Syrian President Bashar Assad reportedly said that there will be no presidential elections in Lebanon any time soon unless dialogue with Damascus led to a candidate who is an ally.
“This year might witness the election of a new president in Lebanon if certain conditions were implemented,” Assad's visitors quoted him as saying in comments published in the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Seyassah.
“Assad stressed that the elections could happen if the international and regional players negotiated with Damascus the identity of the candidate, who should be an ally,” a Lebanese source, who visited the Syrian president said.
The embattled president also pointed out that the new head of state in Lebanon will not be from the military corps, in hints to Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji.
Syria dominated Lebanon for nearly 30 years until the international outcry over the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005 forced Assad's troops out.
However, Damascus still exerts influence over Lebanon through its allies.
For his part, Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul Karim Ali called on the Lebanese government to review its policies without “arrogance.”
“The Lebanese state only has to engage in dialogue with its Syrian counterpart,” Ali told As Safir newspaper published on Friday.
The diplomat wondered how Lebanon is negotiating with the al-Qaida-affiliate al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group and not with the Syrian government.
“Lebanon will not be able to conquer terrorism without coordinating with Damascus.”
The cabinet is negotiating the release of captive policemen and soldiers, who were taken hostage by the Islamist gunmen in the wake of battles in the northeastern border town of Arsal in August.
A few of them have since been released, four were executed, while the rest are still being held.
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