BEIRUT — Hezbollah is open to negotiations on Lebanon's deadlocked presidential election, party leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech Thursday evening, calling on other political parties to come and "discuss without preconditions."
In a speech ostensibly held to commemorate 23 years since the liberation of South Lebanon from Israeli occupation, Nasrallah also referred to his party's display of military force last Sunday, saying the war games were part of a "policy of deterrence that is bearing fruit."
Affirming his "optimism" about the presidential election, Hassan Nasrallah felt that it was necessary for the various parties to "dialogue and communicate more."
"We are not at odds with anyone, and we say: come and discuss with us without any preconditions or restrictions," he said.
Lebanon has been without a president since Nov. 1. Though Parliament, which is tasked with electing a new president, has met for 11 voting sessions, no clear winner has emerged as political parties have yet to reach a consensus on who to name.
The deadlock has also seen strained relations between uneasy allies the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Hezbollah.
On Wednesday, FPM leader Gebran Bassil said in a televised interview that relations between his party Hezbollah had entered a "new phase."
Hezbollah supports Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh — Bassil's political rival — for president.
Meanwhile, FPM has been negotiating in recent weeks with parties opposed to Frangieh to find a different "consensus" candidate.
Tensions have also arisen between the two parties over Hezbollah government ministers' recent participation in caretaker cabinet meetings. According to the FPM, Lebanon's cabinet — stuck in caretaker mode and not fully empowered since last year's legislative elections — should only meet to handle urgent matters.
Still, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati's cabinet is due to meet at the Grant Serail on Friday afternoon to discuss a lengthy agenda. Reportedly absent from the agenda is the issue of beleaguered Banque du Liban (BDL) governor Riad Salameh, now under Interpol red notice for alleged corruption while at the helm of Lebanon's central bank.
Nasrallah ruled out the possibility of the cabinet deciding on the Salameh case during Friday's meeting.
"Lebanon has two options: either the governor resigns voluntarily, or the justice system assumes its responsibilities," he said.
According to him, the caretaker cabinet "does not have the prerogatives to dismiss [a senior official] or appoint" a successor to govern BDL.
In his last speech on May 12, Nasrallah used this same argument to justify the potential ascension of BDL vice-governor, Wassim Mansouri, a Shiite, to head BDL. The BDL governor position is traditionally held by a Maronite Christian.
Nasrallah also commented on the latest threats made by Israeli leaders against Lebanon.
He warned the Israelis: "Be careful and don't make any errors of judgment, which could lead to a major war in the region and your annihilation."
Referring to the much-publicized military exercises carried out by his party last weekend, he asserted that they were part of a "development of the resistance's material and military capabilities."
Finally, he said that these maneuvers were part of a "policy of deterrence that has is bearing fruit" and that the "army-people-resistance" formula is the one that protects Lebanon from threats.