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Tuesday, Mar 28, 2023

Lebanon army chief emerges as potential candidate for president

Lebanon army chief emerges as potential candidate for president

Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Al-Bukhari held talks with Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun on Thursday. The meeting coincided with intensified discussions between Lebanese parties to come to an agreement on a new presidential candidate, and Gen. Aoun could be a promising option.
The Aoun-Bukhari meeting anticipated the Paris international meeting to discuss the situation in Lebanon, scheduled for next Monday. Foreign ministers, ambassadors and advisers from the US, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt are expected to attend the meeting.

Lebanon plunged into a presidential vacuum four months ago, and Parliament has since failed to elect a new president, even after 11 voting sessions. A caretaker government headed by Najib Mikati is running the country’s affairs.

The Lebanese are counting on the possibility of the Paris meeting offering a solution to the current political crisis, as the division of the parliamentary blocs between Hezbollah and its allies on one hand and opponents of the party on the other does not give a majority of votes to any candidate.

The political crisis has been accompanied by a suffocating economic one that has exhausted Lebanese citizens who have become increasingly disillusioned by the sectarian political system.

A summit for Christian religious authorities was held on Wednesday evening, authorizing the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi to invite the 64 Christian MPs to meet at the patriarchate’s headquarters and to urge the rest of the MPs not to leave the voting sessions until a new president is elected.

Samir Geagea, head of the Lebanese Forces Party, said he does not mind electing Gen. Aoun as president if this ends the stalemate. However, the Free Patriotic Movement still rejects this option, with the movement’s head, MP Gebran Bassil, having fiercely criticized Gen. Aoun in a speech on Sunday.

MP Hagop Pakradounian, secretary-general of the Armenian Tashnaq Party, welcomed the call for a Christian dialogue as a way to solve the crisis. “We will be the first to attend the dialogue, as an effort to save our homeland, Lebanon,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pierre Dukan, the coordinator for international aid for Lebanon, held talks on Thursday in Beirut with Mikati, stressing that his visit was part of a regional tour, which included Egypt and Jordan, in search of support for Lebanon in the field of energy.

Dukan said: “I will visit the US in the next couple of weeks to discuss with US officials ways to neutralize the electricity file from (the) Caesar Act in terms of drawing gas from Egypt and electricity from Jordan via Syria, in order to help Lebanon solve the energy crisis.”

He stressed the need to implement the two conditions requested by the World Bank for assistance in the energy sector, which are auditing the accounts of Electricite du Liban and forming the electricity regulatory authority, according to the law in effect.

He pointed out the significance of completing the required steps to sign the final agreement with the International Monetary Fund, which represents for France and the international community the critical factor to initiating economic recovery in Lebanon.

“This agreement enhances international confidence in Lebanon, its institutions and government action,” Dukan said.

The French Embassy stressed France’s strong commitment to Lebanon for the advancement of the energy sector, not only by keeping pace with the necessary reforms but also through the work of French companies such as EDF, TotalEnergies and Nexans.
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