Berri Says Aoun, Hariri Seeking to End 'Partnership with Shiites', Warns of 'Civil War'

Speaker Nabih Berri has accused Free Patriotic Movement founder MP Michel Aoun and al-Mustaqbal Movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri of seeking to “topple political Shiism” in Lebanon, warning that such an attempt might lead to a “civil war” in the country, a media report said on Tuesday.

“Congratulations. Saad Hariri's choice has triumphed and he has revived the 1943 pact with Aoun. We will be outside power – among the ranks of the opposition,” al-Akhbar newspaper quoted aides to Berri as saying.

Asked whether a return to the 1943 pact would ignite a new civil war, the sources said: “That's true. What they are doing will lead to a civil war and we will fight to defend ourselves and Hizbullah!”

And asked whether AMAL Movement's latest “military parade” in Nabatieh during Ashura was a “message” in this regard, the sources said “the Nabatieh scene is nothing compared to what we might do to prevent a return to the pre-Taef Accord era.”

Hariri and Aoun are trying to undermine “the partnership with political Shiism that followed the Taef Accord and we will not agree to take part in this game. Let them become used to governments in which Hizbullah would be entrusted with preserving the share of the Shiite community in power,” the sources added.

“Our presidential candidate is (Marada Movement chief MP) Suleiman Franjieh. We have respected Hizbullah's stance that is supportive of Aoun, although we asked Hizbullah around 50 questions related to the characteristics of each of Aoun and Franjieh and we received answers indicating that Franjieh is better than Aoun but that they have an ethical commitment to Aoun's nomination,” the Ain el-Tineh sources explained.

Clarifying why they have reservations on Aoun's nomination, the sources added: “First of all, Suleiman Franjieh reassures us more than Aoun. The remarks of (FPM chief Jebran) Bassil in his latest interview, his avoidance to mention the resistance, and the way he talked about Hizbullah's fighting in Syria were not reassuring.”

“Through their (FPM's) agreement with (Lebanese Forces leader) Samir Geagea, they have appointed him as a 'crown prince' for leading the Christian majority in the future, not to mention that Jebran Bassil and (Hariri's adviser) Nader Hariri have agreed on everything,” the sources went on to say.

“They have agreed on granting sovereign ministerial portfolios to the LF, on the oil file, on the finance ministry, on the army command and on the central bank governor post. They agreed that independent Christians would not be granted any ministerial portfolio except for one that would go to someone loyal to Hariri,” the sources alleged.

Asked about Berri's latest praise of Hariri, Berri's aides said: “We support Saad in the face of extremism and (resigned Justice Minister) Ashraf Rifi, not in his return to the 1943 bilateral (Sunni-Maronite) power-sharing.”

“We are against the election of Michel Aoun as president and we will not agree to this settlement in which we were not partners. They are not recognizing anyone's presence, so why would we take part in their government?” the sources said.

They also stressed that AMAL's stance will remain unchanged unless “unforeseen political developments happen, such as Franjieh's withdrawal of his nomination.”

Berri's aides also admitted that the parliament speaker “has been encouraging Franjieh to carry on with his nomination.”

Asked whether that means that Berri has ruled out any agreement with Aoun and Hariri, the sources said: “No. They must first realize that an agreement with Hizbullah is not an agreement with us and that their problem with us is not about a share, a post or a ministerial portfolio. They must renounce the deal of returning to the 1943 bilateral power-sharing and they must return to the dialogue table so that we discuss the country's future.”

“Otherwise, let us go parliament and may the best candidate win. If the General (Aoun) wins we will congratulate him and move to the ranks of the opposition,” the sources added.

MP Alain Aoun of the FPM announced Monday that Hariri will announce his endorsement of Aoun “this week.”

The ex-PM has been exploring the possibility of endorsing Aoun for several weeks now and on Sunday Education Minister Elias Bou Saab of the FPM announced that Hariri has officially decided to endorse Aoun's presidential bid.

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 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.

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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