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L’attuale spaccatura politica all’interno del Movimento di Liberazione del Popolo del Sudan (SPLM) sarà risolta solo se i suoi leader mostreranno un vero spirito nazionalista, hanno affermato leader religiosi di varie confessioni. Il messaggio durante l’incontro per definire il piano strategico per la riconciliazione fino al 2016.
“We do not doubt the capabilities of our leaders to embrace peaceful dialogue. But we pray they do it with sense of responsibility, nationalism, love and forging understanding”, remarked Archbishop Paride Taban, the retired Roman Catholic Bishop of Torit diocese.
We therefore called on them to exercise maximum patience [because] everything needs understanding”, added the cleric, also deputy chair for the country’s national healing, peace and reconciliation committee.
The ruling party, led by South Sudan president Salva Kiir faces a tough test from dissenting members, who insists the party leader should quit after he “unconstitutionally” dissolved its structures.
Last week, for instance, a group led by ex-vice president Riek Machar held a press conference in which they accused president Kiir of allegedly mishandling the party’s affairs, and calling for his exit.
Isaac Dhieu, the Episcopal Church of South Sudan bishop said the late SPLM founding leader, John Garang died at a “very difficult” time when people still needed leadership.
“John Garang was a charismatic leader. He turns political adversaries into friends. He listens to all the people, the same away our current president does it. President Kiir is humble, but it is not easy managing human being”, bishop Dhiew told Sudan Tribune on Thursday.
As religious leaders we pray that they honour John Garang by reconciling within their ranks and continue to be a formidable political party, he stressed.
The two religious leaders neither disclosed if they plans to reconcile the two different camps within the ruling party nor showed signs that the current split could be an alternative to resolve the rift.
“They should always remember that in every movement or organisation, there would be people with divergent views, but the beauty of unity is to accept and come to a common ground”, said bishop Dhiew.
The man of God further wondered why the leaders of the party could not forgive one another and move on with party affairs.
“I think the SPLM should really forget the past; if they can reconcile with the oppressors and live in peace, why can’t they forgive each other and move forward?” he asked.
The urge to fight against poverty and not power struggles should be at the forefront of the ruling party activities, stressed the bishop.
“What do we have to fight in South Sudan? We have to fight poverty and how do we fight poverty? We will develop your country by persevering, working hard so that we lift ourselves out of poverty because the government cannot do it alone,” he remarked.
Source Sudan Tribune
Non è ancora chiaro il mandante responsabile per l’attacco di oggi. Derna è considerata una roccaforte degli islamisti ma gli stessi estremisti sono aspramente divisi fra di loro. Inoltre, all’inizio del mese c’è stata una settimana di proteste contro le milizie in città, sopratutto contro quelle legate ad Ansar Al-Sharia, che sono state costrette ad abbandonare le loro basi nella zona e la loro stazione radio, che é stata poi data alle fiamme.
A bomb went off outside the offices of Justice and Construction Party (J&C) in Derna early this morning causing substantial damage to the building. A neighbouring building was also damaged as were a number of vehicles in the street. No one was injured, however, as there was no one in the building at the time of the blast, put at around 3am by local officials
Condemning the attack, Mohamed Sarwan, head of the J&C, said in a statement later this morning that it would not stop the party continuing its work in the town.
The J&C headquarters were the only remaining party political offices in Derna. Those belonging to the National Forces Alliance had already been attacked.
Several other public buildings have also been bombed or torched in the past year – the court house, a radio station, the passport office, the power station, security headquarters. Yesterday a bomb exploded outside the local Misrata Martyrs School which was reportedly being used as a base for the local committee organising elections to the 60-member Constitutional Committee.
