BEIRUT: With less than two weeks left before President Michel Sleiman leaves office, Hezbollah dismissed attempts to extend the term of Lebanon’s top post.
“Proposals to extend President Michel Sleiman’s term are behind us,” Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem said in remarks published Tuesday in Al-Akhbar. “Renewed talk about [Sleiman’s] extension is nothing more than unworkable hopes."
On Monday, a senior source in Bkirki, the seat of the Maronite church, told The Daily Star that Patriarch Beshara Rai was seeking a constitutional amendment to allow Sleiman to remain in office if Parliament failed to elect a successor by the May 25 expiration of his term. In three sessions so far, MPs have failed to elect a new president, with the last two failing to even achieve a quorum, due to an ongoing boycott by several March 8 parties. Speaker Nabih Berri has called for a fourth electoral session Thursday.
Qassem said Hezbollah “strongly” supported the election of a new president in a timely manner but ruled out any chance that this would take place “because things are not yet mature.”
“It is natural that [the election] be delayed a bit, although we hope it will not be delayed much,” he added.
Qassem stressed that consensus was needed on a new president.
“It is not possible for either March 14 or March 8 to bring a president alone,” he said. “March 8 has been aware of this. That’s why it did not offer a challenging candidate to keep the door open to chances.”
The Hezbollah official denied any external intervention in the election process.
“We are still discussing the issue in a Lebanese-Lebanese framework. It is too early to talk about foreign intervention,” Qassem said.
He also denied any communication or exchange of messages between Hezbollah and Saudi Arabia.