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Bassil: France supports 'presidential reform programs,' not candidates

Bassil: France supports 'presidential reform programs,' not candidates

Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader Gebran Bassil. (Credit: AFP file)

BEIRUT — Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader Gebran Bassil told the Al-Hadath news channel that France supports "presidential reform programs" over individual candidates.

He added that choosing a new head of state for Lebanon, a country that has been without a president since Nov. 1, remains a task for the Lebanese people, "not France."

On Sunday, Bassil insisted on the role of "Christians in the choice of the future head of state," a post that traditionally goes to a Maronite.

Asked about his opinion on France supporting presidential candidates in Lebanon, such as army chief General Joseph Aoun, Bassil said that France does not support presidential candidates. Rather, he said, it supports "presidential reform programs" that require international approval, including that of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), from which Lebanon is seeking a multi-billion-dollar bailout deal.

Earlier on Wednesday, the FPM also insisted in a statement on the "need to elect a president, in agreement with all members, to have a head of state capable of implementing the necessary reforms and to fight, as a priority, against corruption."

Bassil also reiterated to Al-Hadath that he remains uninterested in the presidency.

"I haven't nominated myself for the presidency as I saw that now is not the right time for it."

Asked about his party's relationship with Hezbollah, a known ally of the FPM, Bassil said that "we have entered a new chapter now; the country and this tie have moved to a different place," without elaborating on the matter.

On Wednesday, the FPM said that it is continuing to negotiate with the "opposition" — the term it uses to refer to the parties opposed to Hezbollah and its allies — to try to find a compromise regarding the presidential election.

"The FPM continues to dialogue with the opposition blocs in order to find a candidate who unites everyone and who is not considered provocative by anyone," the statement read.

Bassil, who is on a tour in Italy, the Vatican and France, is now calling on the opposition to agree with him on a candidate who falls under his parliamentary group, hoping to offer an alternative to the candidate of Hezbollah and the Amal movement, Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh. The FPM is strongly opposed to a Frangieh candidacy, a position that has strained its relationship with Hezbollah. 

Recently, Bassil has positioned his party as sitting halfway between Hezbollah's axis and the "opposition."

Meanwhile, in the ranks of the opposition, no successful candidate has yet emerged due to the lack of agreement.

Lebanon has been without a head of state since the end of Michel Aoun's mandate on Oct. 31. Parliament has still not succeeded in electing a president due to a lack of political consensus.

BEIRUT — Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader Gebran Bassil told the Al-Hadath news channel that France supports "presidential reform programs" over individual candidates.He added that choosing a new head of state for Lebanon, a country that has been without a president since Nov. 1, remains a task for the Lebanese people, "not France."On Sunday, Bassil insisted on the role of "Christians in...