Source Libya Herald
Nei giorni scorsi il segretario generale di Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, ha attaccato il Regno dell’Arabia Saudita, accusando i suoi servizi di intelligence, guidati dal principe Bandar bin Sultan, di finanziare i kamikaze islamici che organizzano attacchi in Libano e Siria. L’intensità del suo attacco ha raggiunto l’apice quando si é trovato in disaccordo col suo alleato iraniano: per Hezbollah non é stato Israele il responsabile degli attacchi suicidi all’ambasciata iraniana a Beirut il 19 novembre. Nasrallah ha rilevato che gli attentati all’ambasciata erano dettati dalla “rabbia saudita” verso l’accordo nucleare raggiunto a Ginevra da Teheran.
Previously, Nasrallah had never mentioned Saudi Arabia by name when criticizing it. This recent frontal assault, however, reflects the depth of the crisis that has come to mar relations between the two sides. A Hezbollah source speaking to Al-Monitor described the level of tensions as being akin to a declaration by Riyadh of an open security and political war against the party.
In essence, the current crisis between Saudi Arabia and Hezbollah revolves around the so-called Riyadh rejection of Iranian influence in the Arab world — particularly in the Levant, and especially in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Riyadh considers Hezbollah to be Iran’s enforcer in the Levant, and its anger against the party grew after Hezbollah expanded its activities beyond Lebanon to play an effective military role on the side of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. Riyadh points to the battle for Qusair, in which the party fought earlier this year, as proof of its expansion beyond Lebanon’s borders and its championing of Iranian influence in the Middle East arena.
On Nov. 28, the Gulf Cooperation Council announced the imposition of additional sanctions against Hezbollah interests within its member states. It also threatened to expand the sanctions if the party’s military presence in Syria continues. In response, Nasrallah replied that anyone who thinks his party will withdraw from Syria as a result of security, economic or political pressures is gravely mistaken. Prior to that, in a speech on Aug. 16, he had declared that he “would not hesitate to go fight there [personally], if the battle to defend Syria necessitated that he and his party do so.”
The strong, prevailing impression inside Hezbollah is that Saudi intelligence is waging an unprecedented security and political mobilization campaign against it, with the aim of weakening its political resolve, especially its participation in the Syrian war. The party in particular believes that Prince Bandar bin Sultan stands indirectly behind the bombings in recent months targeting Beirut’s southern suburbs, one of Hezbollah’s strongholds. Salafist extremists have claimed responsibility for these attacks, justifying them as in response to Hezbollah’s role in the Syrian war on the side of the regime.
In countering the Saudi campaign, which has included participation by members of the Lebanese March 14 political alliance, a Hezbollah rival, the Party of God has relentlessly justified its military presence in Syria as part of a preemptive war to thwart tens of thousands of extremist Islamists from reaching the Syrian-Lebanese border. According to Hezbollah’s theory, after reaching the border, they would transform Lebanon into another Iraq, where extremist terrorist violence is widespread. In turn, the March 14 alliance and Gulf states maintain that the bombings suffered by Lebanon are a “normal” reaction by Salafist factions fighting in Syria against Hezbollah’s participation there on behalf of the regime.
This political debate now resembles the equally futile question of “what came first? The chicken or the egg?” In parallel, concern in Lebanon is increasing that the war between Salafists and Hezbollah might expand to mirror the current Sunni-Shiite strife that daily reaps countless lives in Iraq, with each side targeting the other with reciprocal bombings.
Hopes to put an end to the downward spiral toward strife currently revolve around a possible Iranian-Saudi rapprochement. But even this glimmer of hope is the subject of great doubt, at least from the perspective of a Hezbollah source who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity and noted that the dossier on Iranian-Saudi dialogue was thorny. The source added that even if Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif were to succeed in securing a visit Saudi Arabia, his discussions there would not guarantee a halt to the deteriorating relations between the two countries because Tehran rejects Riyadh’s desire to see Assad removed from power.
Furthermore, Iran will not stop supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon, despite the Saudis’ desire to see the party reined in as a condition of any possible settlement between them.
