Harb Agrees with Jumblat to Seek 'New Ideas' on Presidential Vote

Telecommunications Minister Butros Harb announced Thursday that he has agreed with Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat to seek “new ideas” in approaching the presidential vote.

“The meeting was an occasion to exchange ideas on the means to confront the coming period, after the (parliament's) failure to hold the presidential vote” on Wednesday, Harb told reporters after meeting Jumblat in Clemenceau.

He said the viewpoints were similar regarding “the need to exert further extraordinary efforts, so that Lebanon does not lose the chance to elect a new president and so that the Lebanese do not lose the opportunity to select their president with their free will.”

“A vacuum in the presidency would subject Lebanon to major risks in light of the regional and local developments that are taking a dangerous course, especially amid the huge influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon,” Harb added.

He said he agreed with Jumblat on the need to find “new ideas” that might lead to “a certain agreement on holding the presidential vote within the constitutional timeframe.”

The two men also agreed to continue consultations and joint efforts among all political parties.

Harb has said that he would run for presidency if the March 14 forces agree to endorse his nomination.

Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, whose candidacy has been endorsed by March 14, and MP Henri Helou of Jumblat's Democratic Gathering bloc are so far the only candidates who have announced official nominations.

On Wednesday, lawmakers once again failed to elect a new president as differences between the March 8 and 14 alliances led to a lack of quorum in the second parliamentary session aimed at choosing a new head of state.

Meanwhile, Jumblat told al-Jadeed television later on Thursday that he has not rejected Geagea's bid or the unofficial nomination of Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun.

“I have not voiced objections over Geagea nor over Aoun, I have rather fielded a consensus candidate,” Jumblat added, referring to Helou.

“I have not voiced objections over the army chief, since he needs a constitutional amendment to run, but should we amend the constitution, we would be giving the impression that the entire Maronite political class is inadequate,” Jumblat added.

He condemned the fact that “no one (from the March 8 camp) has announced their nominations, and everyone is waiting behind the scenes or at embassies.”

“Let them come forward and announce official nominations in parliament,” added Jumblat.

In response to a question, Jumblat denied claims that by nominating Helou he is trying to “decide on behalf of Christians,” stressing that “the president belongs to all Lebanese.”

“This is a multi-confessional country and consultations are a must,” he underlined.

“It is better to choose a consensus candidate who would be able to gather the Lebanese, as we have major economic issues to address,” Jumblat added.


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