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Lebanon’s Cabinet Holds Last Session, Saudi Delegation in Beirut ahead of Presidential Polls - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Beirut-Lebanon’s cabinet held on Thursday what it considered to be its last session before the election of a new president early next week, and the beginning of a new era.

Meanwhile, the Free Patriotic Movement continued to hold meetings with political parties that are rejecting or have not yet announced their final decision concerning the candidacy of MP Michel Aoun for president.

But on Thursday the head of the Kataeb Party, MP Sami Gemayel, reiterated his rejection to “participate in the current presidential deal.”

Meanwhile, a Saudi delegation headed by Saudi State Minister for Arab Gulf Affairs, Thamer al-Sabhan, is in Beirut on a special visit to discuss with Lebanese officials the latest developments in the country.

Sabhan kicked off his visit by meeting with Lebanon’s Prime Minister Tammam Salam at the Grand Serail and former presidents Amin Gemayel and Michel Suleiman.

According to Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency (NNA), al-Sabhan is expected to meet on Friday with Speaker Nabih Berri, and former Prime Ministers Saad Hariri, Fouad Saniora, Najib Miqati and General Michel Aoun.

He will also meet heads of Lebanon’s religious sects, Democratic Gathering chief MP Walid Jumblat, Marada Movement leader and lawmaker Suleiman Franjieh and Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea.

NNA added the Saudi official might also meet with Interior Minister Nohad al-Mashnouq, and Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji. Former PM Saad Hariri is expected to host a dinner banquet in honor of the visiting official.

Before attending Thursday’s session, several ministers hoped it would be the last ahead of the election of a new president next Monday.

Minister of State for Administrative Reform Nabil de Freij said: “This is the last session and we hope it will be positive.”

Culture Minister Raymond Araiji, who supports the candidacy of Suleiman Franjieh for president, said: “All possibilities are open” in Monday’s electoral session.

On Thursday, an FPM delegation met with candidate MP Henri Helou, who is supported by Jumblat’s Democratic Gathering bloc.

Helou will likely withdraw from the presidential race after Jumblat’s expected announcement of his support for Aoun on Saturday.

The candidate said that a decision concerning the withdrawal of his candidacy would be taken after expected talks between Aoun and Jumblat and a meeting of the Democratic Gathering bloc.

Helou said that the interest of the country was more important than personal interests.

However, Speaker Berri and the Kataeb Party were still holding onto to their position against Aoun’s candidacy.

Informed sources told the Central News Agency on Thursday that efforts exerted by the so-called Hezbollah party failed to convince Berri to vote for Aoun.

Also objecting to the election of Aoun, Gemayel said in a press conference: “We hope that the Kataeb party’s fears would be dissipated and that the practice of General Michel Aoun, if elected as president, would reflect what we struggled for together, for years.”

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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