Lebanon’s new PM vows to safeguard country from Syria war

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Lebanon’s newly named Prime Minister Tammam Salam pledged in his first speech on Saturday to safeguard the country’s security from the war raging in neighboring Syria.

“There is a need to bring Lebanon out of its state of division and political fragmentation, as reflected on the security situation, and to ward off the risks brought by the tragic situation in the neighboring (country) and by regional tensions,” Salam said.

Salam, 67, of the Western-backed opposition made the remarks in his inaugural speech shortly after being tasked by President Michel Sleiman with forming a new government.

He was named Lebanon's prime minister Saturday, two weeks after Najib Mikati resigned and effectively brought down his Hezbollah-dominated government.

Lebanon's president formally asked Salam to form a new government on Saturday after he won endorsements from across the political spectrum, including the powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah, the March 14 opposition grouping and veteran kingmaker Walid Jumblatt


After the announcement, Salam held a press conference in which he vowed to protect Lebanon from the war in neighboring Syria.

“I have accepted this nomination... out of conviction that it is my duty to work for my country’s interest, in cooperation with all political parties,” he said.

Consultations initiated by President Sleiman ran into a second day on Saturday among political movements over Salam's appointment. A day earlier, at least 86 MPs of 128 members of parliament backed his candidacy.

Though Lebanon's main political currents have backed Salam, he still faces the challenge of creating a new government in a country deeply divided between those that support and oppose the regime in neighboring war-torn Syria.

The Damascus regime dominated Lebanon politically and militarily for 30 years until 2005.

Ever since, the eastern Mediterranean country has suffered multiple political conflicts and crises, which have been exacerbated by the civil war that has been raging in Syria for more than two years.

While there was consensus on Salam's candidacy, one key issue remains unresolved. Hezbollah and its allies say he should form a national unity government, but it is unclear whether March 14 would accept.

Hanging over the process is the question of whether elections will go ahead as scheduled in June, amid broad opposition to the electoral law currently on the books.

Salam, a Sunni Muslim as tradition dictates for Lebanon's prime ministers, is the son of Saib Salam, who served six terms as premier between 1952 and 1973.

He was first elected a Beirut MP in 1996, and re-elected in 2009. A graduate of economics and management in England and married with three children, he was culture minister between 2008 and 2009.

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