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Jumblatt and Aoun discuss presidency in rare meeting

Druze chief Walid Jumblatt (L) meets Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun in Rabieh, Wednesday, August 6, 2014. (The Daily Star, HO)

BEIRUT: MP Walid Jumblatt and Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun held talks at the latter’s residence in Rabieh Wednesday, the first such meeting in months, which the Progressive Socialist Party leader described as “frank.”

FPM sources told the Daily Star that discussions largely focused on the stalled presidential election, with Jumblatt making several proposals in that respect, including the withdrawal of all presidential hopefuls for a compromise candidate.

But Aoun retorted that it was premature to look into options other than the election of the candidate representing the largest bracket of Christians, the sources said, in an obvious reference to the FPM leader himself.

Aoun, the undeclared presidential candidate for the Hezbollah-led March 8 camp, is among three hopefuls, including Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and MP Henri Helou, an ally of Jumblatt, vying for presidency, the state’s highest Christian post. Until he is convinced that he has a poor or no chance to assume the presidency, Aoun will continue rejecting offers to sideline him, political sources said.

“My encounter with Gen. Aoun was cordial and frank,” Jumblatt said without providing more details.

A joint statement issued by the FPM and the PSP said the two leaders pledged “unequivocal and unconditional” support for the Lebanese Army in its fight against militant groups in northeast Lebanon.

The statement also highlighted the need to revive the work of constitutional institutions and fill government voids immediately.

Jumblatt has recently renewed efforts to bring about a breakthrough in the stalled presidential election that has left Lebanon without a head of state for over two months.

Opposing political groups have so far failed to agree on a compromise candidate to succeed former President Michel Sleiman, whose tenure expired on May 25.

The political sources said Jumblatt discussed the presidential void and the events in the border town of Arsal with Prime Minister Tammam Salam, head of the Future Movement bloc MP Fouad Siniora, and Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, during a dinner banquet hosted by Sleiman Tuesday evening.

Jumblatt informed attendees that he would launch a series of contacts with various political groups in a bid to break the impasse.

Jumblatt, who held talks with Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah last week, stressed over the weekend the need for cooperation between Future Movement leader Saad Hariri, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Nasrallah, calling for dialogue between rival factions in order to protect the country.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 07, 2014, on page 4.

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Summary

MP Walid Jumblatt and Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun held talks at the latter's residence in Rabieh Wednesday, the first such meeting in months, which the Progressive Socialist Party leader described as "frank".

Aoun, the undeclared presidential candidate for the Hezbollah-led March 8 camp, is among three hopefuls, including Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and MP Henri Helou, an ally of Jumblatt, vying for presidency, the state's highest Christian post.

The political sources said Jumblatt discussed the presidential void and the events in the border town of Arsal with Prime Minister Tammam Salam, head of the Future Movement bloc MP Fouad Siniora, and Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, during a dinner banquet hosted by Sleiman Tuesday evening.


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