BEIRUT: Saudi Arabia congratulated over the weekend MP Tammam Salam on his appointment as prime minister-designate while MP Michel Aoun vowed Sunday to facilitate the process of forming a new Cabinet starting this week.
According to the Saudi Press Agency, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz sent a congratulatory letter to Salam over his recent appointment to form a new government.
“The Saudi King, in the name of his people and the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, congratulated [Salam] and wished him well and happiness and wished the brotherly Lebanese people progress,” the agency, quoting a statement, said.
“[The king] expressed his keenness to continue developing the special ties between the two countries, and support whatever contributes to stability and prosperity in sisterly Lebanon,” it added.
Similarly, Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz also congratulated Salam in a letter.
Following a meeting with Maronite patriarch, Cardinal Beshara Rai, the head of the Free Patriotic Movement [FPM] MP Michel Aoun vowed to help Salam with the difficult task of forming a government.
"We will facilitate the formation of the government and we hope that there won't be spiteful political practices similar to what some spoke about," Aoun told reporters in Bkirki, the seat of the Maronite patriarchate.
Aoun was referring to MP Walid Jumblatt who opposed a return of FPM figures to the Energy and Telecommunications Ministries.
"We hope that we could form a government of national consensus so that it could fully carry out its duties," Aoun added.
President Michel Sleiman appointed Salam, 67, Saturday after two days of binding parliamentary consultations during which 124 MPs out of the 128-member Parliament tasked the Beirut MP with forming a Cabinet to replace the government of Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
Mikati resigned last month, citing rifts within his Cabinet that was dominated by Hezbollah-lead March 8 ministers.
During Mikati's term, ties with Saudi Arabia soured after he was appointed prime minister in January 2011 replacing one of Riyadh’s closest allies in the country, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Hariri's Cabinet collapsed after March 8 ministers resigned.
Salam, son of six-time former Prime Minister Saeb Salam, said Saturday that Saudi Arabia’s presence in Lebanon waned in the past two years.
“There wasn’t a decline in Saudi Arabia's role in Lebanon, but a minor regression noticed by everyone in the past two years. And in the face of dangers, the circumstance was available for Saudi to take [back] its position,” Salam said during an interview with LBCI.
Analysts and political sources have said that Saudi Arabia played a key role in promoting Salam as a consensus candidate to the premiership because of its concern over Lebanon's security and stability.
Salam will embark on the difficult task of forming a new Cabinet Tuesday, given the sharp differences between the country’s main political coalitions over the nature of the future government and the electoral law.
In remarks published Saturday, Salam said his government will have three priorities which will be "A [new] electoral law, holding parliamentary elections and controlling the security, economic, social and monetary situation.”
While the March 14 coalition seeks a Cabinet whose primary task is to swiftly hold the elections based on a new law, March 8, especially Hezbollah, has voiced support for a national unity government.
Meanwhile, Rai also congratulated Salam during a phone call Saturday and expressed hoped "that the formation is as fast as the appointment with the same national consensus."
“We lived the joy of consensus yesterday after the designation of new prime minister,” Rai said during his Sunday sermon.
He hoped that similar joy would also surface with the agreement on a new, fair electoral law and the formation of a new government.
"[We hope a new government is formed] that would have Lebanon contribute with work and prayers to build peace in the countries of the Middle East, particularly Syria, and plants peace in every person who arrives to [Lebanon], especially the refugees,” he said.