Hezbollah leader calls for Lebanon to elect new president during speech
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah called Friday for multiparty efforts to elect a new president, urging rival political leaders not to count on a possible resumption of Saudi-Iranian talks to break the presidential stalemate.
Nasrallah also strongly denied allegations that his party and the Amal Movement were seeking to replace the current system of equal power sharing between Muslims and Christians with a tripartite formula dividing power between Christians, Sunnis and Shiites.
“I call for multiparty efforts to bring the presidential election to the required end. Foreign powers are saying every day that they do not want to interfere,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech at a ceremony commemorating late Sheikh Mustafa Qassir, a Hezbollah leader who died last month after a long illness.
Addressing rival Lebanese leaders, he said: “Don’t wait for Iranian-Saudi relations or negotiations between these two countries, or Iranian-American negotiations.”
Nasrallah said that so far no date had been set for a resumption of Saudi-Iranian talks, and even when the talks resume, it was not known whether the Lebanese presidential election would be discussed.
In an ice-breaking move between the countries, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said last month he invited his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif to visit Riyadh for talks on divisive issues that have strained relations between the two regional heavyweights.
Saudi-Iranian relations have been strained mainly by the war in Syria, where the two countries support opposing sides. In Lebanon, the countries also back opposing sides.
Nasrallah rebutted March 14 charges that the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition was obstructing the election of a successor to former President Michel Sleiman, whose six-year term ended on May 25.
“If we are the ones obstructing the election, then you should choose a strong candidate who has a Christian popular base, and we could elect him tonight in Parliament, I’m certain Speaker [Nabih] Berri is willing to call for such a session,” Nasrallah said, speaking on a huge TV screen via a video link south of Beirut.
Although Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, Hezbollah’s key Christian ally, has not announced his candidacy, the former general is viewed as March 8’s undeclared nominee.
Nasrallah denied allegations that Hezbollah and Berri’s Amal Movement were seeking to replace the current Muslim-Christian power sharing system with a tripartite formula of Christian, Shiite and Sunni power.
“They claim that we are disrupting the presidential election because we want to reach a tripartite power-sharing [formula]. ... This accusation is baseless,” Nasrallah said. “We have never thought about a tripartite [power-sharing formula], demanded it or worked for it.”
He said the idea was first proposed to Iran by a French delegation who argued that the Taif Accord was no longer valid as a ruling system in Lebanon. He added that the Iranians had rejected the proposal.
Nasrallah said Hezbollah was keen on maintaining security and stability in the country, calling for an end to “sectarian rhetoric.”
He hailed the Syrian presidential election as “historic,” saying the vote proved there could be no political solution without Assad.
“The election proved that a political solution in Syria begins and ends with President Bashar Assad,” he said. “There is president who has been elected by millions for a new seven-year term. ... Those who want to work for a political solution must talk to him, negotiate with him and reach a solution with him.”
Nasrallah, whose party is fighting alongside Assad’s forces, urged Syria’s warring factions to end the bloodshed and move toward dialogue.
By Hussein Dakroub and Dana Khraiche