Deal to elect Lebanon president almost ready: Speaker

Lebanon’s Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has suggested that a deal to elect a new president and end the political deadlock in the Arab country is almost ready.

Berri said in an interview with Lebanon’s An-nahar daily on Friday that the presidency had “truly ripened” and it was time to “pick it.”

This came a day after former Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad al-Hariri voiced optimism that the country’s head of state would be elected on March 23 or at next parliament session in April.

Hariri also said he is ready to keep domestic dialogue with the Hezbollah resistance movement after the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council designated the group as a terrorist organization. He added that he would continue talks with Hezbollah to “avoid sedition” in Lebanon.

Lebanon has been struggling to form a government for nearly two years. Lawmakers from a number of different political parties have prevented the election by boycotting parliamentary sessions.

The power vacuum, which has left the cabinet and parliament paralyzed, is considered the longest since 1990, which marked the end of Lebanon’s civil war.

Under Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the president must be a Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shia Muslim.

Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, seeks to return as prime minister under a deal with Sleiman Frangieh, a Christian politician, who would become president. Hariri is the leader of the Future Movement, the largest member of the March 14 Alliance.

Hezbollah backs Michel Aoun, a veteran Christian politician and the founder of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), for president. In 2006, the FPM signed a memorandum of understanding with Hezbollah.

In January, Lebanese Christian politician Samir Geagea endorsed the candidacy of his rival Aoun, the leader of the March 8 Alliance, urging his allies in the March 14 alliance to support Aoun’s presidential bid.


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