BEIRUT — Leader of Marada Movement and unofficial presidential candidate Sleiman Frangieh on Wednesday evening said he will not attend a parliamentary presidential electoral session that would "challenge" Saudi Arabia.
In an interview with Aljadeed TV, Frangieh said: "I will not go to a [presidential election] session and challenge Saudi Arabia. In that case, I might be capable of becoming a president, but I won't be able to rule properly. And for that, I say I am not in a hurry."
Amid talks between Saudi Arabia and France, Frangieh said "the atmosphere is comfortable but the compromise is not yet finished. I only hear about a negative atmosphere from the Lebanese."
"In Paris, I met with [French diplomat] Patrick Durel for half an hour in a hotel," the Marada Movement leader continued. "He asked me several questions before his meetings with the Saudi parties and I answered them. I did not make promises that I could not keep."
Last week, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea accused France of supporting Frangieh to serve its "common interests" with Hezbollah.
Several French groups are involved in major projects related to Lebanese infrastructure.
In 2022, the French shipping giant CMA CGM won the contract to manage the container terminal at the Port of Beirut. The French company TotalEnergies is part of the consortium in charge of exploiting Lebanon's offshore gas in blocks 4 and 9, alongside Italy's Eni and QatarEnergy.
Concerning the defense strategy, the focus of one of the main guarantees he gave France concerning his candidacy, Frangieh said that "a dialogue around Hezbollah's defense strategy and weapons requires the right atmosphere in the region. Today, this seems to be the case. The solutions in Lebanon are linked to the situation in the region."
Hezbollah and Assad's trust
"I can do things with Hezbollah and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that others cannot do because there is trust between us," Frangieh said Wednesday evening.
He however ensured that he is "not ready to plot against Lebanon with Syria."
"I will not accept that the refugees remain in Lebanon even if President Assad accepts it." These remarks on refugees come at a time when Lebanese authorities are announcing heightened measures against Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Frangieh has not yet officially announced his candidacy, but Hezbollah, Amal Movement and other allies have openly backed him for the presidency.
Asked whether he would officially announce his candidacy Frangieh said: "There is no law in Lebanon that imposes that the person who is considered for the presidency to [officially] announce his presidency or not."
"I have the right, according to the constitution, and all the necessary characteristics, to be a presidential candidate," he added.
Dialogue with Geagea
Frangieh is one of two central candidates for the presidency along with Zgharta MP Michel Mouawad. Moawad is backed by parties MPs opposed to Hezbollah, including Samir Geagea's Lebanese Forces.
"I am ready to dialogue with Samir Geagea and Bkirki is only 100 meters from [the headquarters of the LF in Maarab]. We can meet face to face, in the same room. We are ready to meet in Bkerke with anyone who wants to talk," Frangieh said.
Lebanon has been without a president since Oct. 31, 2022, when Michel Aoun left office. Parliament has repeatedly failed to elect a president in 11 presidential election sessions.