BEIRUT: The Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party (SSNP) formally announced Thursday the appointment of Asaad Hardan as the party's new president, who is replacing Ali Qanso. The announcement took place at a news conference held at SSNP's Martyr Khalid Alwan Hall in Hamra. The conference began with a moment of silence for the martyrs of the party, followed by opening comments from Qanso, who congratulated Hardan on his appointment and expressed his confidence in the new president. Qanso also expressed dismay toward certain critics who, he said "read Asaad Hardan's assuming the presidency as a declaration of war." "Don't they understand that the Syrian National Socialist Party is a party of peace?" he asked, adding: "The party's continuing war is against the Zionist enemy [Israel], and we have no other enemies." Hardan emphasized that the party elections and choosing of a new president was a result of a "natural, democratic, constitutional process," indicating that the change was unrelated to the recent violence and criticisms aimed at the party. Hardan went on the praise the "courage" and "ability" of his predecessor, in leading the party through "one of the most dangerous and most sensitive and delicate stages" of the SSNP's history. Hardan also commended Hizbullah for "keeping its promise" in negotiating the imminent prisoner exchange with Israel, describing the "victory" as a "cause for national and nationalistic pride." Hardan also reaffirmed the party's loyalty to Damascus and to Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying: "Our party has found in Damascus the beating heart of the nation ... we call on all great Lebanese to realize the truth of the positive role of Syria in preserving Lebanese unity and Arabism."