Head of the Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun slammed on Friday consultations between al-Mustaqbal movement chief Saad Hariri and Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi over the names of the presidential candidates.
“They can talk as much as they want... I will not withdraw my candidacy and I will never back down,” Aoun's visitors quoted him as saying in comments published in As Safir newspaper.
He pointed out that he had an agreement with Hariri and his nomination was “welcomed,” but “a Saudi veto occurred and Hariri had to back down.”
Aoun expressed belief that the veto was from Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, considering it as a “personal veto.”
Media reports said recently that Hariri discussed last week with French President Francois Hollande in Paris the names of several candidates from the March 14 alliance and the centrists bloc.
The names were later discussed during a meeting between Hariri and al-Rahi on Monday night in Rome.
Al-Rahi reportedly agreed on the names of one candidate from the March 14 coalition and two centrists to run for the presidential elections, noting that the nomination of one of the centrists requires a constitutional amendment.
However, the report was strongly denied by Bkirki and Hariri.
Lebanon plunged into a presidential vacuum due to the failure of the rival March 8 and 14 camps to agree on a compromise candidate.
According to As Safir newspaper Hariri is holding behind media spotlight meetings with “consensual” candidates ahead of his return to Beirut to attend a parliamentary session that aims at extending its term.
Hariri will head during his visit to Lebanon a meeting for the March 14 alliance to announce the withdrawal of Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea from the presidential race and to call on Aoun to make a similar move.
Geagea expressed concern in an interview with the Kuwaiti al-Rai newspaper published on Friday that withdrawing from the presidential race would give Aoun a “stronger alibi to continue.”
He described the matter as “complicated.”
Bkirki spokesman Walid Ghayyad reiterated earlier this week calls by al-Rahi on Geagea and Aoun to withdraw their candidacies.
Geagea's candidacy has angered the FPM and the March 8 camp, whose majority of lawmakers have boycotted the presidential elections causing a lack of quorum at parliament.
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