MP Ghazi Aridi, Telecoms Minister Butrous Harb, MP Sleiman Frangieh and former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora attend the national dialogue session in Ain al-Tineh, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)
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Rival leaders agreed during a national dialogue session Wednesday on a deal over the contentious issue of military appointments, setting the stage for the reactivation of the government, while complications persisted in the presidential deadlock, now in its 20th month.MP Sleiman Frangieh, the presidential candidate backed by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, vowed not to withdraw from the race in favor of his rival, MP Michel Aoun, boasting that he can garner enough votes in Parliament to be elected. Ironically, the presidential election issue, ostensibly the first item on the dialogue agenda, was not discussed during the 14th session chaired by Speaker Nabih Berri at his Ain al-Tineh residence, reflecting sharp differences over the two competing candidates, Frangieh and Aoun. Dialogue participants confirmed the agreement on the military appointments, a key demand of the Free Patriotic Movement, clearing the way for a smooth Cabinet session set for Thursday with all ministers attending.Fayyad said the presidency issue was not discussed at all during the dialogue session.Sources close to the parties familiar with the military appointments said the deal calls for filling three posts in the six-member Council, which have been vacant for the past two years, thus stripping it of its mandated five-member quorum.Aoun, Jumblatt and MP Talal Arslan were absent from the dialogue session.
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