BEIRUT: Maronite Cardinal Beshara Rai Wednesday urged President Michel Sleiman to ensure that the election for the next head of state takes place on time and thanked Saudi Arabia for pledging $3 billion to help bolster the Lebanese Army.
“You [Sleiman] took an oath before Parliament to be loyal to the homeland and the Constitution. And you, yourself, declared, more than once, that you would hand over the [presidency] to the newly-elected president before May 25,” Rai said in his message during the World Day of Peace Mass in Bkirki.
“We hope that through your wisdom you won’t allow [a presidential vacuum] because this ... would be the death of Lebanon,” he warned.
Sleiman has insisted on a timely presidential election before his six-year-term expires on May 25, 2014. He has also insisted on the formation of a new government before he leaves office.
Rai also thanked Saudi Arabia for pledging $3 billion to the Lebanese Army which he said should serve as an opportunity for political rivals to end the political impasse in the country.
“We hope, [together] with the Lebanese people, that the Saudi initiative will usher in political initiatives that will help the feuding political teams to get out of the government crisis [by reaching] an agreement in order to ensure its success in securing the interest of the country and its citizens,” Rai said.
He also expressed hope that the Saudi aid would provide an incentive for Lebanese initiatives to help “deal with the nerve-racking economic and political situation, especially preparations for the presidential election to elect a new head of state before the constitutional deadline.”
Sleiman said Sunday Riyadh had pledged $3 billion to the Lebanese Army to buy arms from France in order to help support and bolster the poorly-equipped military.
Rai also thanked the International Support Group for Lebanon, a U.N.-mobilized support group to help Lebanon cope with the economic impact of hosting the region’s largest population of Syrian refugees.