The state moved to northern Bekaa ... social tensions sound alarm for further revolts
Social, political and security issues dominate the local scene and further developments are expected to surface this week.
Politically, all eyes are on the presidential election after Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea launched the race to Baabda Palace with his candidacy while everyone is waiting for the March 14 coalition to announce its stance regarding his nomination.
An-Nahar received information that consultations were ongoing among the March 14 [parties] aimed at reaching an agreement on a single March 14 candidate but no date has been scheduled for such an announcement. The coming days will witness further contacts as rival groups await Speaker Nabih Berri's call for the first round of parliamentary sessions to elect a new president.
On the security front, a few steps were taken Saturday that would pave the way for the security plan to begin in the northern Bekaa as some Hezbollah checkpoints between Baalbek, Hermel and Arsal were removed.
Rifaat Eid is wanted on terror charges ... the northern Bekaa without Hezbollah's checkpoints
The security plan is expected to expand to the northern Bekaa in the next few hours. The Army has taken over Hezbollah checkpoints in the area, particularly along the Arsal road.
Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said: "There are no longer unofficial checkpoints along the road to Arsal, and all unofficial armed groups are nonexistent in Baalbek and Hermel."
Meanwhile, Tripoli witnessed a judicial development by Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr, who charged 12 people including Arab Democratic Party official Rifaat Eid with belonging to a terror group and inciting sectarian sentiments.
Al-Mustaqbal received information saying that one of the detainees in Jabal Mohsen confessed that Rifaat Eid had armed them and ordered them to provoke clashes against Bab al-Tabbaneh.
Diplomatic sources: Aoun might step in
Diplomatic sources say that former Army Gen. Michel Aoun is presenting himself as a “Lebanese” candidate for the presidency and not an Iranian or Saudi one, with the slogan "Lebanon first." He also has the power to influence his allies, particularly Hezbollah, in many decisions.
“A consensus president brings together the Lebanese,” that is what Aoun keeps repeating because he believes that a president should extend his hand to everyone without kneeling to anybody.
The sources says that Aoun has Bkirki's backing and that Patriarch Beshara Rai whispers to his [close circle] that he wants Aoun for the presidency and he can influence Christian MPs to vote for him. Rai also informs his visitors that Aoun has the Vatican's blessing. But the most surprising thing is that the U.S. administration is one of Aoun's biggest supporters. Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil is holding contacts with U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale to intensify efforts that would help Aoun become president. Hale is also preparing a visit for Aoun to Saudi Arabia to bridge the gap between the two parties.
Hezbollah has also given Aoun the green light, which would guarantee [the former general] a majority in Parliament.