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Hezbollah rules out imminent presidential election despite dialogue

The Daily Star – Hezbollah’s deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem has ruled out an imminent presidential election despite recent attempts at dialogue between rivals, citing “complexities” in the case.

“I don’t think the presidential election will take place soon due to complexities related to it, even though Hezbollah has a clear stance in support for MP Michel Aoun,” Qassem said in remarks published Wednesday in local daily Al-Joumhouria.

Hezbollah has pronounced Aoun, the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, its only presidential candidate.

Lawmakers failed for a 17th time last week to elect a new head of state amid lack of consensus, prompting Speaker Nabih Berri to postpone the presidential election to Jan. 28.

Qassem, nevertheless, admitted that Lebanon has entered a “new phase of stability,” thanks to the recently-launched dialogue between Hezbollah and the Future Movement.

Aoun and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, who is the March 14 presidential candidate, are also believed to be setting the stage to hold a rare meeting soon with the hopes of initiating dialogue between the arch foes.

Qassem said Saudi-Iranian talks have yet to pick up momentum. “This dialogue, if it happened, would leave a positive impact on all the dialogues in the region.”

The dialogue between Hezbollah and the Future Movement was also the result of developments in the region and the threats facing it, he added.

“But basically [dialogue] stems from the need to protect Lebanon from the extra vulnerability of regional developments.”

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