This screen grab shows Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai speaking during a television interview. (The Daily Star)
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Maronite Cardinal Beshara Rai Tuesday called on Speaker Nabih Berri to convene Parliament as soon as possible in order to begin voting on a possible candidate for the presidency, ruling out a vacuum in the country's top Christian post.The patriarch, who is entering his fourth year as the head of the Maronite church, also spoke about Hezbollah's arms, saying the party's arsenal should not remain outside the jurisdiction of the state and should be part of a national defense strategy.Although he declined to comment on Hezbollah's military role in Syria, a point of national contention, Rai said the party should distance Lebanon from regional conflicts. Both Salameh and Kahwagi remain in their posts.The Maronite Church usually has major influence in the election of a new president, but Rai repeatedly said it was not his prerogative to nominate a president.Rai also spoke about Hezbollah's arsenal and clarified previous remarks he had made over the issue when he linked the group's arsenal to Israeli occupation.Rai said Hezbollah's arms should be under the control of the state similar to the Lebanese Army.Sleiman has proposed a national defense strategy that would allow Hezbollah to keep its arms but place them under the command of the Lebanese Army, which would have exclusive authority to use force.
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