Lebanon News

March 14 vows to block foreign bid to pick president

BEIRUT: Christian members of the March 14 Forces consecrated themselves as the best Christian authority to decide on the identity of Lebanon's next president. "The March 14 Christians form a Christian authority that would have a basic and active role in electing a new president for Lebanon," Lebanese Forces (LF) MP Elie Kayrouz, who read the meeting's minutes, told reporters after six consecutive hours of deliberations.

The large-scale meeting of 29 Christian March 14 members  was held at the residence of LF leader Samir Geagea in Maarab to examine the September 25 presidential election, in addition to name the official March 14 Forces candidate, and the formation of a committee responsible of discussing the election with other Lebanese groups, including the opposition.

Three members from the March 14 Forces, MPs Butros Harb, Robert Ghanem and former MP Nassib Lahoud have already announced their candidacy.

In a quick chat with reporters, Geagea said the meeting was aimed at "countering all efforts by foreign intelligence to choose a president for Lebanon."

"It is crucial that the Lebanese be made aware of the importance of the presidential election this year," Geagea said, "This is the first time in long years that the Lebanese exclusively will be able to elect their president."

"The era of foreign influence in Lebanon, when presidents were appointed, is long gone, and we will be electing a new president to Lebanon at any cost before the constitutional deadline on November 24 expires," he added.

He said Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri should expect "ample surprises if anyone attempts to hinder presidential elections."

Berri said last week that he would show a "whole new attitude" if the March 14 forces decide to elect the new president by absolute majority.

The opposition believes that the next president should be elected by a two-thirds quorum, while the ruling coalition wants to elect the next president by absolute majority.

While the opposition considers the formation of a national unity government as a key step toward solving pending issues, including the presidential election, the ruling coalition sees the presidential election as the sole gate toward solving all pending matters.

Information made available to the Central News Agency on Monday said the opposition considered the meeting in Maarab as an attempt to "thwart" Berri's soon-to be declared initiative to solve the deadlock in Lebanon.

Geagea revealed that contacts have been made with Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun concerning the presidential election.

"However," he added, "Aoun has not shown any cooperation."

While various members of the opposition have declared on several occasions that Aoun was the opposition's candidate for the presidential election, such a stand is yet official.

Aoun lashed out on Monday at the government of Premier Fouad Siniora saying it was "illegitimate" and accusing it of "committing illegal acts, including the support of terrorist cells." In a letter addressed to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Aoun accused the international community of "taking sides and interfering in strictly Lebanese concerns."

"We urge you to tackle the situation in Lebanon with more objectivity and start dialogue with various Lebanese groups," he told Ban, adding that the only solution to Lebanon's continuing stalemate was "to respect the constitution."

Echoing Geagea's stance on foreign intervention in Lebanese domestic affairs, head of the Democratic Gathering MP Walid Jumblatt lashed out at Syria describing it as a "regime that promotes intellectual, political, and democratic paralysis."

In his weekly interview with Al-Anbaa magazine, Jumblatt also accused the detractors of the Saudi role in Lebanese politics of "trying to hamper Saudi Arabia's incessant efforts to limit Syrian intervention in Lebanese internal concerns."





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