BEIRUT — Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah on Monday that his party supports the presidential candidacy of Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh.
Nasrallah emphasized that his party does not have a "Hezbollah candidate," adding that "what we have is a candidate we support."
In a live broadcast speech during a Hezbollah celebration "in honor of the wounded and resisting prisoners," Nasrallah said his party "joins forces" with Lebanon's Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri — leader of the Amal Movement — who said last week in an interview with Al-Akhbar that his party's candidate "is known; it is Sleiman Frangieh."
Hezbollah's leader also renewed his calls for dialogue to elect a new president for Lebanon.
Lebanon — which has been without a president since Nov. 1 when the term of former president Michel Aoun ended — has failed to elect a new head of state in all 11 subsequent parliamentary sessions.
"We do not consider a plan B," said Nasrallah, adding that "when we abandon the blank ballot and write the name of a candidate on the paper, this is a serious commitment. We do not maneuver, waste time, or burn the names of our candidates."
Hezbollah MPs — as well as their allies, including the Amal Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement — cast blank ballots during each previous electoral session.
"We want to elect a president categorically, because there are those who question our intentions, and we do not want a [political]vacuum," said Nasrallah.
"We are committed to a two-thirds quorum for the president in the first and second rounds of voting," Nasrallah added, criticizing MPs who suggested that 65 votes should be enough to elect a president in the second round of voting at each session.
Nasrallah said his party would rebuke the efforts of any outside force or foreign government that seeks to impose its choice for president, on Lebanon, describing such action as non-sovereignist.
"Our decision is completely in our hands — we choose and nominate whoever we want, and we do not wait for the outside, and we do not bet on regional affairs."
The Hezbollah leader also insisted the country should not wait for an "American-Iranian deal" or an "American-Saudi deal," as these dossiers "have nothing to do with anything in the region, including the Lebanese presidential dossier."
"Iran and Syria do not interfere in the presidential issue, and none of our regional friends have interfered with us," Nasrallah added.
'This is not a breach of understanding'
Hezbollah's support of Frangieh has strained its relationship with the Free Patriotic Movement. FPM leader Gebran Bassil, who is also a presidential hopeful, is Frangieh's main political rival.
During Monday's speech, Nasrallah said he told Bassil that Hezbollah "sees you, personally, along with former minister Sleiman Frangieh, as candidates for the presidency, and ... because [Bassil] did not run, the choice might go to Frangieh."
"From the beginning, we wanted to enter into an internal discussion and we started with our allies," Nasrallah continued. "I told [Bassil] that we want these characteristics of the president, meaning that he does not backstab the Resistance, and we need reassurances. When we announce our support for Sleiman Frangieh, this is not a breach of understanding. Everyone is free to choose the candidate that suits him."
In January, Hussein Khalil, political adviser to Nasrallah, said his party and the FPM "are heading in the same direction," after a meeting with Bassil at the party's headquarters in the Mirna Chalouhi Center on the outskirts of Beirut.
Land and Maritime borders with Israel
In his Monday speech, Nasrallah also addressed the Israeli breach of the Blue Line in southern Lebanon on Sunday, warning that "there are Israeli attempts to expand here."
Nasrallah firmly assured that "Lebanon and the Resistance will not tolerate Israel taking any inch of land, nor will we give up on a grain of soil."
The Lebanese Army has been on alert since Sunday after an Israeli patrol breached the Blue Line that demarcates southern Lebanon and Israel.
"The Lebanese Army, with its officers and soldiers, stood face to face against the occupation on the borders and prevented it from encroaching," Nasrallah added.
The Blue Line was drawn in June 2000 by the UN after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, ending an occupation that began in 1982. It signifies a "withdrawal line," as much of the border remains disputed.
UNIFIL was created in 1978 as a buffer between Lebanon and Israel. Tensions along the border are common.
UNIFIL peacekeepers arrived at the scene following the breach and urged "all parties, and everyone present at the scene, to maintain calm."
Meanwhile, Nasrallah denied some local reports that suggested his party "regretted" the Israeli-Lebanese maritime demarcation agreement that was brokered between Beirut and Tel Aviv last October, with approval from Hezbollah. The deal paved the way for Lebanon to begin exploiting the Qana offshore natural gas field.
"When announcing the agreement at that time, I said that, if a day comes and ... we find that there is procrastination or [Israel is] preventing Lebanon from extracting oil and gas, we will not allow [Israel]. Today I reiterate this," Nasrallah warned.