Lebanon today moves into the presidential term of President Emil Lahhoud. President Elias Al-Hrawi's mandate ended at midnight following a nine-year term that witnessed a number of developmental and economic accomplishments.
The Lebanese are looking forward for the upcoming presidential term. Newspaper headlines in the country today described Lahhoud as the president of change, liberation of land, and the continuation of accomplishments.
Lahhoud was unanimously elected by parliament on October 15. His election was characterized by popular, parliamentary, and official consensus.
In his last official address to the Lebanese people, President Elias Al-Hrawi last night called on all the nation to unite behind their next president, General Emil Lahhoud and work to ensure that Lebanon regains its full sovereignty.
The president said he was proud of the accomplishments achieved during his term, but added he was sorry for what he was not able to achieve. Mr. Hrawi said that the one subject that brought him grief was the occupation of South Lebanon and the Western Bekaa.
Hrawi stressed the need to build a state based on the rule of law and implement the constitution to its letter. He also said he began his term with a country characterized by chaos and was handing over a united Lebanon.
President Emil Lahhoud was sworn in today in parliament during a special session which was called for by House Speaker Nabih Berri. Lahhoud will be Lebanon's president for the next six years replacing President Elias Al-Hrawi.
The meeting was attended by representatives of Arab and foreign parliaments. Official delegations from Canada, Cyprus, Brazil, Chile and the US Congress were the first to arrive in the country. A delegation from Syria headed by House Speaker Abdel Qader Qaddoura also took part in the session. The delegations also included a number of deputies of Lebanese origin in addition to diplomatic figures and ambassadors.
The session was broadcast live by Radio Lebanon. Parliament has not witnessed such a historical oath session since the early 70's.
The president-elect asserted as he took the oath that: " I swear by God Almighty that I respect the constitution of the Lebanese nation and its laws and preserve Lebanon's independence, unity, and sovereignty".
During the session, Lahhoud gave a speech defining the features of the upcoming phase. In his speech, Lahhoud pledged that the rule of law should prevail. Lahhoud added his main priorities are law enforcement and administrative and political reform.
Following the oath session in parliament this morning, President Emil Lahhoud headed to the presidential palace in Baabda where he was handed his new constitutional mission by President Elias Al-Hrawi.
Hrawi handed over his duties to the new president in an official ceremony during which the outgoing president decorated Lahhoud with the highest Lebanese medal, the order of exceptional merit.
During the formal handover ceremony, Hrawi addressed Lahhoud as saying: "The Lebanese have penned high hopes on your presidential term". Hrawi also wished Lahhoud all success in his new mission. Hrawi later left Baabda in his private car to his residence in Yarze.
In line of the Lebanese constitution, Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri is expected to hand in his government's resignation during his first official visit to President Emil Lahhoud tomorrow at Baabda.
Meanwhile, President Lahhoud will hold a series of compulsory parliamentary consultations Thursday to specify the name of the next prime minister.
House Speaker Nabih Berri as well as a number of deputies expected an overwhelming majority of MPs to designate Prime Minister Hariri as the next premier. Parliamentary sources also expected the next government makeup might be determined within a period of less than two weeks.
Saudi King Fahd Bin Abdel Aziz late yesterday sent President Elias Al-Hrawi a congratulatory letter on the occasion of Lebanon's National Independence Day. King Fahd praised the efforts paid by Hrawi during his nine-year term in office. In his letter, the Saudi King also hoped Lebanon all success and progress during the next presidential term.
Hrawi also received a letter from Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah Bin Abdel Aziz on the same occasion. Prince Abdullah extended his best wishes of good health for President Hrawi. The Saudi Prince also praised the accomplishments achieved in the country during Hrawi's mandate.
Similar letters were sent to the president yesterday by US President Bill Clinton, French President Jacques Chirac and Syrian Leader Hafez Al-Assad.
The Secretary General of the Arab League Issmat Abdel Majid is due in Beirut next Monday. During his visit, Abdel Majid will hold talks with President Emil Lahhoud, House Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri.
Abdel Majid's visit will be the first by an Arab official following Lahhoud's official accession to the presidency of the Lebanese Republic. An Arab League spokesman yesterday announced the visit would last for three days.
Abdel Majid had called on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to pressure Israel to stop its daily aggressions against the Lebanese people, especially in light of its recent theft of Lebanese soil from the Southern occupied zone. Abdel Majid also called, in a letter sent to Annan, for the intervention of the Security Council to force Israel to stop these aggressions.
The head of the Higher Shiite Council Sheikh Mohammed Mahdi Shamseddine today concludes his official visit to Kuwait. Shamseddine late yesterday held talks with Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad As-Sobah. Discussions centered on the situation in the Arab and Islamic world. Bilateral ties between Lebanon and Kuwait were also tackled during the meeting.
Shamseddine later thanked the Kuwaiti Emir for his country's continuous support for Lebanon and its reconstruction process. The Shiite cleric is expected to arrive in Beirut later today after a one-week official visit to Kuwait.
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