File - Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, left, receives Patriarch Beshara Rai in Beirut, Thursday, April 24, 2014. (The Daily Star/Lebanese Parliament Website, HO)
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Speaker Nabih Berri's top aide met Friday with Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai in an attempt to defuse tensions caused by the patriarch's harsh criticism of the speaker's package-deal proposal to end the presidential stalemate. In the meantime, Hezbollah called on its allies – the Amal Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement – to engage in a direct dialogue to reach an understanding on the presidential election which has strained ties between Berri and FPM founder MP Michel Aoun. Berri, who staunchly opposes Aoun's presidential bid, supports Marada Movement leader MP Sleiman Frangieh's candidacy.Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil met Rai as a special envoy from Berri to clear the air between the two men following the row over the speaker's proposed package agreement to end the more than two year vacuum in the presidency.Khalil, who belongs to Berri's parliamentary bloc, emerged satisfied from the one-hour meeting with Rai held at the patriarch's seat in Bkirki, north of Beirut. Despite Rai's harsh criticism, Berri has stuck to his package proposal which basically calls for the election of a president, an agreement on a new voting system and the shape of the new government.Khalil said Berri doesn't have any veto on any of the presidential candidates.
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