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2014-03-26

ASIA/LEBANON - Patriarch Rai intervenes on the election of the new President

Bkerké (Agenzia Fides) - The election of the new President of the Lebanese Republic is a choice that belongs only to the people of Lebanon "and not to the Iranians, the Saudis or the Americans". It must be carried by the Parliamentary Assembly, and not between underground extra-parliamentary faction agreements that for years have been blocking the proper functioning of state institutions. This is what the Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Bechara Boutros Rai said in an interview on Tuesday, March 25th for LBCI television network. During the interview, Patriarch Rai repeatedly refered to the president of Parliament Nabih Berri to convene the Parliamentary Assembly immediately in order to allow MPs to begin the choice of possible candidates for the Presidency of the Republic as soon as possible.
The call to immediately involve Parliament, expressed by the Patriarch, is in contrast to the moves of those who instead aim to entrust the choice of a new President to pre-agreements between the two political majority blocs - the March 8 Coalition and the March 14 Coalition - which for years affect the political life of the Country of the cedars .
The current incumbent President, Michel Sleiman, will end his term on May 25. In the institutional system in force in Lebanon, the office of President of the Republic belongs to a Christian. The concerns expressed by the head of the Maronite Church concern the possibility that the contrast between the blocs could lead to an impasse.
The Patriarch reiterated that he does not intend to indicate the names of the presidential office. But he added that in the event of a deadlock, he will announce the list of candidates preferred by the people of Lebanon, on the basis of the guidelines documented by surveys and research opinion polls. With regard to the candidate profile, Patriarch Rai stressed the urgency of finding a "modern person who knows how to deal with the affairs of the state", reiterating that Lebanese citizens are the only ones allowed to choose their President, "and not the Iranians, the Saudis or the Americans". The Cardinal and Patriarch Rai also revealed meeting with diplomats from various countries to ask them to keep Lebanon out of the Syrian conflict, negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program and tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, in order to ensure that the election of the President is not affected by regional and international tensions.
When asked about the militias linked to the Hezbollah Shiite party, Patriarch Rai stressed that they cannot operate outside of the jurisdiction of the State and must be part of the national defense strategy. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 26/03/2014)

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