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Hariri: Presidential vacuum would be unacceptable

President Adly Mansour, right, receives former Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Cairo, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)

BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri Thursday reiterated his opposition to any presidential vacuum in Lebanon, saying he would meet with Maronite PatriarchBeshara Rai in Rome to discuss the spring election.

In the wake of Wednesday’s deadly twin blasts, Hariri, who is currently in Cairo, also urged Hezbollah to look at Syria’s conflict from the national perspective.

“I will head to Rome [later Thursday] to meet with the patriarch. This [meeting] comes after we formed a government and aims to address the presidential election, which is the main topic of the next stage, and to see what the patriarch’s directions are,” he said after meeting with Egypt’s President Adly Mansour.

“I already clearly stated, we will not accept a vacuum in the presidential post.”

The Future Movement leader also said that the election, which is scheduled to begin on May 25, should be held on time, adding:

“We will do whatever we can as officials to achieve that.”

Asked whether he would return to Lebanon after the election, Hariri replied that his homecoming was tied to security concerns.

Commenting on the bombings in the southern Beirut suburb of Bir Hasan which killed 10 people including the suicide bombers, Hariri called on Hezbollah to revise its strategy in Syria.

“What happened yesterday in Bir Hasan is a terrorist act that we strongly condemned. It is a ... cowardly and criminal act,” he said.

The attacks, which were believed to have been targeting the Iranian Cultural Center, also wounded over 128 people.

“Hezbollah’s presence in Syria is unacceptable because it involves Lebanon in a [foreign] axis we do not need,” Hariri said. “Therefore, Hezbollah’s leadership should look at this matter from the viewpoint of [putting] Lebanon’s interest first.”

Hariri, who arrived in Cairo Wednesday, held a series of meetings with several Egyptian officials, including Foreign Affairs Minister Nabil Fahmy and Egypt’s army chief and Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi. He also met with Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby.

“The aim of this visit is to emphasize the strategic role of Egypt, in light of the significant changes that it has witnessed, and in light of the developments that have taken place in the region and in Lebanon,” Hariri said after the meeting.

“These developments will affect the future for decades. You cannot imagine the future of the Arab region without Egypt, both the state and the people, who have strong ties with Lebanon.”

Hariri also said he discussed the repercussions of the regional conflicts on Lebanon with both the Egyptian president and other officials.

When asked whether Lebanon was moving toward a more moderate place, Hariri replied that Lebanon’s challenges were “vast,” particularly “in the light of the problems taking place in Lebanon and the region,” but added that his party was following in the footsteps of his assassinated father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

“What we want is for the law to prevail among all Lebanese, and therefore we will continue with the approach taken by the martyr prime minister,” he said.

Hariri also contacted the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayeb, who is currently in Kuwait.

They agreed to hold a meeting at a later date.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 21, 2014, on page 3.

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Summary

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri Thursday reiterated his opposition to any presidential vacuum in Lebanon, saying he would meet with Maronite PatriarchBeshara Rai in Rome to discuss the spring election.

Commenting on the bombings in the southern Beirut suburb of Bir Hasan which killed 10 people including the suicide bombers, Hariri called on Hezbollah to revise its strategy in Syria.

Hariri, who arrived in Cairo Wednesday, held a series of meetings with several Egyptian officials, including Foreign Affairs Minister Nabil Fahmy and Egypt's army chief and Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.

Hariri also said he discussed the repercussions of the regional conflicts on Lebanon with both the Egyptian president and other officials.


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