Mazloum Says No Maronite Summit, Dialogue Should Only Serve Presidential Polls

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Maronite bishop Samir Mazloum has denied that Bkirki was seeking to hold a summit for the rival Christian political leaders but he called for dialogue among different factions to focus on the election of a new president.

“There is no such thing at this current stage,” Mazloum told al-Joumhouria newspaper published on Thursday about a possible summit among Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, the head of Kataeb Party, former President Amin Gemayel, and MP Suleiman Franjieh, who is the leader of Marada Movement.

Mazloum reiterated Bkirki's call for the swift election of a new head of state, blaming the vacuum at Baabda Palace on several obstacles in state institutions.

“A president should be elected as soon as possible to rectify the state's affairs,” he stressed.

Asked about the resumption of cabinet sessions, the bishop said: “It is natural for the government to resume its meetings and to do all it can to serve the people.”

Prime Minister Tammam Salam had suspended sessions, warning that he would not invite the ministers for a meeting if they did not heed his call to amend the controversial working mechanism that was adopted after the rival MPs failed to elect a successor to President Michel Suleiman last year.

Earlier this week, he decided to call for a session on Thursday after the different factions agreed for consensus to be the basis of the government’s work rather than the unanimous support from all the ministers on cabinet decisions.

But Mazloum said “nothing has practically changed” after the deal among the ministers.

Asked about the dialogue among different factions, the bishop told al-Joumhouria that Bkirki encourages talks. “But any dialogue or activity … would be short of reaching its objectives if it is not in favor of electing a president.”

He expressed hope that the conferees would deal with the presidential elections as the most essential issue on the agenda of their talks.

Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal officials have been holding talks under Speaker Nabih Berri's sponsorship since December. Christian rivals the FPM and the LF are also engaging in dialogue to set the stage for a meeting between Aoun and Geagea.

Both are presidential candidates and their rivalry is among the reasons that has left the country's top Christian post vacant.



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