Rai Lebanon 'package' deal
Written by Malek

BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai Sunday criticized Lebanon's politicians for their attempts to broker an all-inclusive deal to end the country’s crises, saying such an agreement would strip the president of his rights.

“The package (deal) that they are speaking of strips the president of his prerogatives, and whoever accepts it lacks dignity,” Rai said at Sunday's sermon, without mentioning which deal he was referring to. Leaders have been unable to elect a president for over two years, since Michel Sleiman's tenure ended in May 2014.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has for months urged a compromise over the country’s many pressing issues, including the election of a head of state, the adoption of a new electoral law for legislative polls and the formation of a new Cabinet.

“Is this package [aimed at] stalling the election of a president, in anticipation of orders from abroad?” Rai asked.

The patriarch last month said that the decision to elect a new Lebanese head of state was in the hands of foreign players, adding that national leaders have given up on this responsibility.

Both Saudi Arabia and Iran have major influence in Lebanese politics.

“This (presidential) election precludes us from any deal, and parties must work for the national interest,” he said.

On Friday, Future Movement leader Saad Hariri met separately with Change and Reform bloc head Michel Aoun and Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea. This capped five days of intensive consultations with various political leaders aimed at ending the presidential void that has paralyzed Parliament and crippled the government’s work.

While Aoun is backed by Geagea, Hariri backs Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh.

Aoun’s party has boycotted parliamentary sessions to elect a president along with its ally Hezbollah, as they say they want assurances that Aoun will win. This has received a backlash from rivals, who say that selecting rather than electing Aoun negates Lebanon’s democracy.