Berri Meets Hariri as Report Says He's Willing to Accept 'Half a Package Deal'

Al-Mustaqbal Movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri held talks Thursday evening with Speaker Nabih Berri as part of his latest drive regarding the issue of the presidency.

The meeting was followed by a dinner banquet, according to media reports.

Hariri had met with Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh, his declared presidential candidate, in the wake of his return from a several-week foreign trip.

He has also met with Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat and, according to MTV, he is scheduled to meet in the coming hours with Free Patriotic Movement founder MP Michel Aoun and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea.

Hariri is also expected to visit Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Russia in the coming days, MTV said.

According to media reports, Berri has insisted in recent days that no president will be elected without an agreement on so-called package deal involving agreements on key issues such as the presidency, the government and the electoral law.

But MTV reported Thursday that Berri is willing to accept “half a package deal” involving “an agreement on the electoral law, the finance minister post, creating an oil ministry and retaking the energy ministry portfolio.”

Hariri's return to Lebanon on Saturday has triggered a flurry of rumors and media reports about a possible presidential settlement and the possibility that the ex-PM has finally decided to endorse Aoun for the presidency in a bid to break the deadlock.

Lebanon has been without a president since the term of Michel Suleiman ended in May 2014 and Hizbullah, Aoun's Change and Reform bloc and some of their allies have been boycotting the parliament's electoral sessions, stripping them of the needed quorum.

Hariri, who is close to Saudi Arabia, launched an initiative in late 2015 to nominate Franjieh for the presidency but his proposal was met with reservations from the country's main Christian parties as well as Hizbullah.

Hariri's move prompted Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea to endorse the nomination of Aoun, his long-time Christian rival, after months of political rapprochement talks between their two parties.

The supporters of Aoun's presidential bid argue that he is more eligible than Franjieh to become president due to the size of his parliamentary bloc and his bigger influence in the Christian community.

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