Lebanon News

Berri slams critics over presidential election

Speaker Nabih Berri reads in Parliament a letter from President Michel Sleiman urging MPs to elect a new president, Wednesday, May 21, 2014. (The Daily Star/ Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri Saturday slammed his critics highlighting that he was exerting every effort possible to reach a compromise over the necessity of holding the presidential election without further delay.

Berri’s remarks came as political contacts are expected to intensify next week in a bid to break the impasse over the presidential election.  

“A news agency that has launched 24/7 campaigns against Speaker Berri just claimed that the speaker was obstructing the presidential election in Lebanon,” Berri’s media office said in a statement. “It’s obvious that Speaker Nabih Berri has called for near weekly sessions to elect a new president and has exerted every effort possible to reach a compromise over the necessity of holding the presidential election without further delay. “

The statement added that the parties standing behind the news agency launching attacks against Berri have missed all the election sessions for no reason. The statement did not name the outlet.

Lawmakers have now botched six attempts since April 23 to elect a successor to former President Michel Sleiman, whose six-year term ended on May 25, with the last five failing due to lack of the two-thirds quorum of the legislature’s 128 members.

Berri scheduled the next session to elect the new president to June 18.

Unconfirmed media reports, meanwhile, said that former Prime Minister Saad Hariri will hold talks next week with Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun over the presidential election.

FPM MP Alain Aoun said on Saturday that Hariri was convinced that Aoun was a consensus candidate, adding that the head of the Future Movement “needed more time to convince his allies.”

“Dialogue with the Future Movement is ongoing and tackling all issues,” Aoun told As-Sharq radio. “Our ties with the Future moved from rivalry, to dialogue, to understanding [on a variety of topics].”

Aoun admitted that dialogue over the presidential election between the FPM and the Future has “yet to mature.”

“But we are counting on a common vision for the future,” he said.

On Friday, Hariri spoke by telephone with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt and it was agreed that the two leaders would meet in Paris at a later date, according to a statement released by Hariri’s office.

When contacted by The Daily Star, FPM sources refused to comment on the reports about a meeting with Hariri  but the sources revealed that Michel Aoun is expected to make “key announcements” during a news conference scheduled for Monday,

While the sources refused to elaborate on the content of the announcements, Al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Saturday that Aoun will announce two initiatives to repel accusations that his stances were hindering the election of a new head of state.

Aoun will call for the election of a new president by direct vote from the Lebanese people and call for the holding of parliamentary elections on time , according to the Al-Ahbar report.

Head of the Future Movement parliamentary bloc MP Fouad Siniora, for his part, again urged for a swift presidential election and called on the March 8 alliance to come forward with their candidate or work with the March 14 to find a compromise candidate that would be wise enough to lead the country and start dialogue among the country’s various components.

“The Lebanese need a new President who will help navigate the country through the difficult moments it is passing through in light of regional events,” he told a conference in Tripoli, north Lebanon.   





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