BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri Friday vowed after meeting Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai in Rome to exert efforts to ensure that the presidential election is held on time, said a statement issued by the Future Movement leader’s media office.
Hariri reiterated that the March 14 coalition would field one presidential contender but did not entirely rule out the possibility of agreeing on a consensus candidate after talks with various Lebanese groups.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Hariri said he discussed the election with Rai, but that they did not address potential candidates.
“We in the Future Movement will exert all the necessary efforts to avoid a presidential vacuum because it our national duty,” Hariri told reporters.
“We want a new president for Lebanon, a president who represents all the Lebanese. This is what I assured Patriarch Rai and God willing we will follow that path.”
The period to elect Lebanon’s new president begins on March 25, two months prior to the expiry of incumbent President Michel Sleiman’s term.
Asked whether recent talks he held with Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun that led to the birth of a new Cabinet this week also included a deal over the upcoming presidential election, Hariri said he endorsed all dialogue that was in Lebanon’s best interests.
“Just like dialogue over Cabinet formation succeeded, the same process should be undertaken regarding the presidential election,” Hariri said. “Various political groups must work like a beehive, talk together, consult and attempt to eliminate divergences and see where this will lead us.”
Hariri highlighted to reporters that he was part of the March 14 alliance, adding that the coalition would nominate a candidate for the presidency. “I want to go to Parliament, I want to see each one of us raise his hand for his preferred candidate,” he said.
The statement said Rai received Hariri at the Maronite School in Rome. Accompanying the former premier were Future Movement MPs Samir Jisr and Atef Majdalani, former MPs Bassem Sabaa and Ghattas Khoury, and Hariri’s aides Nader Hariri and Dawoud Sayegh.
The statement said a closed-door meeting was later held between Rai and Hariri. The two continued their discussions during dinner, joined by members of Hariri’s delegation.