BEIRUT — Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri denies that French special envoy for Lebanon Jean-Yves Le Drian put forward the idea of a third presidential candidate, although the respective candidates of the March 8 alliance and opposition groups have thus far failed to garner sufficient votes to be elected, according to the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.
On Friday morning, Berri met with Le Drian before the latter concluded a three-day visit to Beirut. The French envoy has been meeting with various political groups and key figures in an attempt to find a way out of the political impasse stalling the election of a successor to former President Michel Aoun, whose term in office ended on Oct. 31.
"We are on the same wavelength with Jean-Yves Le Drian," said Berri in an interview with Asharq al-Awsat published on Thursday. "Dialogue is not only his request but also an Arab and international request because it is the only way out of the crisis," he continued.
At the end of August, Berri called for a meeting of political party leaders to agree on a dialogue between the political groups in order to reach a consensus on a candidate. Welcomed by Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), his initiative was criticized by the opposition groups. Faced with this impasse, the French envoy reportedly proposed a new mediation, consisting of an open electoral session in Parliament, after the withdrawal of the two current candidates: Sleiman Frangieh, backed by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, and Jihad Azour, an executive of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), supported by the opposition groups and the FPM.
Le Drian's visit came ahead of a new meeting of representatives of the Group of Five (United States, France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar) in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, to discuss the Lebanese file.