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Hariri's initiative receives mixed reactions

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks on a TV screen during an Iftar held at BIEL in Beirut, Friday, July 18, 2014. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: The content of a roadmap announced by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri to safeguard Lebanon received mixed reactions over the weekend, with Hezbollah implicitly retorting that it didn't need any consensus to pursue its role in defending Lebanon.

Hezbollah MP Hasan Fadlallah said Hezbollah was not waiting for a defense strategy, or for consensus or approval over its fighting of the so-called Takfiri groups that constitute a danger to Lebanon.

“Because when we are attacked and invaded and killed none of those strategies will bear fruit as is quite obvious across the entire region,” Fadlallah told a gathering in south Lebanon.

In his blueprint, Hariri renewed his call on Hezbollah to withdraw its fighters from Syria, arguing that it would be difficult to insulate Lebanon fully from regional risks and establish a political, economic and security fence that would protect the country from the surrounding storms with the continued involvement of Hezbollah in the Syrian war.

While the Free Patriotic Movement came out with a lukewarm reaction saying Hariri’s initiative did not offer a real breakthrough, the Lebanese Forces and the spokesman of Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai considered it a tool to break the impasse over the presidency.

Reform and Change bloc MP Alain Aoun said in comments Sunday that Hariri’s initiative did not offer anything new but was rather a rehash of previous stances. Aoun, an FPM official, described Hariri’s roadmap as “contradictory,” saying Hariri cannot claim to support coexistence and parity when he attacks the FPM initiative that calls for electing a new president by direct popular vote.

During a televised speech Friday, Hariri 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.

“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.

Aoun, who disclosed that the FPM was looking forward to consultations with Hariri, said the former premier should have proposed a “mechanism” that would ensure that the voice of the majority of the Christians in Lebanon. The MP said Hariri’s argument that “Christian accord” was needed to elect a new president was counterproductive.

In contrast with Aoun, Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra praised Hariri’s initiative as a “roadmap we should build on.”

Zahra told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in comments Sunday that Hariri’s plan was the “only means to save Constitutional life in Lebanon and end the presidential void.”

As for the concept of Christian accord that Hariri highlighted in his speech, Zahra accused FPM leader Michel Aoun of standing in the way of accord by “obstructing Parliament sessions to elect a new president and refusing to announce his candidacy.”

Bkirki’s spokesperson Walid Ghayyad said the Maronite Patriarch endorsed Hariri’s initiative and all the initiatives aimed at breaking the impasse. Ghayyad added that Rai believed that initiatives must be coupled with “action and concessions” to safeguard the country.

“We are in need of moderate voices and Hariri’s words about moderation are certainly praiseworthy,” Ghayyad said. “More than ever we are in need of moderate Sunni and Shiite voices to draw the East away from terrorism and fanaticism.”

 

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Summary

The content of a roadmap announced by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri to safeguard Lebanon received mixed reactions over the weekend, with Hezbollah implicitly retorting that it didn't need any consensus to pursue its role in defending Lebanon.

While the Free Patriotic Movement came out with a lukewarm reaction saying Hariri's initiative did not offer a real breakthrough, the Lebanese Forces and the spokesman of Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai considered it a tool to break the impasse over the presidency.

Aoun, an FPM official, described Hariri's roadmap as "contradictory," saying Hariri cannot claim to support coexistence and parity when he attacks the FPM initiative that calls for electing a new president by direct popular vote.

The MP said Hariri's argument that "Christian accord" was needed to elect a new president was counterproductive.


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