Lebanon News

Tariq al-Jadida sees tough road ahead for head of state

TARIQ AL-JADIDA: Due to the past 18 months of political turmoil, many Lebanese had given up hope and feared for the worst. However, the election of President Michel Suleiman and the re-nomination of Premier Fouad Siniora offer what is perhaps a light at the end of Lebanon's dark tunnel of instability, even though the rest of the Doha agreement remains to be implemented.

The Daily Star went to Beirut's Tariq al-Jadida neighborhood for a local perspective on residents thoughts toward these developments.

Most respondents expressed satisfaction that Lebanon's Parliament was able to elect a president and believe Suleiman will maintain a positive relationship with Siniora.

As Issam Farchoukh said: "I'm optimistic, I expect the president to cooperate with Premier Siniora to preserve the welfare of the country."

"I believe the president is an honest, patriotic man, he's got solid beliefs in a sovereign state and will not submit to any foreign or regional power. His impartiality and his loyalty to the nation along with Premier Siniora can bring what's best for this country," said Khalil Mnaimne.

"A good inaugural speech by the president, I think he's capable of restoring order and maintaining stability," added Mohammad Agha.

Many others supported Suleiman as head of state but believe he's incapable of achieving any resolution as long as rival political leaders refuse to cooperate. While they doubt any progress will be made in the near future, some consider Siniora's return a big morale boost.

"I think the March 14 coalition made the right choice when nominating Premier Siniora head of cabinet because MP Saad Hariri has to prepare for the 2009 parliamentary elections," said Sawsan, 40, adding that she believed both Suleiman and Siniora are patriotic.

Mustafa Rakha said: "The president must avoid any confrontation with the opposition; I believe he's neutral and will remain so."

A few others expressed fear for the life of the new president and a belief that the opposition is willing to resort to military force when necessary to make political gains. The disarmament of all political parties was also of particular concern to many correspondents.

Suhail, 44, urged the president to take firm security measures. "I fear for his life. He's an impartial man and an intermediary between the rival coalitions," he said.

"God help the president. I suppose things are not going to get any better, this is just a cease-fire," said Hussam.

However, some respondents took a negative view of the president's past performance as head of the Lebanese Army. They beleive Suleiman failed in this capacity during last month's clashes, neglecting to properly protect Lebanese citizens.

A person who wished to remain anonymous said: "I don't assume President Suleiman will take any actions to disarm Hizbullah and its allies. He's on their side."





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