Berri Says No 'Personal Dispute' with Any Candidate

Speaker Nabih Berri stressed Friday that there is no “personal dispute” between him and any of the two presidential candidates – Free Patriotic Movement founder MP Michel Aoun and Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh.

“The press and the media outlets were behind a campaign today – mostly good-intended – that depicted things as if there is a personal dispute between Speaker Berri and a certain candidate,” Berri's press office said.

“But actually, the proposals that he is making and putting at everyone's disposal reflect his adherence to the agenda of national dialogue meetings, and they are not targeted against any certain candidate,” it added.

“In our opinion, these proposals are the obligatory gateway for stabilizing the political situation, preserving state institutions, and finding a comprehensive solution topped by the election of a president,” the press office clarified.

Berri has always enjoyed good ties with Franjieh whereas his relation with Aoun has mostly been frosty.

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.”

Al-Mustaqbal Movement leader ex-PM Saad 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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