BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri Friday outlined a road map to safeguard Lebanon’s stability and protect it from the reverberations of the turmoil in Syria and Iraq, by calling for the election of a new president and the withdrawal of Hezbollah from the war in Syria.
Hariri stressed that breaking the two-month-old presidential stalemate was the key to holding parliamentary polls scheduled in November, while strongly rejecting any attempts to renew Parliament’s mandate.
The head of the Future Movement said he would soon begin consultations with his allies in the March 14 coalition and his March 8 rivals to end the ongoing presidential deadlock.
“The Lebanese do not need a miracle to protect themselves from the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Arab world. The Lebanese need a road map that gives priority to the national interest and national stability at the expense of any other interests or loyalties,” Hariri said in a televised speech from his residence in the Saudi city of Jeddah, addressing iftars hosted by the Future Movement in Beirut and other areas.
He said priority should be given to the election of a president to succeed former President Michel Sleiman, whose six-year term ended May 25.
“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, adding that 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.
Hariri warned of a danger threatening the presidency if the Lebanese get accustomed to the absence of the Christian president’s role.
“It is an unacceptable absence of the symbol represented by the only Christian president in the Islamic and Arab East. It stabs the basis of the formula on which Lebanon was established and through which the Lebanese agreed that the discussion about the presidency would be among leaders, experts and competent persons in the Maronite community,” he said.
Hariri said the Future Movement was “a helping factor” in the presidential election, while the “determining factor” was consensus among Christians on a candidate.
Hariri’s proposed road map also called for forming a new government after the election of a president like the current government, that would work with the new prime minister to face challenges and organize parliamentary elections.
Hariri said parliamentary elections should be held as scheduled by the law while opposing any attempt to extend Parliament’s term.
“Yes, we want the parliamentary elections on time, and we don’t want to extend the term of Parliament. But the key for parliamentary elections is to elect a president of the republic as soon as possible,” he said.
Hariri warned of “a scenario of total collapse of the state” if the presidential impasse dragged on for long.
In his blueprint, Hariri renewed his call on Hezbollah to withdraw its fighters from Syria.
“Objectivity and honesty impose on us to recognize that it would be difficult to isolate Lebanon fully from these [regional] risks and establish a political, economic and security fence that would protect the country from the surrounding storms, especially with the continued involvement of Hezbollah in the Syrian war,” Hariri said.
“Our stance stems from the fact that Hezbollah’s involvement in this war is a mad project that is attracting similar madness to our country and regrettably, we are seeing it daily in the form of terrorism, suicide bombers, fear, economic paralysis and social crisis,” he added.
Hariri called for a comprehensive national plan to confront terrorism in all its forms and designations. He stressed that confronting terrorism is a national responsibility that lies on the shoulders of the state.
Hariri rejected accusations that Sunnis provided a safe haven for terrorist groups.
“Any organization that pushes the youth to death is a terrorist and an enemy of Lebanon. The Sunnis in Lebanon are concerned, just as the rest of the Lebanese, in fighting this problem, preventing its spread and refusing its slogans,” he said “Any other talk about the existence of a safe haven for terrorist cells among the Sunnis is suspicious and rejected.”
Hariri, who has been living out of Lebanon for more than three years for security reasons, said he would return to Lebanon soon.