Lebanon's Christian Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai gives a press conference in Istanbul on March 31, 2011. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC
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Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri clashed with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai over his suggestion of a package deal Monday, further exacerbating the presidential crisis and political deadlock.Berri has called for an all-inclusive package deal that would see Lebanon's political powers come together to agree on a new president, the adoption of a new electoral law, how to manage potential offshore energy reserves, and the formation of a new Cabinet.Telecommunications Minister Boutros Harb, who met Berri Monday, played down the exchanges.Harb later met with Rai. Their argument comes days after Future Movement leader and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri met separately with Change and Reform bloc head MP Michel Aoun and Lebanese Forces chief MP Samir Geagea. Aoun is backed for the presidency by Geagea, while Hariri backs Marada Movement leader MP Sleiman Frangieh.The FPM, along with its chief ally Hezbollah, have boycotted parliamentary sessions to elect a president, stressing that they want assurances that Aoun will take the seat.
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