Franjieh Says ‘Candidate More Than Ever’, Describes Ties with Aoun as ‘Abnormal’

Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh announced Thursday that he insists on his presidential nomination “more than ever before,” as he described his relation with his ally Change and Reform bloc chief MP Michel Aoun as “abnormal.”

“Today more than ever before, I consider myself to be a presidential candidate but I will let General Aoun take his chance. As for time, I will coordinate it with my allies,” Franjieh said in an interview on LBCI television.

“I went to Paris with a clear conscience and I returned with a clear conscience,” he noted, referring to his famous meeting last month in the French capital with al-Mustaqbal movement chief ex-PM Saad Hariri.

“Many thought that things would happen in a quick pace but I knew that things need time,” he added.

The Paris meeting had sparked intense speculation that a presidential settlement was in the making. But the initiative ran aground in recent days after it drew reservations from the country’s main Christian parties – Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb Party.

“I agreed on several issues with Hariri in Paris and we decided that the meeting must remain confidential so that each of us can consult with his camp,” Franjieh told LBCI on Thursday.

He also revealed that his March 8 allies Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Speaker Nabih Berri were “in the picture of all the developments.”

“March 14 made a serious presidential initiative and we dispatched a member of the (Marada) movement to inform General Aoun of the initiative after I returned from Paris,” Franjieh noted.

He revealed that his relation with Aoun has been “abnormal for two years now.”

Aoun “believes that he is the only candidate without having plan B,” Franjieh said of his ally.

“I’m not General Aoun’s competitor although the media outlets of some allies have described me as a rival,” he lamented.

Referring to meetings that Aoun and FPM officials had reportedly held last year, Franjieh added: “I did not ask for the presidency, I traveled to Paris as an accepted president while other parties went to Clemenceau, the Saudi embassy and Paris without consulting with anyone.”

“I coordinated my moves step by step with Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and he was in favor of the visit while stressing that he will not abandon Aoun. If General Aoun does not have a plan B, Hizbullah has one. This does not mean that I have decided to abandon General Aoun,” he added.

“From the very beginning we said that we will all support Aoun if he has chances and we did not conspire against him today. We want to go to the settlement together despite the media uproar,” Franjieh noted.

“I have not joined March 14 and Hariri has not joined March 8 but we have met halfway. We agree on the interest of Lebanese citizens, on development and on the minimum requirements for preserving the state’s entity,” the Marada chief said.

Noting that he trusts Hariri and would like to cooperate with him in power, Franjieh revealed that the ex-PM “did not ask to become premier but rather demanded a national unity government” during the Paris talks.

Turning to the thorny issue of the electoral law, Franjieh said he reassured Hariri that “there is no plot to devise an electoral law that harms his interests.”