Salam Says Saudi Talks Had 3 Main Topics, Discussed with Hariri Extension of Suleiman’s Term

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Prime Minister Tammam Salam said he discussed with Saudi officials during his two-day visit to the kingdom the grant to the Lebanese army, the burden of Syrian refugees and the presidential deadlock.

In remarks to al-Liwaa newspaper published on Wednesday, Salam said he thanked Saudi officials on their “generous” three-billion-dollar grant that was announced in late December.

He said his talks with the officials, including King Abdullah, also focused on the refugees and Lebanon’s inability to meet their burden, in addition to the social and economic problems resulting from their presence in Lebanon.

More than one million Syrians have found refuge in the country of just four million citizens.

U.N. officials said Monday that Lebanon is under massive pressure as tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the war in neighboring Syria continue to stream in, likely reaching a total of 1.5 million people by the end of the year.

The most important topic on the agenda of the Saudi talks was parliament’s failure to elect a new president over lack of an agreement between the rival March 8 and 14 camps on a candidate.

The Saudi officials reiterated that the presidential election was a local issue, al-Liwaa said.

It quoted them as saying that Riyadh “encourages an agreement among the Lebanese to bring a president who fills the vacuum.”

They also hoped the elections would be held on time.

President Michel Suleiman’s term expires on May 25. The parliament failed in several rounds to elect a new head of state over the boycott of the March 8 alliance, which claims there should be a prior agreement on a consensual president.

A fifth round is scheduled to take place on Thursday.

Asked about his meeting with al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri in Jeddah, Salam said Hariri “wants to salvage Lebanon and puts the country’s interest before everything else.”

The premier told al-Liwaa that Hariri discussed with him the possibility of extending Suleiman’s term for one year.

But Salam stressed in French “c´est trop tard” (it’s too late.)

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