Rifi Warns against 'Surrendering Presidency' to Candidates of 'Assad, Iran Project'

Resigned Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi has warned against what he called “surrendering the presidency” to the candidates of “Bashar Assad and Iran's project,” in reference to Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh and Free Patriotic Movement founder MP Michel Aoun.

“We will not allow what's happening in Baghdad, Damascus and Sanaa to happen in Beirut and we will be fierce fighters in defending our Arab and Lebanese identity and in preventing the Iranian axis from changing it,” Rifi vowed during a meeting with popular delegations in Tripoli.

“The nomination of any political figure who is close to Hizbullah or Bashar Assad is a great surrender and we would be selling ourselves cheaply should we nominate Suleiman Franjieh or Michel Aoun,” the minister warned.

“Any candidate from this camp is a nomination against our principles and cause and we would be surrendering our country to the project of Bashar Assad and Iran. That's why we will object fiercely and we will never be lenient in this issue,” Rifi added.

“We should not surrender the head of the state to those who are in the service of the projects of Iran and Assad,” he stressed.

And calling for a “return to principles,” the resigned minister underlined that his hand is “extended to everyone.”

“My project is to struggle for the cause for which hundreds of people were martyred, topped by slain ex-PM Rafik Hariri,” Rifi noted.

The resigned minister has strongly criticized a decision by al-Mustaqbal Movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri to nominate Franjieh for the presidency.

Lebanon has been without a president since the term of Michel Suleiman ended in May 2014 and Hizbullah, Aoun's Change and Reform bloc and some of their allies have been boycotting the parliament's electoral sessions, demanding a prior agreement on the identity of the president.

Hariri, who is close to Saudi Arabia, launched an initiative in late 2015 to nominate Franjieh for the presidency in a bid to break the deadlock but his proposal was met with reservations from the country's main Christian parties as well as Hizbullah.

Hariri's move prompted Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea to endorse the nomination of Aoun, his long-time Christian rival, after months of political rapprochement talks between their two parties.

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