News / Middle East

Lebanon PM Pledges to Shield Country from Syria Dangers

Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam (L) talks with Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman at the presidential palace in Baabda, near Beirut, April 6, 2013.
Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam (L) talks with Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman at the presidential palace in Baabda, near Beirut, April 6, 2013.
Reuters
Lebanese politician Tammam Salam was named prime minister on Saturday after he won a sweeping parliamentary endorsement, pledging to bridge the country's deep divisions and shield it from the dangers of neighboring Syria's civil war.

Salam was designated after the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, whose two years in office were dominated by efforts to contain sectarian tensions, violence and economic fallout from the Syrian conflict.

His immediate task, if he is able to form a Cabinet accepted by Lebanon's rival political forces, will be to prepare for a parliamentary election which is due in June but faces delay.

The Syrian bloodshed has exacerbated tensions in Lebanon, which fought a ruinous civil war from 1975 to 1990. Rival Sunni and Shi'ite Muslim and Christian politicians have failed to agree an electoral system under which the vote will take place.

In his first comments after his appointment, Salam said he would seek to "unite opinion and reach speedy agreement on a parliamentary electoral law to achieve fair representation for all citizens and sects."

He also pledged to focus on "ending Lebanon's political divisions and its impact on the security situation, and averting the dangers from the neighboring tragedy [in Syria]."

Salam, born in 1945 into a prominent Sunni political dynasty, is close to the Saudi- and Western-backed March 14 coalition but was chosen as a consensus candidate acceptable to the March 8 bloc, which includes the Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its mainly Shi'ite and Christian allies.

March 14 groups mainly Sunni and Christian parties which pushed, with U.S. and European support, for Syria to end nearly three decades of military presence in Lebanon in 2005.

Referring to speculation over whether his government should be a short-term technocratic administration focused only on preparing for elections, or a "national unity" government with longer-term ambition, Salam said: "I will absolutely strive to form a government of national benefit."

Shifting power

In a sign of shifting foreign influence in Lebanon, whose politicians lived in the shadow of Damascus long after President Bashar al-Assad withdrew his army eight years ago, Salam's elevation appear to owe much to Saudi intervention.

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, whose announcement on Thursday that he backed March 14's nomination guaranteed Salam a parliamentary majority, said he reached his decision after talks with Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

Despite the overwhelming support for Salam - he was backed by at least 120 of 128 parliamentarians - he may face a lengthy struggle to form a government. His predecessor, Mikati, took five months assemble a ministerial team and a March 8 source said Salam could also take months to put together a Cabinet.

He has to satisfy conflicting demands for portfolios amid a heightened political standoff over the Syrian crisis.

March 14 strongly supports the mainly Sunni Muslim rebels battling to overthrow Assad in a conflict which the United Nations says has killed 70,000 people. Another 400,000 refugees have poured into Lebanon, a country of just 4 million.

March 8 has backed Assad's campaign to crush the uprising, which began with mainly peaceful protests but descended into a civil war which has reduced parts of its main cities to rubble.

Lebanon itself has been shaken by the violence, which has spilled across the border into the Bekaa Valley and inflamed tensions in the northern city of Tripoli between Sunni Muslims who actively support the Syrian rebels and members of Assad's minority Alawite community.

Dozens of people have been killed in the northern city of  Tripoli in waves of street fighting since 2011.

Before his resignation, Mikati called for international aid to help Lebanon deal with the impact of the ever-growing number of refugees. President Michel Suleiman called this week for refugee camps to be set up inside Syria itself, under United Nations auspices, to ease the burden on Syria's neighbors.

Salam, a Cabinet minister from 2008 to 2009, is the son of former prime minister Saeb Salam. His grandfather served under the Ottoman Empire and the French colonial mandate.

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

ILO: Women Still Losing Out in Global Work Place

International Labor Organization says women are marginally better off now than they were 20 years ago More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More