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Geagea ‘ready for serious dialogue’ with Hezbollah

  • A billboard praising LF leader Samir Geagea as a "man of principle" is set in Jounieh, Thursday, March 13, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea says he is ready to engage in a “serious dialogue” with Hezbollah and describes the upcoming presidential election as the “mother of all battles.”

“I am the first person ready to engage in dialogue with Hezbollah if the dialogue is serious and not a waste of time,” Geagea said in comments published Monday in Al-Akhbar newspaper.

“There is no tension with Hezbollah. Our differences are not personal or sectarian,” he said.

“Our differences are over viewpoints because I consider that what [the party] is doing will lead to destruction,” he added, referring to Hezbollah’s military involvement in neighboring Syria.

“Differences in points of view are common among all parties.”

The LF boycotted the Cabinet of Prime Minister Tammam Salam, citing its refusal to take part in a government with Hezbollah.

In his comments to Al-Akhbar, Geagea also criticized the government’s policy statement that was approved last week.

He said the thorny clause dealing with the resistance “paves the way for every group to arm itself under the excuse of the resistance.”

“What would the government do if a group of citizens in Jbeil, Tripoli or Hasbaya decided to get arms to resist the occupation?” Geagea asked.

He also criticized the policy statement for not clearly referring to the Baabda Declaration, a 2012 pact among political rivals to distance Lebanon from regional turmoil, particularly the Syria crisis.

The ministerial statement was adopted after a month-long deadlock over the role of the resistance.

Replacing Hezbollah’s “army, people, resistance” defense formula, the policy statement now stresses “the right of Lebanese citizens to resist Israeli occupation, repulse its attacks and recover occupied territories.”

The new formula has also provoked criticism from Kataeb Party ministers as well as Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi. Slight modifications to the document are expected as a result before it is put to a vote of confidence in Parliament.

Geagea said LF MPs would not give a vote of confidence but would take part in Parliament sessions dedicated to discussing the policy statement set for this week.

He also said that the March 14 coalition should prepare for the upcoming presidential election.

“This is a chance that comes only every six years; if [March 14] does not know how to seize it, it will be wasted ... the presidential election should be the mother of all battles for the March 14 coalition,” he said.

During the anniversary ceremony of the March 14 coalition last week, Geagea called on the March 14 camp to nominate and unify behind a presidential candidate from the movement. The LF leader is widely assumed to be eyeing the post.

Lebanon’s presidential election is due in May 2014.

 
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Summary

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea says he is ready to engage in a "serious dialogue" with Hezbollah and describes the upcoming presidential election as the "mother of all battles".

The LF boycotted the Cabinet of Prime Minister Tammam Salam, citing its refusal to take part in a government with Hezbollah.

In his comments to Al-Akhbar, Geagea also criticized the government's policy statement that was approved last week.

Geagea said LF MPs would not give a vote of confidence but would take part in Parliament sessions dedicated to discussing the policy statement set for this week.

He also said that the March 14 coalition should prepare for the upcoming presidential election.

During the anniversary ceremony of the March 14 coalition last week, Geagea called on the March 14 camp to nominate and unify behind a presidential candidate from the movement.


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