Hariri Says President Election 'Victory for Saudi Arabia', Admits Govt. Formation 'Difficult'إقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Al-Mustaqbal Movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri announced Friday that the election of a new Lebanese president on Monday will be “a victory for Saudi Arabia and all Arabs,” while admitting that the formation of the new government will be “difficult.”
“The country's interest is more important than anything else,” said Hariri in an interview on LBCI television, defending his decision to endorse Free Patriotic Movement founder MP Michel Aoun for the presidency.
“Vacuum is lethal for Lebanon and its state and institutions and we had to do anything to end this vacuum,” he said.
“I was hesitant and I had concerns when I made the initiative with (Marada Movement chief) Suleiman Franjieh, but I found out that we have a lot of things in common, and today with Aoun we agree on a lot of things, from the economy to state institutions,” he added.
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, stripping them of the needed quorum.
Hariri had launched an initiative in late 2015 to nominate Franjieh for the presidency but his proposal was met with reservations from the country's main Christian parties as well as Hizbullah.
“Who said that Aoun does not want the State to rise? Our vision and their vision are similar,” he added, referring to Aoun's FPM.
“The revival of the economy contributes to the rise of the State,” he noted.
The ex-PM stressed that he did not “yield to political blackmail” but rather to his belief that “the country is more important than anyone and that stability is everything.”
“I made initiatives for the sake of the country and the endorsement of Franjieh and Aoun is detrimental to my popularity, but I have made these initiatives because I'm sensing the risks of vacuum and because I fear that the country could go to civil war,” he explained.
“It is not my ambition to be a premier or an MP. My ambition is to continue on the path of (slain ex-PM) Rafik Hariri and the country's stability and its people are more important than anything,” Hariri went on to say.
Referring to the period that preceded his endorsement of Aoun, the former premier said that “vacuum was the objective in the country and it was the candidate of the Iranian camp.”
“But my initiative put an end to any attempt to prolong vacuum. Victory today is a victory against the vacuum decision,” he emphasized.
As for Lebanon's relation with the international community should Aoun be elected president, Hariri underlined that the FPM founder “knows what he needs to do for the sake of the country and he knows that there are a lot of difficulties and challenges.”
“The international community wants Lebanon to have a president more than the Lebanese do,” he noted.
“We agreed with General Aoun to neutralize Lebanon from wars and the General has not supported Hizbullah's intervention in Syria or Yemen and he is keen on the interest of the Lebanese. We have devised a common formula for the ministerial policy statement and we will abide by it,” Hariri added.
Turning to Saudi Arabia's stance, the ex-PM said the Saudis “were not surprised” by his decision.
“When I told them about my decision they were not surprised, seeing as Lebanon's stability, prosperity and the preservation of the Taef Accord are a victory for Saudi Arabia,” Hariri said.
“What happened is a victory against vacuum and this victory is not only for Saudi Arabia but also for all Arabs because we are preserving the Taef Accord. (Hizbullah chief) Sayyed (Hassan) Nasrallah's candidate was vacuum and the two and a half years of vacuum are the biggest proof in this regard,” he added.
As for his stance as the head of the next government on Hizbullah's intervention in Syrian, Hariri said: “I'm against all of Hizbullah's actions in the region and what is our interest as Lebanese in Yemen, Bahrain or Syria?
“Why are they offering this service to a killer regime? I cannot prevent Hizbullah from fighting abroad, seeing as it did not even consult with its allies when it intervened militarily in Syria.”
He also noted that the government will be “responsible before people and the international community,” adding that the army has also given “a very good image of itself.”
And reiterating that he has not made “any bilateral agreements” with Aoun, Hariri said they discussed the issue of forming a “national unity government” without tackling the electoral law.
“We also did not mention the 1960 law or the postponement of the elections,” he added.
“I know that the formation of the government will be difficult and any attempt to obstruct its formation won't be only targeted against me but also against Aoun,” Hariri admitted.