|EU ready to support Lebanon's economic, political reform plans
|Lahoud says efforts should be exerted to maintain unity and accord
French Ambassador Bernard Emie expressed his country's support for the new government and its plans to establish political and economic reform, and said he hoped for stability in Lebanon and the wider region.
Speaking after a meeting with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Emie said he believes the new Cabinet will lead the country toward a greater realization of democracy and greater reform on the social and economic levels.
He added France, together with the European Union, is ready to grant support to Siniora's new Cabinet and assist Lebanon in the investigation into the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri, in line with UN Resolution 1595.
Meanwhile, official spokesman of the Russian Foreign Ministry Alexander Yakovenko described the formation of the Lebanese government as a step toward the establishment of stability and accord.
In a statement, Yakovenko said Siniora's Cabinet faces difficult tasks ahead, such as maintaining accord between the different Lebanese communities, establishing good relations with Syria and implementing social and economic reforms.
Meanwhile, President Emile Lahoud said settling the present situation in the country should involve radical political, economic and administrative reforms, adding attention should also focus on achieving an autonomous judiciary that could operate independently and free of any foreign intervention or pressure.
Lahoud's statements were made during a meeting with former Minister Wadih Khazen.
Speaking afterward, Khazen said the president was ready to assist the new Cabinet in fulfilling its national responsibilities.
For his part, Lahoud said efforts should be exerted to maintain accord and unity and promote the country's stability.
In other developments, the ministerial committee in charge of drafting the ministerial policy statement held a meeting Thursday headed by Siniora.
Following the meeting, Information Minister-designate Ghazi Aridi said the final draft will be proposed to the Cabinet on Saturday before being submitted to Parliament.
Siniora also met on Thursday with a delegation from the EU Troika, which included British Ambassador James Watt, Austrian Ambassador George Maunter-Markhof and EU Ambassador Patrick Renauld.
Speaking afterward, Watt said the European Union was ready to support the new Cabinet's political and economic reform plan.
He added the EU Foreign Ministers Summit held in Brussels on July 18 "condemned the series of explosions and assassinations that have gripped the country since October 2004 and called for a serious probe into the crimes."
He added the Foreign Ministers underlined the need to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1559 and expressed their concern over the crisis on the Lebanese-Syrian border.
Kuwaiti Ambassador Ali Suleiman Said and Iranian Ambassador Mahmoud Idrisi Karmanchahi also paid a visit to the prime minister to express their country's support to the new government.
Batroun MP Butros Harb said the new Cabinet is made up of "excellent members," but would wait for the ministerial policy statement before endorsing it.
Harb was speaking during an interview with Future Television on Thursday.
Declaring that Lebanon was off to a "positive and good start," the U.S. State Department said Wednesday it was prepared to work with the new government but not with any Hizbullah member named to the Cabinet.
"Obviously we are going to have to operate within the constraints of our law," spokesman Adam Ereli said.
"Our policy has not changed," he said. "Hizbullah is a terrorist organization.
Still, Lebanese leaders have agreed on a list of Cabinet members and "that is a positive move," Ereli said.
Ereli also met with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir to discuss ways to promote bilateral relations.
The Daily Star