BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam said in remarks published Sunday that he remained hopeful for the election of a new president within the constitutional deadline and urged rival groups to exert the necessary efforts to do so.
Meanwhile, Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri said Salam’s visit to Riyadh this week was an occasion to enhance brotherly ties and exchange opinions over the regional situation.
“I still haven’t reached the hopelessness stage, [I still believe] that the consensus which led to forming my Cabinet will also lead to electing a new president before May 25,” Salam told pan-Arab Al-Hayat daily. “If the March 14 and the March 8 coalitions do what is necessary, there should be no problem in electing president."
The prime minister also said that there would be no vacuum if the election for President Michel Sleiman’s successor was not achieved on time.
“There would be no power vacuum if no president was elected; if we apply Article 62 of the Constitution, the Cabinet can assume the president’s powers,” he said.
Salam warned Maronite leaders against opposing the Cabinet exercising that power during any void in the presidency, saying such rejection “would affect the situation in general and the legislative power too.”
Lebanon has only a week left to elect a new president after five attempts to vote on a new head of state have failed.
The prime minister said there was no delay in the implementation of last year’s Saudi grant to Lebanon Army.
“The agreement on the types of weapons has come a long way and there are no obstacles along its track,” he said.
Salam stressed that the $3 billion Saudi grant was “unprecedented and the duty in thanking the Saudi Kingdom for its generous gesture toward Lebanon comes before anything else.”
As for the impact of the Saudi-Iranian dialogue on Lebanon, Salam said that “it is not necessary that the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement would reflect on the details of Lebanese affairs.”
“However, it is only natural [for Lebanon] to make good use of such collaboration in various ways,” he said.
In a statement, Asiri hailed the work of the new government “that was able to take major administrative and security decisions in a short period.”
Asiri credited the internal political consensus for the progress in the government’s work and said he hoped such consensus would continue in different files, citing the presidential election.
Salam is set to meet with Saudi King Abdullah and top Saudi officials during his visit to the kingdom. Media reports said he would also meet former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.