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Foreign assistance to follow Cabinet formation
Newly-formed Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam speaks to the media at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Newly-formed Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam speaks to the media at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
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The recent government formation has left a positive impression on foreign ambassadors in Beirut, with the development contributing to an atmosphere of calm aimed at providing cover for the work of the Army and security forces as they try to track down terrorist cells.

According to centrist ministerial sources, the primary concerns of the government’s work and content of its ministerial statement are threefold.

First, the Cabinet must fight security threats that pose a danger to the country following an increase in takfiri and terrorist forces as well as suicide bombers. It must also ensure the cooperation of all political parties in confronting this issue.

Second, the government urgently needs to fulfill its constitutional requirements, the most important of which is holding the presidential election on time.

The period to hold polls begins on March 25, giving the Cabinet just 35 days. A great deal of preparation is required, particularly as Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s government was originally meant to supervise the parliamentary elections before they were postponed to November.

Some presidential hopefuls have already begun working on their candidacy, planning the intricacies of their campaigns and meeting with foreign ambassadors.

Third, the Cabinet must address the crucial issue of reviving the economy following a series of setbacks, including the diversion of both international and domestic investments to other countries, the pressure being applied by the Gulf on Lebanon and a faltering tourism sector. It is time to outline a plan aimed at improving the situation and focusing on re-establishing economic ties with foreign countries.

The sources revealed that since the government formation, some Lebanese officials have received Western signals about launching international conferences to help Lebanon deal with the large influx of Syrian refugees and support its institutions, particularly the Army, to enable them to face the threat of terrorism coming from Syria. Western countries have repeatedly called for the necessity of forming a Cabinet in order to keep open the channels of communication with the international community.

These conferences will begin with the International Support Group for Lebanon on March 5 in Paris followed by a conference in Rome to support the Army with military aid at the end of March. The date for a third conference, set to take place in Germany, has not yet been announced.

According to The Daily Star’s information, a senior security official visited Kuwait at the same time that Speaker Nabih Berri was in the Gulf country in order to discuss some of the developments in Lebanon with officials there.

The security meeting came amid rumors that Kuwaiti elements fighting in Syria had now moved to Lebanon to conduct attacks, along with reports that authorities there have information about the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria’s plans in several Gulf countries, including Kuwait.

Further, several European military delegations are due to visit Lebanon in the coming days.

One of these is a French delegation, which is set to complete the agenda worked on during Army chief Gen. Jean Kahwagi’s most recent visit to France and which will also study the nature of the assistance needed by the Army.

According to sources, Saudi Arabia’s recent $3 billion grant to Lebanon may not be the only assistance from the Arab world, with the Gulf Cooperation Council expected to hold a meeting on March 20 in Kuwait to look into several issues, including the Lebanese file.

Sources also noted that Western capitals were interested in Kahwagi’s sentiment that the Lebanese Army did not pursue people for having a particular faith, but rather for their criminal actions. It was perceived as being a way to allow the military to avoid any division, something that will require vigilance and a keen eye as demonstrated by the Army.

Foreign officials are also due to visit Lebanon soon to study the situation and give advice on disassociating Lebanon from the turmoil in the region.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 19, 2014, on page 3.
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Story Summary
The recent government formation has left a positive impression on foreign ambassadors in Beirut, with the development contributing to an atmosphere of calm aimed at providing cover for the work of the Army and security forces as they try to track down terrorist cells.

The sources revealed that since the government formation, some Lebanese officials have received Western signals about launching international conferences to help Lebanon deal with the large influx of Syrian refugees and support its institutions, particularly the Army, to enable them to face the threat of terrorism coming from Syria.

According to sources, Saudi Arabia's recent $3 billion grant to Lebanon may not be the only assistance from the Arab world, with the Gulf Cooperation Council expected to hold a meeting on March 20 in Kuwait to look into several issues, including the Lebanese file.
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