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Presidential election key to resolution of Lebanon’s crises, senior Hezbollah official says

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem (File photo)

A high-ranking official from the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement has called for the immediate election of a new president to replace Michel Aoun, whose term expired last October, describing the development as the key to resolution of the country's years-long crises.

“We should elect a president as soon as possible, as all solutions are tied to an agreement on the next head of state. The election will result in the appointment of a new government, and development of financial and social plans aimed at economic salvation of the country. Lebanon would then start to make progress,” Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem said at a ceremony in the Lebanese capital city of Beirut on Monday.

He added that there would be many "twists and turns" before the formation of a new government, especially "as US sanctions are seeking to target the country's vital sectors one after another, create a sense of despair among the nation, and paint a pretty grim picture that there is no future for Lebanon.”

The senior Hezbollah official went on to point to divisions among Lebanese political factions to elect a successor to Aoun, saying, “We believe that electing a new the key to [settlement of]  the country's ongoing crises. Each party and faction has listed the characteristics of its prospective candidate. It is time to move ahead and elect a new head of state than to wrangle over a nominee.”

Sheikh Qassem noted that the parliament convened on January 19 for the 11th time to elect a new president, but failed again to come up with a consensus candidate.

“Remaining stuck in the current situation and persistence on uncompromising viewpoints will complicate election of a new president. Solution to the existing power vacuum lies in sincere dialog,” he said.

Sheikh Qassem underscored that Hezbollah, along with the Amal movement and other allies, has suggested an effective mechanism in order to elect a new president because it has always been honest with Lebanese people, and has sought national convergence

“Those who wish to fulfill their desires should know that the next president will not be elected in such a manner,” he stated.

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has called for the election of “a brave [Lebanese] president who is willing to sacrifice.”

“We want the election of a president, the formation of a government and the salvation of the country,” the Hezbollah leader said.

“We want a brave president who is willing to sacrifice and does not care about the threats of the Americans. There are such examples and we must look for a government of this type and ministers of this type,” the Hezbollah chief underlined.

Lebanon’s presidency has seen stalemate several times since the 1975-1990 civil war. The country has also had only a caretaker government since last May.

The Arab country has been mired in an economic crisis that the World Bank has dubbed one of the worst in recent history, which comes amid crippling sanctions imposed by the US and its allies.

The Lebanese pound has lost more than 95 percent of its value on the black market since 2019.

According to the United Nations, the ongoing financial crisis in Lebanon has caused poverty rates to reach more than 80 percent of the population, and food prices have risen by an astonishing 2,000 percent. 

Creditors under the US influence such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have conditioned the release of billions of dollars in emergency loans to specific reforms which many observers say would make the country dependent on the West.

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