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Salam vows to bow out if election efforts hit impasse
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Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam said Wednesday that he would abandon his bid to form a government if he felt it impossible to hold parliamentary elections, adding that he would seek to form a homogenous Cabinet, sources close to Salam told The Daily Star.

“I will resign after elections take place, and if elections do not take place, I say that my mission is over, since the principal and obvious mission of my government is to hold elections,” the sources quoted Salam as saying.

Salam, the sources added, explained that he would try to form a homogeneous government that acted as one team.

According to the sources, Salam said that judging by experience, national unity governments had been failures. He added that all governments were political and had political missions.

Salam said that although he had been nominated by a political coalition in the country, he represented all parties now that he had become a prime minister-designate.

“I am now for everybody and eager that my government not stand against any group,” the sources quoted the prime minister-designate as saying. Salam said there was no specific time-frame in which to form his government.

He said he was studying the outcome of the consultations in order to come up with his own vision of the government.

Salam concluded his nonbinding consultations with parliamentary blocs for the second and final day, as the various blocs’ demands mirrored the divisions of Tuesday’s round, with March 8 MPs calling for a national unity government while those from the March 14 camp demanded a neutral Cabinet.

Salam kicked off his meetings with Beirut MPs Nadim Gemayel, Serge Torsarkissian and Michel Pharaon, who represent the Ashrafieh Free Decision parliamentary bloc.

“We call for a neutral government that includes competent ministers,” Pharaon said following the meeting.

Beirut MP Sebouh Kalpakian, speaking on behalf of the Armenian Solidarity bloc, called for a technocrat government. “We don’t want Armenians to be marginalized. We want key [Cabinet] portfolios that suit Armenians’ role and sacrifices,” Kalpakian said.

For his part, Baalbek-Hermel MP Assem Qanso, from the Baath Party, offered to help in restoring normal ties between Lebanon and Syria.

Marjayoun-Hasbaya MP Asaad Hardan, speaking on behalf of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party bloc, agreed with Qanso’s comments on reestablishing “good relations” with Syria.

He added that his bloc supported a national unity government that bolstered civil peace, and highlighted the need for what he called the “golden” political equation: “the resistance, the people and the army.”

Batroun MP Butros Harb, from the March 14 alliance, vowed to help Salam accomplish his mission and said the premier-designate was free to form the Cabinet he deemed appropriate.

After meeting with Salam, Western Bekaa Valley MP Robert Ghanem, also from March 14, said he would like to see a government made up of a ‘homogeneous team” and that “would prioritize parliamentary elections.”

Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya official and Beirut MP Imad Hout expressed hope that the new Cabinet would support the Baabda Declaration, which calls for distancing Lebanon from the Syria crisis.

Speaking to reporters after the consultations, Salam said he was “committed to a government that adheres to the national interest and makes elections a [top] priority.”

“I listened and enjoyed much of the ideas and thoughts that I need during the course of the [government] formation,” he said.

Salam added that the various blocs nonetheless had a responsibility toward making the outcome of the talks fruitful. U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly stressed after talks with President Michel Sleiman that the new government must be made locally.

“Ambassador Connelly welcomed the president’s nomination of Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam as a positive first step in efforts to form a new government. This process is, and must be, a Lebanese process,” said a statement by the U.S. Embassy.

Later, Salam met with Italian Ambassador to Lebanon Giuseppe Morabito, who voiced his support for his host’s efforts in forming his Cabinet. Morabito also hoped for a speedy agreement over a new electoral law for the upcoming elections.

“We support the efforts carried out by Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam to form a government with the widest possible support of Lebanese political forces,” Morabito said.

Affirming that Italy does not interfere in Lebanon’s internal affairs, the envoy said his country supported the disassociation policy toward the Syrian crisis as well as the Baabda Declaration and the National Dialogue process.

Also, Salam received Ahmad Hariri, the secretary-general of the Future Movement who extended his greetings to Salam.

Hariri said he believed Salam’s mission to form a government would be easy since all rival groups agreed on the broad outlines. He added that the Future Movement supported his stance that the major role of his government was to hold polls.

“This democratic process should not be postponed,” he said.

Salam also received Binali Yildirim, the Turkish transport, maritime affairs and communications minister, along with Turkey’s Ambassador Inan Ozyildiz.

For its part, the March 14 general secretariat after its regular meeting urged all parties to cooperate with Salam in the Cabinet formation process, calling for prioritizing national interests.

source By Nafez Kawas


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