BEIRUT — Marada leader Sleiman Frangieh said in an interview with local channel MTV on Thursday that he "is not Hezbollah's candidate" for the Lebanese presidential elections despite him being close to Hezbollah and Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime, while Frangieh aims to present himself as a presidential candidate who has consensus.
"I am not Hezbollah's candidate, but [the] party trusts me because I do not stab it in the back, and I am not afraid of being sanctioned internationally," Frangieh said.
One of Frangieh's unofficial presidential rivals, Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil, has been sanctioned by the US on charges of corruption.
On the subject of the presidential election, Frangieh said that "things are accelerating," adding that "this could help create a climate of understanding that would be in my favor." Frangieh also said that he "learned from the French that they appreciate me and that they will not interfere in the presidential election."
"I am open, and consensual and believe in dialogue. I have never been politically Syrian," he defended himself, ensuring that he wants to maintain good relations with the two sides of opposing geopolitical actors. According to him, "neutrality does not imply hostility towards Syria or Saudi Arabia."
"If I see that I can't do anything, I won't be a candidate or remain president. But I will not back down," he said.
President Michel Aoun's office term expires on October 31. Hezbollah had declared itself in favor of a compromise candidacy in order to elect a president within the constitutional deadline. For their part, representatives of the US, France and Saudi Arabia met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, issuing a joint statement urging Lebanon to hold the presidential election "within the constitutional timeframe."
Frangieh denied any desire to "deliver Lebanon to Hezbollah," saying that "discussing the arms of the Shiite party requires regional, internal and international conditions." Hezbollah is the only faction to have kept its weapons after the end of the Lebanese civil war in 1990. According to Frangieh, "the 'Resistance' does not need a Christian cover [or support] or any other cover since it has protected Lebanon."