Lebanon News

Berri, Geagea trade fire over presidency

A side-by-side shows Speaker Nabih Berri (left) and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea.

BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea clashed with Speaker Nabih Berri Monday over the latter's sarcastic statement regarding Hezbollah's efforts to push the election of its March 8 ally MP Michel Aoun for presidency.

"On what basis then is (Change and Reform Bloc leader Michel) Aoun the candidate of March 8," Geagea asked Berri in a tweet.

The speaker swiftly responded by saying "on the same basis of March 14 coalition's nomination of you (Geagea)."

"But president Berri, I withdrew in favor of Aoun," the LF chief said.

Asked about Hezbollah's efforts to persuade its March 8 allies to press for the election of Aoun, Berri was quoted by his visitors Sunday as saying: “What is Hezbollah required to do? Do they want to put a gun, a rifle or a rocket at the heads of (Future Movement leader) Saad Hariri, (Progressive Socialist Party chief) Walid Jumblatt, (Marada Movement chief) Sleiman Frangieh and Nabih Berri to make them elect a certain candidate? Things cannot go that way. The relationship between us as allies does not go this way.”

The speaker reiterated his position that last week's reconciliation between Aoun and Geagea in Maarab would not help put an end to the presidential vacuum.

“The Maarab meeting constituted a qualitative move toward inter-Christian reconciliation, but it will not change much in the presidential predicament,” he said. He added that he advised Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and Education Minister Elias Bou Saab when they visited him to seek his support for Aoun’s candidacy to meet with Frangieh and reach an agreement.

His remarks came as Geagea began fetching support to his recent decision to nominate Aoun against Frangieh’s bid, which is supported by Hariri.

Geagea had been the March 14 coalition's main candidate until Hariri announced his support to Frangieh, while Aoun was the nominee of the rival March 8 alliance.

Asked if Hezbollah can pressure Frangieh into withdrawing from the race in favor of Aoun, Berri said: “Why should Frangieh accept to withdraw since he is the strongest candidate so far.”

The 20-month presidential crisis seems to have put its weight on the political parties in the country as sharp differences began emerging between allies over the name of the upcoming head of state.





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