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Geagea to announce candidacy Friday, Aoun coy

File - LF leader Samir Geagea speaks during a press conference in Maarab, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014. (The Daily Star/Aldo Ayoub, HO)

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Forces will announce this week Samir Geagea’s candidacy for president, the country’s top Christian post, the party said Wednesday.

“We will hold a news conference Friday and announce Geagea’s candidacy for president,” an LF spokesperson told The Daily Star.

The Council of Maronite Bishops reiterated during its monthly meeting Wednesday the need to respect constitutional deadlines and called on political forces to speed up presidential elections before President Michel Sleiman’s term expires May 25.

Geagea’s rival, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, said his own decision to run for the presidency had yet to be finalized, adding that he was not battling anyone in the presidential race and that Geagea was not his competitor.

“Contrary to what many people think, I am not dying to become a president and won’t commit suicide if I don’t,” Aoun told Al-Mayadeen TV. “If circumstances are convenient and if my candidacy will stir change then I will announce it because I am a strong candidate.”

Aoun, who argued that national unity was more important to him than becoming president, said extending President Michel Sleiman’s term was out of the question.

Aoun said Lebanon was in need of an “independent,” rather than “neutral” president, adding that representation among Christians was key to holding the presidential election.

“If actual representation among Christians is not taken into consideration then there is no need for me to present my candidacy,” he added.

Geagea said last week he was a “natural candidate” to succeed Sleiman and vowed to prioritize the controversial issue of Hezbollah’s military involvement in Syria if elected to the post.

The LF leader is a staunch critic of Hezbollah, Iran and the Syrian regime, and is also one of the main pillars of the Western-backed March 14 coalition.

He refused to work alongside Hezbollah in Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s national unity government, which was formed last month, with the party’s withdrawal from Syria set as a condition for his participation in the new Cabinet.

Geagea’s rival, MP Michel Aoun has also hinted at his interest in running for the presidency.

On March 25, Lebanon entered the two-month constitutional period in which the speaker is expected to convene Parliament to elect a new head of state.

Born on Oct. 26, 1952, in the Beirut eastern suburb of Ain al-Rummaneh, Geagea joined the Kataeb party in his early years and later became the head of the Lebanese Forces militia in 1986. He hails from the north Lebanon village of Bsharri.

He was arrested in 1994 over his suspected involvement in a bomb attack on the Our Lady of Salvation Church the same year. He was also sentenced to life imprisonment over his alleged involvement in political assassinations during the Civil War and was not released until July 2005, when Parliament passed an amnesty law.

Geagea was also the target of an attempted assassination in 2012 in his Maarab residence, and has accused the Syrian regime and its allies in Lebanon of being behind the killings of political figures in the country.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 03, 2014, on page 3.

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Summary

The Lebanese Forces will announce this week Samir Geagea's candidacy for president, the country's top Christian post, the party said Wednesday.

Geagea's rival, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, said his own decision to run for the presidency had yet to be finalized, adding that he was not battling anyone in the presidential race and that Geagea was not his competitor.

Aoun, who argued that national unity was more important to him than becoming president, said extending President Michel Sleiman's term was out of the question.

Aoun said Lebanon was in need of an "independent," rather than "neutral" president, adding that representation among Christians was key to holding the presidential election.


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