.”
He hoped that Salam would be able to restore stability in Lebanon, adding that he would visit him to extend greetings once the house cleared.
Crowds greeted Salam outside his residence Saturday when he came from Baabda Palace. When he entered his house he kissed the hand of his mother, asking for her blessings.
Visiting Salam were Transport and Public Works Minister Ghazi Zeaiter, Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, Economy Minister Alain Hakim, Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas, Nader Hariri, the director of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s office, and Papal Ambassador to Lebanon Gabriele Caccia and others.
The new ministers were also busy receiving well-wishers at their homes.
Shortly after posing for the official government photo in Baabda Palace Saturday, Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi returned to his residence in Tripoli, where he was greeted by his wife, family members and supporters.
“I was honored today to become a justice minister and I will work with all my energy to raise the standard of the ministry’s performance. We have very competent judges, but the ministry is in need of justice palaces and we have prisons that should be controlled by the Justice Ministry,” Rifi told reporters.
Rifi said he would do his best so that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon could uncover the truth about the assassins of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The supporters of the retired general opened celebratory gunfire in several neighborhoods of Tripoli, and some fired rocket-propelled grenades, refusing to heed calls by Rifi to refrain from such acts. Four people were wounded in the process.
Minister Derbas, also from Tripoli, received well-wishers, promising to work on improving living conditions in his city.
“I will seek to ensure that deprived Tripoli be dealt with justly. I will work on reviving all its vital facilities in order to activate its economy,” he said, stressing that Tripoli was a city of coexistence.
For his part, Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon, while receiving well-wishers at his residence in Ashrafieh, said many challenges were awaiting the new government, including drafting a new election law and ensuring that the presidential election is held on time.
Education Minister Elias Bou Saab promised that no child in Lebanon would be unable to receive an education. His remarks came during a gathering to celebrate his appointment in his Metn village of Choueir.
Minister Zeaiter said during an Amal Movement ceremony in Baalbek that the new government should address political, social and security challenges. – Additional reporting by Antoine Amrieh