President Emil Lahhoud this evening appointed Mr. Salim Al-Hoss as the country's next prime minister. This after the president held a second round of mandatory parliamentary consultations with MPs over two days at Baabda.
At noon today, the president held a meeting with House Speaker Nabih Berri. A presidential decree appointing Lebanon's next premier was issued after the meeting. Al-Hoss was also asked by the president to form the next cabinet. Consultations to form the cabinet are to start tomorrow.
A majority of deputies have nominated Al-Hoss for the post. Most parliamentary blocs that abstained from naming a premier during the first round of consultations also nominated him, whereas Mr. Rafik Al-Hariri's bloc abstained from naming any candidate for the prime ministry.
Former Prime Minister Salim Al-Hoss, who was today appointed as the head of the next cabinet, assured the Lebanese by saying the monetary situation is stable. The new premier stressed financial markets are calm and that there was no fear for the value of the Lebanese Lira, adding those who will try to "play with currency" will be curbed.
Al-Hoss also stressed the necessity of maintaining the political and economic situation in the country and solving the various problems especially the social issues.
Al-Hoss described President Emil Lahhoud's speech during his oath session as comprehensive stressing that liberties will be preserved in the new era.
The current political turmoil in the country does not seem to have had a negative effect on the monetary situation. Market demands continued normally on the US dollar.
Deputy Emil Nawfal called on the Lebanese not to panic adding the political situation will not have any negative effect on the country's financial market.
Meanwhile, Lebanon's Central Bank also stressed to all Lebanese announcing there was no need to worry about the Lebanese currency which has gained sufficient immunity against all crises.
Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said the bank would continue to intervene in the foreign exchange market and stabilize the exchange rate. Salameh added, "We do not foresee any big problems in the exchange market as a result of the political situation." The Central Bank has kept the Lebanese Lira within the official intervention band of 1,515-1,520.
Also in London, the Merrill Lynch Lebanon analyst said that his clients had confidence in President Emil Lahhoud adding, "We're telling people no to be too alarmed. Investors are in it for the country, it's the Lebanon story they're buying, not just the prime minister."
But observers in the country say crucial to market confidence will be the composition of the new cabinet as well as the choice of the next premier.
Outgoing Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri yesterday revealed that if he had accepted his re-appointment, he would have formed a cabinet of 14 new ministers. The new cabinet would have consisted of new faces of politicians and parliamentarians.
Hariri added the fact that deputies did not authorize the president to choose on their behalf during the second round of consultations constitutes a huge victory for the logic he earlier called for.
Speaking to reporters late last night at his residence in Kraytem, Hariri hoped the country's new Prime Minister Salim Al-Hoss would succeed in forming a government that would survive until the date of the first parliamentary elections, due to be held in two years.
One Israeli allied militiaman was killed and another wounded in two separate operations carried out by the Lebanese Resistance late yesterday. Hizbullah later claimed responsibility for the attacks. John Mkhaiber was killed in a roadside bomb explosion on the road linking Roum and Jezzine.
Meanwhile, Maroun Abu-Samra was wounded in a similar resistance attack on the road between Jezzine and Dahr Al-Ramel. Militiamen instantly spread in the area and closed the Kfar Falous border crossing. They also cut electricity and telephone lines in the area of Jezzine.
Meanwhile, Israeli helicopters early this morning raided the outskirts of the villages of Dellafeh, Qelya, Berkat Al-Jabbour, the hills of Maydoun, the riverbanks of Litani, and Mount Abu-Rashed in the Western Bekaa.
Israeli occupying troops earlier shelled the villages of Arab Saleem, Gargoua, Kafra, Yater, and areas in the Iqlim Al-Touffah Mountain Ridges.
Israel's Internal Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani today reiterated his call for striking Lebanese infrastructure including electricity and water networks in the capital.
Kahalani also called on the Israeli Inner Security Cabinet not to take any decision of withdrawal so as not to leave the security situation in the South in the hands of Hizbullah. Kahalani also stressed the necessity of the deployment of international troops in the South as a replacement for Israeli occupying troops in the framework of an international agreement.
The Internal Security Minister earlier described the Lebanese debate as a complex issue that is going to take a long time. He added, "Whatever decision is taken, it will influence the future shape of the northern border and discussions on such as issue cannot be completed in a day or two."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late yesterday announced he is trying to organize a tour of Israeli outposts in South Lebanon. He will be accompanied by the 11 members of his inner security cabinet.
Netanyahu said his government is currently exerting huge efforts that were not paid before, adding it is continuing discussions on the Lebanese situation.
Meanwhile, the security cabinet is due to be in session later today to continue discussions on the situation of Israeli troops in South Lebanon. Ministers are expected to air their views and unveil proposals in this regard.
France today expressed concern for the situation in South Lebanon. The French Foreign Ministry Spokesman called on all concerned parties in the conflict to exercise restraint. She added the April Understanding Monitoring Group is seeking to restore trust between both sides on the way of implementing UN Security Council Resolution 425.
Meanwhile, Washington expressed similar concerns and warned against the dangerous situation and its liability to deteriorate. US official sources reiterated the call for more self-control between the two sides. The sources also stressed Washington's ongoing efforts at reactivating the Syrian-Lebanese tracks in the peace process.
The Secretary General of the Arab League Dr. Issmat Abdel Majid said the escalating situation in South Lebanon calls for the necessity of solving the problem as soon as possible. Abdel Majid was speaking in Beirut yesterday following a meeting he held with outgoing Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri.
Abdel Majid said he held talks with Mr. Hariri on the situation in South Lebanon and recent developments in the region. He added the southern situation is very dangerous and the so-called security zone has no security. Abdel Majid reiterated the necessity of the immediate and unconditional implementation of UN Resolution 425.
During his stay in Beirut, the Arab League Chief is to sign one of his latest books at the 42nd annual Arab and International Book Fair that is currently being held in the capital.
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