Berri to Help Salam's Mission as Soon as Extension Law Becomes Valid

Speaker Nabih Berri has vowed to facilitate the task of Premier-designate Tammam Salam in forming the new government, considering him the best option at this sensitive stage.

In remarks to As Safir daily published Monday, Berri said he would exert all efforts to remove the obstacles confronting the cabinet formation process.

“There is a solution to every problem,” he said, adding he “will not give up” on Salam.

But the speaker said he would contribute to a solution to the government crisis as soon as the law on the 17-month extension of parliament's mandate becomes valid on June 20, the date the legislature's mandate expires.

The parliament extended its four-year term end of May after the rival parties failed to agree on a new electoral law, pushing the polls to November 2014.

But President Michel Suleiman and the Change and Reform bloc submitted petitions to the Constitutional Council, which is failing to meet over the boycott of three judges – two Shiites and a Druze.

Berri, who is at the forefront of the efforts exerted by several officials to prevent a council ruling to stop the elections from taking place this year, told As Safir that it was impossible for candidates to carry out their campaigns at this tense situation.

“Are the candidates of the March 14 alliance capable of carrying out their campaigns in the strongholds of March 8 and the other way around?” he wondered.

“To what extent do the painful incidents in Tripoli and the Bekaa … help preserve the security of the elections?” Berri asked.

The delicate religious and sectarian balance in Lebanon, has been disrupted by the war across the border in Syria. Tensions have been high for months, with Lebanon's Sunnis largely supporting their brethren in Syria who make up the majority of the rebellion, while Shiites have supported President Bashar Assad.

Several security incidents and sectarian clashes have rocked the northern city of Tripoli and towns in the eastern Bekaa valley.

In the latest incident, four men, at least three of them Shiites, were killed Sunday in an ambush in the barren mountains of the northeastern towns of al-Qaa and Arsal, whose residents are Sunnis and support the uprising against Assad.

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