Qassem Says al-Rahi Jerusalem Trip 'Problematic', Rules Out President Election within Deadline

Hizbullah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem on Friday described Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi's scheduled visit to Jerusalem as “problematic,” expressing his belief that no new president will be elected within the constitutional timeframe, which ends on May 25.

“We believe that al-Rahi's visit to occupied Palestine is problematic. It has to do with the patriarchate and Christians and we don't know what negative repercussions might arise from it, but we will evaluate it and comment on it if necessary,” Qassem said in an interview on al-Mayadeen TV.

Earlier on Friday, a Hizbullah delegation visited al-Rahi in Bkirki to discuss the issue of the controversial trip.

Turning to the issue of the stalled presidential election, Qassem said his party has been put in the picture of the ongoing talks between its ally the Free Patriotic Movement and al-Mustaqbal movement of the March 14 forces.

“We encourage such consultations and we welcome any agreements over the issue of the presidency and other issues,” he said.

Hizbullah number two stressed that the proposed extension of President Michel Suleiman's term is “something that has become behind us and it has no place, not publicly nor under the table, because it would not benefit the country.”

“I rule out the election of a president within the constitutional timeframe and I cannot determine how much it will take after that,” Qassem added.

In response to a question, the top Hizbullah official pointed out that “there is no political dialogue or official talks with al-Mustaqbal movement” but rather “ministerial and parliamentary meetings.”

On the Syrian conflict, Qassem noted that Hizbullah will withdraw its fighters from the neighboring country when the party accomplishes its “mission” and when stability returns to Syria. He also linked the possibility to “the end of the problem of global takfiri groups in Syria and the international plots against Syria.”

“There is no set time for our return from Syria … What we're doing in Syria has to do with Lebanon and the future of our young generation and it is not aimed at protecting a regime or a person,” Qassem added.


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