Berri Rejects 'Stabbing' Lebanon, Prefers Consensual President

Speaker Nabih Berri has said the election of a new president next year is more than a necessity, advising consensus on the name of the next head of state and reiterating that the resistance is a right consolidated by the Taef Accord.

“Holding the elections is more than a necessity and all MPs should attend the session to elect the new president,” Berri told several local newspapers published on Tuesday.

“Those who are abroad should also (come to) attend it. We should not be satisfied with the two thirds” majority, he said.

“We would be stabbing the country if we failed to elect a new president amid the government vacuum and the paralysis of the legislature,” he added.

Under article 49 of the Constitution, the president shall be elected by secret ballot and by a two thirds majority of the 128-seat parliament.

President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends in May but there are fears that the differences between the March 8 and 14 camps would lead to a vacuum in the country's top post.

The 60-day deadline that the Constitution sets for the election of a president starts on March 25.

This deadline is aimed at granting the speaker the time to inquire MPs about their stances and whether there would be consensus on the name of the new president, Berri said.

“A consensual president is the best choice,” he said.

Asked about the resistance, the speaker said: “The resistance is not a privilege. It is a sacrifice.”

“Had there not been a resistance, we should have created one because Israel is threatening and assassinating,” he said in reference to the latest murder of Hizbullah official Hajj Hassan Hollo al-Laqqis.

He was assassinated last week near his residence in Hadath. Hizbullah accused Israel of carrying out the murder.

The resistance is the result of Israeli occupation, Berri said.

He wondered how Lebanon would protect itself and its oil and gas resources if there was no resistance.

“The resistance is a right and the Taef Accord consolidated this right,” he stressed.

Berri advised Hizbullah's critics to read the agreement well “because it clearly states Lebanon's right to liberate its land from Israeli occupation with all available means.”

The speaker, who is also the head of the Amal movement that is allied with Hizbullah, snapped back at the parties claiming that Lebanon liberated its land when Israeli forces withdrew from the South in 2000.

He said the Jewish state continues to occupy the Shabaa Farms area and the Kfarshouba Hills and is infringing on Lebanon's territorial waters.

“Let everyone know that we won't give up a single drop of our waters,” Berri told the dailies.

Asked about President Michel Suleiman's repeated appeals for Lebanese fighters and mainly Hizbullah to stay away from the war in neighboring Syria, Berri said: “I've put this issue in my initiative for (national) dialogue.”

“Let's sit at the dialogue table and discuss how this intervention happened and who started it,” he said.

Hizbullah members are openly fighting in Syria to help the forces loyal to President Bashar Assad crush the rebels, who are Sunni.

The Syrian civil war has also drawn in Sunni fighters from across the world, including Lebanon.

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