BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Newly appointed PM Salam seeks ‘Cabinet of national interest’

MP Tammam Salam leaves his Beirut residence on Saturday, April 6, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Newly appointed Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam said Saturday he would work toward the formation of a “government of national interest” and vowed to safeguard Lebanon from the repercussions of the conflict in neighboring Syria.

“There has been a lot talk about what the new Cabinet should be. Some say a national unity Cabinet, others one of national consensus. Some want a neutral Cabinet, others a government of technocrats. I will work on forming a national interest Cabinet,” Salam said his appointment at Baabda Palace.

Salam also acknowledged the delicate stage the country was in and said he would work with others toward a new electoral law that could gain consensus.

"I am aware of the critical stage the country is facing and the limited constitutional deadlines for holding the polls on time," he told reporters, in his first comments following his nomination.

"I will work with different parties to quickly reach a consensual law for the new elections that will ensure fair representation to all Lebanese citizens, sects and regions based on the Taif Accord and Constitution," he added.

President Michel Sleiman appointed Salam, 67, after two days of binding parliamentary consultations during which 124 MPs of the 128-member Parliament named the Beirut MP to form the next Cabinet.

Salam’s appointment comes two weeks after the Lebanese president accepted the resignation of the Hezbollah-dominated government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

Although winning the nomination, Salam’s task of forming the next Cabinet will likely be difficult given rival demands from the country’s opposing coalitions and their differences over the crisis in Syria.

While the March 14 alliance wants a government to oversee the elections, the March 8 coalition is seeking a national unity Cabinet. Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt, who counts himself among the country’s “centrist” bloc, also insists on the formation of a national unity Cabinet.

Salam said Saturday he had made no promises or commitments in return for his nomination.

“I did not make any pledges to any side: the only vow was the one I took myself, which is to work only according to [Lebanon’s] national interest,” said Salam.

He would also not elaborate on the type of government he would head.

“Everything to do with the next Cabinet will depend on the consultations regarding its formation,” he said.

He told a local daily in comments published Saturday that the consultations would take place Tuesday and Wednesday.

Salam, an independent legislator allied with the Future Movement bloc, also said he would remain at an equal distance from the country’s rival parties and try to reconcile the gap between them and “unify the national vision.”

“Today, I belong to the bloc of the homeland and this homeland is my responsibility,” Salam, known for his moderate positions, said.

The prime minister-designate also said he would work toward keeping Lebanon safe from the repercussions of events in war-torn Syria.

“I will work on safeguarding Lebanon from the repercussions of the tragic circumstances in the neighboring county [Syria],” he said.

Under Mikati, the government adopted a policy of disassociating from developments in Syria. During a National Dialogue session in 2012, rival political leaders also agreed to adopt the “Baabda Declaration,” which calls for keeping Lebanon neutral from regional crises, particularly in Syria.

 

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