Salam Says Baabda Vacuum Has 'Negative Burdens'

Prime Minister Tammam Salam said Tuesday that the presidential vacuum has placed burdens on Lebanon, calling for the swift election of a head of state.

Salam, who is on an official visit to Dubai, also said the extension of parliament's term earlier this month was not the best solution to Lebanon's problems.

Baabda Palace has been vacant since President Michel Suleiman's term ended in May.

The vacuum was exacerbated by the extension of the legislature’s mandate to June 17.

Pro-extension MPs claimed their move will prevent another power vacuum from forming in a country.

“The regional and international conflicts and confrontations are affecting the country as they have always done,” said Salam.

“And today we are confronting a huge burden and challenges, mainly the issue of Syrian refugees and terrorism that is targeting us,” he said.

Lebanon has around 1.5 million refugees who have fled Syria's civil war that erupted in March 2011.

Their numbers began declining this month when the government decided to stop their entry to Lebanon except in certain cases.

The presence of the refugees in Lebanon and Hizbullah's fighting alongside troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad against Sunni rebels have led to the rise in terrorist activities.

The Lebanese are bitterly divided over Syria's civil war. Hizbullah's presence in Syria has drawn anger at home from Lebanon's Sunnis, leading to Sunni-Shiite tensions.

This in turn has led to tit-for-tat suicide bombings and several rounds of street clashes in Lebanon in the past year.

Salam said only unity would help the country confront terrorism.



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