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New PM vows to safeguard Lebanon from Syria war

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Tamam Salam of the Western-backed opposition was named Lebanon’s new prime minister on Saturday and tasked with forming a government

Lebanon's newly named Prime Minister Tamam Salam speaks to the press following his official appointment by President Michel Sleiman at the presidential palace in Baabda east of the Lebanese capital Beirut  (AFP Photo)

Lebanon’s newly named Prime Minister Tamam Salam speaks to the press following his official appointment by President Michel Sleiman at the presidential palace in Baabda east of the Lebanese capital Beirut
(AFP Photo)

(AFP) - Lebanon’s newly named Prime Minister Tamam Salam pledged in his first speech on Saturday to safeguard the country’s security from the war raging in neighbouring 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 neighbouring (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.

His appointment comes two weeks after Najib Mikati resigned and effectively brought down his Hezbollah-dominated government.

Salam also pledged to work with all groups across Lebanon’s political spectrum, which is split into pro- and anti-Damascus camps.

“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.

Lebanon was dominated politically and militarily by Syria until 2005, and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad still holds sway over Beirut through Hezbollah and other allies.

The March 14 opposition movement, meanwhile, is fiercely opposed to Damascus.

Salam’s nomination is expected to help ease a political crisis that has gripped Lebanon ever since the Syria conflict erupted more than two years ago.

But he faces the difficult challenge of forming a government in a deeply divided country.

While Hezbollah has expressed support for the creation of a national unity government, it is unclear if March 14 would accept this.

Salam refused to comment on the issue, and instead told reporters: “I will work for a government committed to the national interest.”

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.

“I am conscious that it is a sensitive period,” Salam told reporters, stressing the importance of upcoming legislative elections.

“I hope to continue consultations with the political leaders in the coming days… in order to form a new government.”


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