Lebanon opposition eyes premiership
BEIRUT - Lebanon's Saudi- and Western-backed opposition eyed a share in power on Thursday as veteran kingmaker Walid Jumblatt voiced support for its candidate as premier to replace the outgoing nominee of the Iran-backed Hezbollah.
The opposition March 14 alliance named Tammam Salam as its candidate to replace prime minister Najib Mikati, who quit last month, and his nomination won the support of Jumblatt's Druze-based Progressive Socialist Party giving him the nominal support of at least 67 of the 128 members of parliament.
Salam, 67, is regarded as a moderate, consensus candidate for the post, without the outspoken anti-Syrian government views of some in the opposition.
His nomination by opposition chief and former premier Fuad Siniora was seen as an effort to build bridges across Lebanon's political divide which has been inflamed by the fighting just across the eastern border.
Salam is the son of Saib Salam, who served six terms as prime minister between 1952 and 1973, and died in 2000.
"We wish Mr Salam good luck in leading the country through the present circumstances," Siniora told an opposition meeting in Beirut. "It's a big responsibility to the nation."
President Michel Sleiman is to launch two days of consultations on Friday on who should be the new prime minister but he is constitutionally obliged to choose the candidate who can command a majority in parliament.
Tradition dictates in confessional divided Lebanon that the prime minister be a Sunni Muslim. The president is Christian and the speaker of parliament Shiite.