Gemayel Meets Franjieh, Jumblat, Possible Maronite Summit in Bkirki Next Week

Kataeb leader Amin Gemayel met with Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh on Thursday as part of his initiative to resolve the presidential crisis amid a report that Maronite leaders would hold talks in Bkirki next week.

The two officials stressed the need to hold the presidential elections before the term of President Michel Suleiman ends on May 25.

Gemayel added after the talks at Franjieh's Bnachii residence: “Lebanon's future depends on whether we are successful or not in staging the elections.”

“The country will head towards the unknown should vacuum arise in the presidency,” he warned, while questioning how some officials' can make light of a vacancy in the country's top Christian post.

For his part, Franjieh stressed the need to elect a strong president, who represents that majority of Christians.

He noted however that the deep political divide between the various parties will make it difficult to elect a president before May 25.

Later in the evening, Gemayel held talks with Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat.

The two men met over dinner at the former president's residence in al-Metn neighborhood of Bikfaya.

Jumblat assured that he is holding onto the National Struggle Front candidate's for office, MP Henri Helou.

"There is a huge rift between the March 14 and March 8 coalitions,” he told al-Manar television in the evening, stressing that the required quorum for holding a parliamentary session to elect a new head of state is a two-third of the number of MPs, not a simple majority.

Gemayel has so far met with Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, the March 14 alliance's only candidate for the presidency, and his rival Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun.

The lawmakers of Aoun's Change and Reform bloc and MPs from other March 8 alliance blocs are boycotting the elections over lack of consensus on a candidate.

But the lack of quorum they are causing is a message to March 14 that they reject the victory of the camp's candidate.

An envoy sent by al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri, who heads March 14, visited Gemayel on Wednesday night.

The former president also held talks with Metn MP Michel al-Murr.

An Nahar daily said Gemayel's initiative could lead to summit talks between the top Maronite leaders under Maronite patriarch Beshara al-Rahi in Bkirki on May 16 or 17.

The presidency is reserved for Maronites under the National Pact of 1943.

Gemayel announced from Rabieh on Wednesday that he agreed with Aoun on the importance of holding the elections by May 25.



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