March 8 officials praised former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s support for a dialogue with Hezbollah Friday, with the hope that the talks between the two rival parties would help defuse the Sunni-Shiite tensions.
In an interview with LBCI TV at his Paris residence Thursday night, Hariri said he was serious about a dialogue between his Future Movement and Hezbollah, adding that the talks with the militant Shiite party were designed to defuse Sunni-Shiite tensions and shield the country against security threats linked to the war in Syria.
Thousands of Hezbollah fighters are helping the Syrian regime against the mostly Sunni rebels who are trying to topple the regime. Hezbollah’s role in Syria has come under attack because it brought the Syrian civil war closer to home.
“The atmosphere is positive and matters are heading toward dialogue between Hezbollah and the Future Movement very soon,” Hezbollah MP Ali Fayyad was quoted as saying by The Daily Star newspaper .
MP Ali Khreis from Speaker Nabih Berri’s parliamentary bloc echoed a similar view.
“Definitely, Hariri’s statement paves the way for starting the Hezbollah-Future dialogue, which is basically aimed at defusing political and sectarian tensions in the country,” Khreis was quoted as saying by The Daily Star.
“Hariri’s statement contained several positive elements when he said that he is serious about a dialogue with Hezbollah and that he does not set preconditions for this dialogue,”Khreis added .
Similarly another MP from March 8 alliance sounded optimistic about Hariri’s stance.
“The meeting between Hezbollah and the Future Movement will defuse the rift between two major sects in Lebanon,” MP Walid Khoury from MP Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc told e Voice of Lebanon radio station. “The extended hands from Hezbollah and the Future Movement will lead to results.”
The former premier also met with former President Michel Suleiman in Paris on Friday, and they reviewed developments in Lebanon and the region. The meeting was attended by Nader Hariri, Hariri’s chief of staff.
Constitutional Council rejects Aoun’s challenge
Meanwhile, the Constitutional Council, unanimously rejected a challenge filed by Aoun’s bloc against the extension of Parliament’s mandate by more than two years, saying its decision was designed to prevent further vacuums in state institutions.
“The Constitutional Council unanimously rejected the challenge in order to prevent further vacuums in constitutional institutions,” the council said in a statement at the end of its meeting.
The council’s decision came amid calls by Aoun’s bloc, civil organizations and NGOs to annul the extension and hold parliamentary elections. It also comes at a time when there is a presidential vacuum, as Parliament has failed since April to elect a successor to Suleiman.
Lawmakers from the rival political coalitions – March 8 and March 14 – as well as independent MPs voted earlier this month to extend Parliament’s mandate for two years and seven months by a 95-2 margin.
The move prompted Aoun’s bloc, whose MPs had boycotted the vote, to file a challenge against the extension with the 10-member Constitutional Council.
In its statement, the council said that despite rejecting the appeal and despite the extraordinary security circumstances cited by the lawmakers to justify the extension of Parliament’s mandate, it believed that the principle of holding periodic elections “should not be breached.”
It also said that linking the elections to a new electoral law violated the Constitution.
The council called for immediate parliamentary elections once the extraordinary circumstances that prevented the elections from taking place ceased to exist. “Elections should be held immediately … without having to wait until the extension has expired,” the statement said.
It added that crippling constitutional institutions, especially the presidency, was “a flagrant violation of the Constitution.”
The Lebanese Forces, which voted for the extension of Parliament’s term, praised the council’s decision.
“The importance of this [Constitutional Council] decision is that it has stressed that vacuums in institutions should not be allowed,”Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan told reporters after meeting Speaker Berri at Ain al-Tineh.
“Our position is that we have voted against a vacuum and not for the extension.”
M14 also praises move
Adwan a key member of the M14 alliance also praised the planned dialogue between Hezbollah and the Future Movement .
“We need today to reduce tensions because in the end when we shield our country, we go to elect a president and hold elections, we as Lebanese will be able to fight the threat of terrorism that is sweeping Lebanon and the repercussions of what is happening in the region,” Adwan said
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