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Hariri confirms new president will be chosen Monday, says election is ‘victory’ for Saudi Arabia

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri confirmed on Friday that a new president of the Lebanese republic will be elected on October 31, depicting the much-sought event as a "victory" for Saudi Arabia.

Interviewed on LBCI, Hariri rejected claims that his endorsement of MP Michel Aoun was surrender, warning that vacuum inside the state institutions might lead to civil war.

"Vacuum is deadly for the country (...) I need to do something to rescue the country," he said.

"We reached an agreement with Aoun over economy and what we both want is the rise of Lebanon and the state, as well as the reinvigoration of economy," he underlined.

"I was not politically blackmailed; I followed my belief that people and stability are more important that any person," he explained.

Accusing Hezbollah and Iran of seeking vacuum, Hariri depicted his presidential initiative towards Aoun as "victory" over his rival's attempts.

He also described the president election and the preservation of Taef Agreement as a victory for Saudi Arabia.

Concerning his relation with House Speaker Nabih Berri, Hariri underscored that he would stay by his side in all cases. "His problem is not with me," he said, hinting the Speaker has issues with Hezbollah.

"If my political suicide is for the favor of the country, then I am ready," he accentuated.

Hariri also added that he would seek to keep the Lebanese republic and institutions neutral regarding neighboring conflicts, confirming that the new government will reject any interference in Arab affairs.

He went on to say that any obstacles to emerge along the formation of the new government would be in the face of Aoun, the next president, and not the new prime minister.

Moreover, he stressed that there had been no sideline bilateral agreement against any side, but to secure the interest of the country.

He also maintained that MP Sleiman Frangieh, whom he had previously nominated for president, would always remain a friend.

Hariri told that he had put the Speaker in the picture about his endorsement of Aoun, explaining that he said to Berri that his support for Frangieh did not bear any fruit.

"I will be certainly faced with attempts by Hezbollah to weaken me (...) I am before a huge challenge; but, between vacuum and Aoun's election, I am ready to elect Aoun albeit what I might face in the future. And, if they prevented the formation of a new government, then this [failure] will be in the face of the new era," he said.

Hariri also indicated that the international community wanted a president for Lebanon "more than the Lebanese themselves."

"My ambition is not to be a prime minister, but to carry on the path of Rafic Hariri, and to serve the country and the people," he noted.

"We will certainly face difficulties. But I am here with good intentions; and General Aoun will counter them with good intentions too," he added.

On the lineup of the next government, Hariri described Future Movement as "beyond sects," adding that he will not mind if the Lebanese Forces or the Free Patriotic Movement wants to name a Sunni minister.

He also indicated the as the new prime minister, he would seek to form a national unity Cabinet.

Asked about his relationship with Democratic Gathering Head, MP Walid Jumblatt, he confirmed their alliance during polls.

Furthermore, Hariri said that he would not visit Syria when he becomes prime minister, calling Iran to keep away from Arab affairs.

"We must keep Lebanon neutral as to the Syrian dossier, and I leave the choice for General Aoun in that respect," he corroborated.

"We will find solutions so that Saudi Oger resumes work, and I shall never forget the sacrifices of those who stood by my side. I promise Future institutions all good," he concluded.

Source: National News Agency