BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai Thursday praised the recent efforts to end the 18-month-long presidential void, hinting his support for a potential deal that could see Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh become president.
"The door was previously closed. Now it's been opened," Rai told reporters from the Beirut international airport after returning from a trip.
He said he would meet with Frangieh Friday "to hear what he has to say."
"We have been asking political factions to take initiatives for a long time... The most important thing is to protect the republic, its institutions and work for the public good," Rai said.
Frangieh became a serious contender for the presidency after news emerged of his reported meeting with former Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Paris last month.
Hariri, who heads the Future Movement, appears to be working on a deal whereby Frangieh, a political rival, would become president in exchange for him to return to Lebanon's premiership.
When asked by a reporter what he thought about Hariri, who is Muslim, choosing Lebanon's next president, a post reserved for Christians, Rai rejected the notion that the post only represented Christians, saying the president is for all of Lebanon.
Frangieh's candidacy is supported by the Progressive Socialist Party headed by Walid Jumblatt, but the three main Christian Parties - the Free Patriotic Movement, the Kataeb Party, and the Lebanese Forces - have signaled their opposition to it.
Culture Minister Raymond Araiji from Frangieh's Marada Movement took advantage of the opportunity to briefly meet Rai at the airport, as he was waiting to greet his Egyptian counterpart due to arrive for a visit, a local media report said.