BEIRUT: The upcoming presidential poll, in addition to recent accusations traded between Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and head of the Democratic Gathering MP Walid Jumblatt, dominated political talks Friday. Publisher of An-Nahar newspaper and MP Ghassan Tueni said Friday the presidential election was going to take place within constitutional deadlines, adding that French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was likely to return to Beirut "real soon."
"France is doing its best to help Lebanon find a solution to the continuing political impasse in Lebanon, and the international community has shown a real determination to have the crisis solved," he said, following a meeting Berri in Ain al-Tineh.
Tueni said the Lebanese should not fear the "highly tense" rhetoric on the Lebanese political scene, "because I am sure none of the conflicting groups is willing to draw Lebanon into a state of chaos."
Tueni was referring to criticism traded by Berri and Jumblatt on Thursday. Jumblatt accused Berri of becoming "a mere mailbox," through his association with Hizbullah. Berri on the other hand accused Jumblatt of jeopardizing "any attempts to solve the nine-month-old impasse in Lebanon."
Jumblatt's criticism of Berri drew angry responses Friday, with former Premier Salim al-Hoss describing his remarks as "unwarranted, especially that they were made against Speaker Berri who is known to be one of the few who still care about the welfare our country."
"Extremely harsh and unfounded comments targeted at the speaker Thursday, only aim to hold back a crucial event in the Lebanon's like the imminent presidential polls," Hoss said.
Hizbullah also lashed out at statements made by Jumblatt, saying that his "attack on remarkable figures such as Speaker Berri will not make him in any way remarkable," adding: "Speaker Berri is one of the founders of the resistance movement in Lebanon and it is us [Hizbullah] who seek his wise opinion at all times."
Vice president of the Higher Shiite Council Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan urged Berri not to comment on statements made by "ignorant" people, saying: "Leave them to their nonsensical babble."
The Central News Agency (CNA) reported Friday that Berri has not given up on the initiative he is expected to launch to solve the impasse. CNA added that Berri is expected to visit Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir on the fifth of September to start preparations for the looming presidential poll.
Meanwhile, the urgency of the presidential issue has also led Sfeir to reschedule his visit to the Vatican, where he is expected to head to the capital of Catholicism on August 28 rather than September 05.
On Friday, Berri met with departing Egyptian Ambassador Hussein Darar, who reiterated that only consensus was likely to solve the crisis in Lebanon.
Darar revealed that he paid a farewell visit to Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, adding that the visit "was a very positive one."
Nasrallah "expressed very wise stands showing he is very much aware of all the dangers threatening Lebanon," he said.
Seconding Darar's stand, Hizbullah MP Mohammad Raad said "consensus as well as true partnership" were the "only solutions to the deadlock."