Naharnet

Salam from Saudi Arabia: Kingdom Deems Presidential Election Purely Lebanese Issue

Prime Minister Tammam Salam concluded on Tuesday a visit to Saudi Arabia during which he was assured by officials that the kingdom seeks the election of a new Lebanese president.

He said during a press conference at the end of his trip: “The kingdom hopes that Lebanon will elect a president, saying this is a purely Lebanese affair.”

“We are exerting all efforts in order to elect a president who is 'made in Lebanon', not by foreign powers,” he told reporters.

“We need the election of a president in order to ensure the continuity of political institutions,” he stressed, while not ruling out the possibility of the occurrence of vacuum in the country's top post should political powers fail to elect a president before President Michel Suleiman's term ends on May 25.

“Presidential vacuum will have unpleasant consequences on Lebanon, but it will not be the end of the world. Vacuum may occur, but a president will be elected in the end,” remarked Salam.

Asked about his talks with former Premier Saad Hariri, he replied: “It is only natural to meet with him since he is present in the kingdom.”

“Cooperation is ongoing with all political powers for the sake of Lebanon,” he added.

Addressing the possibility of the return of Saudi nationals to Lebanon given the travel advisory against the country, the prime minister said: “Saudi nationals began traveling to Lebanon upon the return of Ambassador Ali Awadh Asiri to Beirut.”

He stressed that security in Lebanon has been bolstered through the army-led plan that was adopted by the government and implemented in the northern city of Tripoli and the eastern Bekaa region.

“The army played a leading role in ensuring the success of the security plan that achieved stability throughout Lebanon,” Salam stated.

“Supporting the state and army will result in the improvement of the whole of Lebanon,” he noted.

“This has been a successful trip and it will be followed with greater cooperation between Lebanon and the kingdom,” he added.

The deterioration of the security situation in Lebanon in light of the developments in Syria in recent months prompted the Gulf states of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar to issue the advisories.

Media reports said last week that Saudi Arabia is likely to lift its travel ban at the end of May.

The report came in light of the return of Asiri to Lebanon on May 2 to resume his diplomatic duties and his statement that there is no ban on visits by Saudi nationals to Lebanon.

Salam met with Saudi King Abdullah at the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, before the latter's takeoff to Morocco.

LBCI television remarked that the encounter between Salam and the Saudi king was not scheduled on the premier's meetings agenda during his official trip to the kingdom.

Earlier in the day, Salam held talks with Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, who threw a lunch banquet in the PM and the accompanying delegation’s honor.

Also in attendance at the lunch reception were deputy Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, Prince Bandar bin Khaled, Information Minister Abdul Aziz Khoja, in addition to several prominent Saudi figures, according to LBCI.

Salam had met with Hariri for over one hour on Monday evening upon his arrival in Jeddah.

Hariri held a dinner banquet in honor of the premier and the accompanying delegation.

LBCI noted that the premier's meetings in Saudi Arabia mainly discussed the anticipated presidential elections.

Salam traveled to the monarchy on Monday at the head of a delegation on his first official foreign trip since the formation of his cabinet in February.

S.D.B./M.T.


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