Lebanon PM: Cabinet priority - to elect new president
Lebanon's Prime Minister Fuad Saniora assured his people Saturday that the military was in control of the streets while lawmakers struggled to overcome a political crisis that has left the country without a president. The army made clear it will stay out of politics, the AP reported.
In his first remarks since President Emile Lahoud left office, Saniora defended his government, saying it will continue to function according to the constitution. In the absence of a president, Saniora's cabinet, which the opposition considers illegitimate, takes executive power under the constitution.
The president's authorities have been referred, in line with the constitution to a "collective government handling, and this is only an interim procedure pending the election of a new president," Saniora stressed. He also opposed any attempt to elect an interim president, stressing that the constitutional term of the head of state is six years.
"Our main goal in the coming stage, which we hope will not take longer than few days, will be to exert all possible efforts ... to end this situation as soon as possible," conveyed Saniora.
He dismissed a declaration by Lahoud, who before departing the presidential palace at midnight Friday said the country was in a "state of emergency" and he was handing over security powers to the army. "There is no state of emergency, and there is no need for that," Saniora said. "There is absolutely no need for any Lebanese to be concerned about the security situation. The army is doing its work and is in full control of the situation on the ground."
"We respect the army's performance and highly appreciate its mission," Saniora said.
He called for re-activating the role of parliament, which he termed "the mother authority so that it can host true dialogue."
In answering a question regarding a warning by Iran that Lebanon is heading towards civil war, Saniora said: "We've learned painful lessons from the past and the Lebanese do not want to resort to violence again."
"The people's main interest is in the election of a new president," he added, according to Naharnet.