Lebanese President Michel Suleiman on Thursday continued with with his private meetings with Lebanese leaders in an effort to ease the tension in Lebanon.
According to local reports Suleiman met at the Baabda palace with the following leaders today: Minister of Economy Mohammad Safadi, Tashnaq Party leader MP Hagop Pakradounian, Hezbollah parliamentary bloc leader MP Mohammad Raad , Lebanon First bloc leader, former PM and MP Fouad Siniora and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea .
Yesterday he met separately with former Lebanese president and Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel , Free Patriotic Movement chief Michel Aoun, Marada Movement leader Suleiman Franjieh, Deputy Speaker Farid Mekari, former Prime Minister P Najib Mikati, Minister of State Jean Oghassabian, and the head of the Syrian Social National Party Asaad Hardan.
According to local reports Suleiman intends to launch another round of national dialogue talks.
The reaction to the meetings has been positive
Minister Jean Oghassabian commented to LBC about the meetings by saying: “It is the duty of President Suleiman to seek for dialogue among major parties to end the crisis.”
Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir told a delegatiion from the Antonine University in Baabda on Thursday that he hopes President Michel Suleiman will succeed in his efforts to relaunch national dialogue sessions.
“Lebanon is a small country dogged by crises … This small country is influenced by its neighbors that’s why its citizens are always worried,” Sfeir said
According to a statement issued by Suleiman’s press office on Wednesday, the meetings aim to reactivate state institutions, strengthen consensus, and renew national dialogue sessions.
The cabinet has not met since the November 10 session, during which the discussion of the “false witnesses” controversy was postponed in order to avoid a divisive vote.
The Hezbollah led March 8 alliance has demanded that the Lebanese judicial Council should be tasked with investigating the issue of witnesses who gave unreliable testimonies to the international probe into the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, while March 14 figures have said that the regular judiciary should handle the matter.
The national dialogue last convened on November 4th in a brief session which was boycotted by several March 8 leaders.
Tension escalated in Lebanon following reports that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will soon issue its indictment into the 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Last July, the Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said that the tribunal is “an Israeli project” that will indict Hezbollah members. Nasrallah accused Israel of being behind Hariri’s assassination but refused to provide the evidence to STL to support his claim. Hezbollah and its March 8 allies have been calling for the abolition of STL.
Some leaders are concerned that should the court indict Hezbollah members, it could lead to a Shiite-Sunni strife.
The Pro Syrian Al Akhbar newspaper reported earlier in the month that Hezbollah has prepared a plan to take over Lebanon when STL issues its indictment for the 2005 murder of the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun , (a close ally of Hezbollah ) said on November 18 that Hezbollah might violently respond to an STL indictment that accuses Hezbollah party’s members in Hariri’s assassination.
Aoun on Tuesday called for a compromise before STL issues its indictment .
” We hope that a compromise will happen, since no one wants a clash. But is there a wish for compromise ? If this wish is found, then is there ability , especially since there is an international game and it appears that they cannot separate themselves from it”.
Update: Geagea praises Suleiman
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea praised on Thursday President Michel Suleiman’s attempts to resolve the current Lebanese crisis
Geagea told Central news agency that March 8 parties will not likely “be responsive to Suleiman’s calls to resume national dialogue .”
“Suleiman has done much more than he can to normalize the political situation. March 14 is fully responsive to the president’s moves, ” he said
Geagea also said that March 8 is using pressure as an instrument to obstruct the government.