BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri Friday proposed a plan to safeguard Lebanon from a governmental and socio-economic collapse, saying he would launch contacts with both his allies and rivals to end the presidential deadlock.
"I will propose a road map to protect Lebanon that should begin with the election of a new president given that such an issue is the priority over any other matter," Hariri said in a televised speech, saying the vacuum in the country’s top Christian post threatened the “democratic foundations” and existence of the state.
“I will launch consultations with my allies in the March 14 coalition and political parties outside the coalition to discuss ways to end the void in the presidential seat as soon as possible ... so we can hold parliamentary elections and form a government," he said.
“To hold the presidential election hostage to regional changes with the hopes of refloating the Syrian regime risks the power-sharing formula and coexistence as stipulated by the Taef Accord.”
Lawmakers have failed to elect a new president eight times since April, failing to replace former President Michel Sleiman whose six-year term ended on May 25.
With political parties unable to agree on a consensus presidential candidate, Lebanon faces the risk of being forced to renew Parliament’s mandate.
Hariri said that following the presidential election, a new government would be formed that would administer the parliamentary elections scheduled for November. He roundly rejected a second extension to Parliament's mandate.
“We should avoid all kinds of attempts to extend Parliament’s mandate. The way to do so is to elect a new president.”
“Holding the parliamentary election without a president only means a de facto resigned government and the impossibility of forming a new one,” he said during an iftar - the meal that breaks the daily Ramadan fast - gathering at BIEL in Beirut.
The head of the Future Movement also reiterated his long-standing demand for Hezbollah to withdraw its fighters from Syria and end the party’s support of President Bashar Assad's troops.
“ Hezbollah should withdraw from Syria as soon as possible and prepare a plan to combat terrorism in all its forms. Such a task is the sole responsibility of the state.”
Hariri also highlighted the need for what he said was an “emergency plan” to address a refugee crisis that has burdened the country’s infrastructure and contributed to a deteriorating economy and security situation.
Lebanon currently hosts over 1 million Syrian refugees who have fled the conflict. Lebanese officials have repeatedly appealed for the international community to help the country cope with the influx.
Hariri also praised security agencies for implementing a security plan to restore law and order and combat the rise of terrorism, adding that Hezbollah’s role in Syria had crippled the state’s work.
“We affirm our support to security agencies to protect civil peace and uncover terrorist cells ... the state is the only one concerned with combating terrorism,” he said.
“Otherwise, countering terrorism would become a sectarian confrontation between cells belonging to Al-Qaeda and ISIS and other terrorist groups on one side, and on the other side Hezbollah, which became an inseparable part of the fight in Syria and defending Bashar Assad.”
“It would be a good thing for Hezbollah to be part of a Lebanese national plan led by the state to face terrorism. Having Hezbollah part of a triangle led by Iran that includes [Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki’s state in Iraq and Assad’s state in Syria is a great burden on Lebanon and the safety of the Lebanese people.”
The former PM also accused Hezbollah of having a role in the continuous air raids on Lebanese border towns as part of the resistance group’s battle alongside Syrian troops, which Hariri described as a “crazy endeavor.”
“We witness daily aerial Syrian bombardment of the Lebanese territories under the pretext of supporting the confrontations of Hezbollah in the border areas.”
While he blamed Hezbollah for the rise of terrorist attacks in Lebanon in retaliation for the group’s involvement in Syria, Hariri also urged his rivals to agree to his road map, “a map that would lead us to the election of a new president and get us out of the tunnel of discord and chaos."
Hariri also rejected claims that the Sunni community in Lebanon was providing a safe haven for terrorist cells operating in the country, saying such allegations only reinforced Hezbollah's justification for fighting in Syria.