Lebanon News

Nasrallah: President to be made in Lebanon

Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi, right, receives Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi in Beirut, Monday, April 7, 2014. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said he believed the next president could be “made in Lebanon,” adding that there were signs that the presidential election would take place on time.

“More than ever, local elements will be influential in the presidential election this time. Thus, we have the opportunity of having a president who is made in Lebanon,” Nasrallah said in remarks to be published by the local daily As-Safir Tuesday.

“The general atmosphere in Lebanon is favorable for presidential elections,” Nasrallah said. “Hezbollah will support the candidate who serves the higher national interest.”

The period to elect a new president in Lebanon began on March 25, two months prior to the expiry of President Michel Sleiman’s term.

The March 8 and March 14 coalitions have both said that they would announce candidates. Chances of both camps reaching an agreement for one candidate appear to be slim.

The first candidate emerged last week, with Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea announcing that he would run.

Commenting on Hezbollah’s boycott of a National Dialogue session called for by Sleiman last week, Nasrallah said that the president was no longer able to chair such sessions in light of his recent stances. Nasrallah stressed, however, that his party was open to dialogue.

The party did not attend the talks to protest “offensive and harmful” remarks against the resistance made by Sleiman in recent speeches.

In separate developments Monday, a parliamentary committee from Speaker Nabih Berri’s bloc informed Berri about the outcome of visits it paid to Lebanese leaders and heads of blocs to discuss the possibility of convening a successful Parliament session to elect a president.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, committee member MP Yassine Jaber said Berri would call a Parliament session to elect a president in the second half of April.

“It is clear that most MPs or blocs will attend the session. Now what will happen next will be determined by the speaker,” Jaber said.

Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai praised the speaker’s intention to call for a parliamentary session to elect a president.

“The president is not dropped in with a parachute, but he emerges from a democratic game in the country,” Rai said.

“The chance to have the president that Lebanon needs is made possible through the electoral process and deliberation,” Rai added.

He made his remarks to reporters at Rafik Hariri International Airport prior to his departure for Geneva, where he is to deliver a lecture on the role of Christians in the region.

Rai denied that his Sunday sermon that specified the traits that a new president must possess aimed to sideline certain candidates.

“I did not exclude anybody, and I don’t have this in mind. I don’t impose on anybody, as I am a human being who believes in democracy,” Rai said. “We said that we want a president who is strong with his ethics, exemplary life ... history and strong with his belief in the Lebanese state and restoring its dignity.”

Later, Rai met in Geneva the U.N.-Arab League peace envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and an array of diplomats.

Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk confirmed media reports that he had dinner with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil Sunday, adding that presidential elections were not discussed during the meeting.

In an interview with LBCI television, Machnouk said that the current government did not reflect a political agreement between rival parties, but a temporary arrangement for a transitional period slated to end on May 25.

For his part, Geagea said his candidacy was not motivated by greed to assume the top Christian post in the country, but rather by his desire to see a March 14 official at the helm, as it would be an opportunity for the group to accomplish its goals.

“The March 14 coalition is no longer just a political group. I say frankly that Lebanon will no longer exist if this alliance fails,” Geagea said in remarks Sunday to the winners of the Order of Engineers elections in the north.

Separately, Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi extended his congratulations to Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi over his appointment.

Speaking to reporters after his visit to Rifi, the ambassador said that he had given Rifi a congratulatory letter from his Iranian counterpart Mostafa Pourmohammadi.

“We discussed recent developments in regional and international arenas and opportunities for cooperation between Lebanon and the Islamic Republic, particularly between the justice ministries in our countries,” Roknabadi said.

Roknabadi added that he and Rifi agreed on the need to execute cooperation protocols between the Justice ministries of Iran and Lebanon.

The Iranian diplomat said his country was interested in establishing good ties with Saudi Arabia adding that this would impact positively on the entire region. Rifi is close to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement, which is in turn backed by Saudi Arabia.

In other developments, Sleiman is expected to chair a Cabinet session at Baabda Palace Tuesday afternoon in which further public sector appointments are expected to be made.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 08, 2014, on page 3.




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