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Change and Reform bloc chief MP Michel Aoun (R) is shown in a file photo with Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh
Change and Reform bloc chief MP Michel Aoun (R) is shown in a file photo with Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh

Change and Reform bloc chief MP Michel Aoun declared  during an interview with Russia Today that was aired Monday on OTV that it is up to the March 8 coalition to decide whether or not to nominate Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh for the presidency and not ( former PM Saad ) Hariri .
“My stance on Franjieh’s nomination will either complicate or facilitate the situation and I will declare it before the (presidential) elections take place,” Aoun said in his interview .

His remarks come amid a flurry of political talks in the country that followed a Paris meeting between Franjieh and former Lebanese PM and Future Movement leader MP Saad Hariri. The meeting sparked intense speculation that the two leaders agreed to the nomination of the Marada chief for the presidency.

Aoun said Monday that he has not been officially informed until the moment about the details of any “agreement” between Hariri and Franjieh.

He added: “Why should Suleiman Franjieh’s nomination come from Saad Hariri?”

Asked about the feasibility of a settlement involving a March 8 president and a March 14 prime minister , Aoun described such a scenario as a “fair solution” while stressing that “each camp must choose its own candidate.”

Turning to the issue of the electoral law, Aoun reiterated his call for a law based on the proportional representation system.

Franjieh’s nomination , even if it has not been officially announced has divided both rival camps , the Hezbollah led March 8 coalition and the March 14 coalition . Aoun has been March 8 candidate until now and the leader of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea has been the March 14 candidate .

According to sources close to Speaker Nabih Berri, Hezbollah is behind Franjieh’s nomination . Because of its close relations with Aoun Hezbollah reportedly asked its ally Berri to discuss this issue with PSP leader Walid Jumblatt and if found agreeable to the idea to sell it to Hariri .
Franjieh did visit Hariri in Paris and Jumblatt visited Hariri afterwards
According to the sources the common denominator for all these parties, Hezbollah, Jumblatt , Berri and Hariri is their dislike for Aoun. Even though Hezbollah is a close ally of Aoun the party has reportedly never trusted him completely and besides it does not think he is electable .According to observers  Franjieh’s  ties to the Hezbollah group are much older and he may be  its  preferable choice as it  wages war in Syria in support of Assad.

Many March 14  leaders are opposed to Franjieh’s nomination because of his relations with the  Assad family.

Franjieh’s ties to the Assad family date to his childhood when his grandfather, the late President Suleiman Franjieh, took him on trips to Damascus to visit his friend, the late President Hafez al-Assad. Franjieh used to hunt with Bashar al-Assad’s older brother, Basil, who died in a 1994 car crash.

Boutros Harb, a key member of  March 14 coalition  with presidential ambitions, said he had no personal problem with Franjieh. “But will he bring Bashar al-Assad with him to Baabda Palace, or will he be president for all Lebanese?” he asked on Twitter.

Franjieh held a “friendly meeting” with Aoun’s son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, on Sunday night, a statement from Franjieh’s Marada party said.

Franjieh told Bassil he still supported Aoun’s candidacy “if there was a real desire to agree on General Aoun”. “But if (Aoun’s) nomination continues simply to obstruct Franjieh’s nomination, this is another matter.”

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