Beirut: (Agencies: 26/5/2008): Michel Sleiman has called for unity in Lebanon after he was sworn in as the country’s new president.
The ex-army chief was elected president on Sunday in a parliamentary session attended by foreign dignitaries including Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, who helped broker a deal to end a dispute between rival factions.
Of those voting in Lebanon’s 127-member parliament, 118 voted in favor of Sleiman becoming president. Six of the ballots cast were blank, signifying a protest vote or reservations over Sleiman’s election.
Addressing the Lebanese parliament after the election, HH the Emir of Qatar said that Sleiman’s election was part of a process towards a lasting peace in Lebanon.
"Lebanon," HH added," is the victor, Lebanon’s crisis is the vanquished."
The foreign ministers of Syria and Iran, which back Hezbollah and European leaders, were among the 200 dignitaries attending the parliamentary session.
Sleiman’s election is part of a deal brokered on Wednesday in Doha, Qatar’s capital, to end a political crisis that last month degenerated into violence.
Sixty-five people were killed when armed supporters of the Hezbollah-led opposition took control of much of Beirut after the government moved to outlaw the group’s private communications network.
US President George W Bush welcomed Gen Sleiman’s election and said he looked forward to an "era of political reconciliation".
Under the constitution, outgoing Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is expected to head a caretaker government until a new prime minister is appointed.