BEIRUT: Lebanon’s former premier Tammam Salam has appealed for politicians to put aside their differences in order to “save” the crisis-hit country.
In his first statement since the start of civil protests which have led to the collapse of the Lebanese government, the 74-year-old ex-prime minister said: “All officials must find a common ground of understanding to form a government as soon as possible.”
After meeting with the highest Maronite religious authority in Lebanon, Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi, Salam warned that “the situation is difficult, in crisis, complicated, and requires rising above (ourselves), sacrificing, and finding solutions to save Lebanon.”
His comments came as the tug of war between opposing Lebanese political parties intensified on Thursday amid an announcement from the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Gebran Bassil, that his party would not participate in the formation of the next government.
Binding parliamentary consultations are set to take place next Monday to name a new prime minister following the resignation of Saad Hariri from the post on Oct. 29.
The FPM is the largest Christian bloc in the Lebanese Parliament and an ally of Hezbollah, but the participation of Bassil has been a point of disagreement with caretaker PM Hariri.
Bassil announced his decision after holding talks on Thursday with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, and later his parliamentary bloc.
Former MP Faris Saeed told Arab News: “Everyone is trying to evade responsibility for what is happening in the country, and the result is the collapse of the state. Everyone is looking for a scapegoat. Bassil’s move is an act of cowardice to evade responsibility.
“I expect that parliamentary consultations will take place and a prime minister will be assigned, but the prime minister will not be able to form the government.”
Lebanon is facing an acute economic crisis following weeks of demonstrations throughout the country sparked by the government’s decision to increase taxes in a bid to reduce the deficit in the state budget.
President Michel Aoun and his ally, Hezbollah, have insisted on forming a technopolitical government, while protesters want a rescue government with no links to the former administration.
The Sunni authority in Lebanon, Dar Al-Fatwa, had announced that its only candidate to head the government was Hariri but FPM MP Salim Aoun criticized the stance. He said: “They left us with two options as MPs for naming the PM: Either Saad Hariri or no one.”
Meanwhile, activists claimed protesters’ tents in Riad Al-Solh Square in Beirut had been damaged in an “organized attack.”
And tensions boiled over in the Mount Lebanon Palace of Justice after prosecutor Ghada Aoun ordered the detention of the director general of the Traffic, Trucks and Vehicles Management Authority, Hoda Salloum, for alleged “bribery, forgery, waste of public money, illicit enrichment, and job obligation breaches.”
Future Movement MP, Hadi Hobeich, reportedly entered judge Aoun’s office and accused her of being “militia-like” over a matter that was “not judicial but purely political.” He said the purpose of arresting Salloum was to “replace her with an employee affiliated with the FPM.” Hobeich later apologized for his actions which he described as a “mistake.”
The Supreme Judicial Council announced that Judge Aoun would be referred to the judicial inspection.