Lebanon News

Stability essential for presidential election: Salam

LF leader Samir Geagea, left, receives a delegation from Amal movement in Maarab, Friday, March 28, 2014. (The Daily Star/Aldo Ayoub, HO)

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam said Friday that Lebanon’s stability was essential to hold the presidential election on time, as a committee from Speaker Nabih Berri’s bloc met leaders to discuss the polls.

“If the situation is stable, this should lead to positive results with this [the presidential election] happening,” Salam told reporters following a visit to Berri at his residence in Ain al-Tineh.

“But if the country is unstable, then it will not be easy to meet our constitutional deadlines in a comfortable and effective manner,” he added.

The government approved a plan Thursday to impose security measures in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley.

The National News Agency said that Salam discussed local developments with Berri, focusing on next week’s legislative session along with a number of upcoming events, with the presidential election at the forefront.

“Speaker Berri is inquiring about the opinions of parliamentary blocs and leaders to help take steps to ensure the presidential election is held successfully,” Salam said.

Lebanon entered a two-month constitutional period to elect a new head of state Tuesday. The term of President Michel Sleiman expires on May 25.

A three-member committee from Berri’s parliamentary bloc met Lebanese Democratic Party leader Talal Arslan and Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea Friday as part of its visits to key Lebanese figures to assess their opinions on appropriate presidential candidates and discuss convening a Parliament session to elect a president.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting with Arslan at his Khaldeh residence, MP Ali Osseiran, a member of the committee, said that Berri would determine the appropriate time to call for a Parliament session to elect a new president.

“We met MP Talal, who tasked us with conveying his opinion to Speaker Berri. He [Berri] knows when the conditions are favorable to set a date to call for a session in order to elect a president,” Osseiran said.

For his part, MP Yassine Jaber, also a committee member, said that the group’s opinions converged with those of Arslan, adding that the body would finish its visits by the middle of next week.

“Every bloc is expressing their opinions, and all MPs are committed to attend [the session to elect a president]. But some time is needed to prepare the atmosphere,” Jaber said.

A statement by Geagea’s press office said that his meeting with members of the committee was productive, focusing on efforts to convene a Parliament session and achieve quorum.

Geagea told reporters after the meeting that Berri would call for a Parliament session in light of the committee’s deliberations. “There are relentless efforts to hold the presidential election on time,” he said.

The LF leader said he preferred that Parliament elected a president from several candidates, rather than all blocs agreeing to one hopeful. He said that Syria no longer had a say on who would be Lebanon’s president.

Geagea said that the LF would announce Saturday its stance on whether to attend a National Dialogue session scheduled for Monday.

Similarly, Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah is expected to announce his party’s position on the all-embracing talks in a speech Saturday.

MP Sleiman Frangieh’s Marada Movement will boycott the National Dialogue session the president has called.

Sleiman chaired a meeting with a committee Friday preparing for Monday’s session.

Separately, Minister of State for Administrative Development Nabil de Freij, also a Future Movement MP, said that Geagea was among the top March 14 contenders for the presidency.

Geagea “is one of March 14’s most prominent candidates, if not the top candidate,” de Freij told a local radio station.

De Freij stressed the need to ensure that March 14 choose just one candidate to succeed Sleiman. He urged March 14 leaders to meet and decide on the group’s “one candidate.”

In a recent interview, Geagea described himself a “natural candidate” to succeed Sleiman, vowing to pull Hezbollah out of Syria if elected Lebanon’s next head of state.

But Geagea said he would wait for the right moment to officially announce his candidacy.

Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin said that his country supported holding the presidential election on time in line with the Constitution.

“Electing the president is a Lebanese internal affair, and we support the flurry of political contacts underway regarding the presidential election,” the Russian envoy said after meeting with businessman Roger Edde.

“The upcoming president of Lebanon should be able to tackle the security situation, preserve stability in Lebanon, resolve economic problems and distance Lebanon from what is happening in the region,” Zasypkin said.

For his part, French Ambassador to Lebanon Patrice Paoli, after meeting with Berri, said that he had expressed his hopes to the speaker that Parliament would be able to elect a president in the coming weeks.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 29, 2014, on page 2.




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