Il villaggio di Maalula, con i suoi antichi santuari arroccati in una zona di montagna vicino a Damasco, è stato la meta di pellegrini da secoli. Ma oggi il paese sta attirando un nuovo tipo di visitatori, e alcuni di loro stanno arrivando armati fino ai denti. Famoso per i suoi siti cristiani, alcuni dei più antichi nella storia del cristianesimo, il villaggio é stato per secoli un simbolo di convivenza tra musulmani e cristiani. Oggi questa pacifica convivenza é solo un ricordo: il paese è ormai diventato un campo di battaglia tra il regime siriano del presidente Bashar Al-Assad e l’opposizione armata. I suoi abitanti, o almeno quei pochi che son rimasti, non sanno a chi dare la colpa o chi rivolgersi per chiedere aiuto.
A recent bout of fighting began when opposition groups waged an attack on a military barracks at the village entrance, with the regime then reacting by shelling the village with heavy artillery, causing extensive damage.
Then, 13 Christian nuns from the village’s ancient convents went missing, and the regime immediately publicised their plight, claiming that they were being held hostage by terrorists bent on persecuting Christians.
The Syrian foreign ministry sent messages to the UN, triggering widespread alarm. However, two days later the opposition released a video showing the nuns living in a nearby town, presumably waiting for the chance to leave an area that has seen intense fighting in recent weeks.
In the video, one of the nuns said that “those who took us have treated us with love and care, and we thank them for giving us everything we have asked for.”
Fahd Al-Masri, spokesman for the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA), blamed Christian militia affiliated with Lebanese General Michel Aoun and the Lebanese Shia group Hizbullah for the recent bout of fighting in Maalula.
Speaking to Al-Ahram Weekly, Al-Masri accused the Syrian regime and its allies of seeking to destroy churches in order “to scare the Vatican and the world about the fate of Christians and minorities in Syria”.
“The attack on the roadblock and barracks was conducted by several Islamist groups. We have learned from these that they were under strict orders to avoid disturbing Christian places of worship, individuals, and heritage sites.”
Although the nuns seem to be safe for now, Christian clergymen close to the regime have used the incident to demonise the opposition.
Bishop Luka Al-Khuri, a patriarchal assistant at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and the East, called on all Christian men to take up arms in defence of Syria and its Christian heritage.
“Our young men are ready and willing to fight for Syria,” Al-Khuri thundered. His was the first public call for Christians to defend their community in the course of the current war in Syria.
Patriarch Yuhanna Yazji, leader of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate for Antioch and the East, did not go as far, stating that “the systematic assault on churches is meant to divert attention from what is happening in Syria. It is meant to depict the events in Syria as a war on Christians.”
“We are Christians and we are also Arab Syrians who are loyal to this country. We are not children, and we are not going to side unthinkingly with one regime or another,” he said.
A hitherto unknown organisation called the Free People of Qalamun then claimed responsibility for abducting the nuns, offering to release them in exchange for one thousand women detainees held in the regime’s prisons.
The FSA said that no such group existed, claiming that the developments were part of the regime’s propaganda war.
Sanharib Mirza, a representative of the Syriac Assyrian Block in the National Syrian Coalition for Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, an opposition group, voiced frustration with events in Maalula.
Speaking to the Weekly, Mirza said that “these report do not bode well for the future of Christians in Syria. Some of the extremist Islamist groups are starting to fall into the trap set by the regime by terrorising the country’s minorities.”
Mirza said that Maalula and other mountain villages had no strategic importance for the warring parties.
“If it is true that the nuns were abducted, we refuse under any circumstances to bargain with the regime for their freedom. Christians are not going to become hostages in the Syrian crisis. We will not allow the regime or the opposition to exploit them.”
Mirza called on Muslim clerics to instruct the armed opposition to avoid actions that could harm Syria and its minorities.
What happened in Maalula will have no impact on the immediate course of the war, observers say, but its psychological significance for Christians in Syria cannot be denied.
A former Christian member of the Syrian parliament speaking on condition of anonymity said that the Christians had become the target of aggression as well as pawns in the wider war.
He said that the regime was trying to exploit the Christians “in order to win international recognition of its claimed role as the protector of minorities”.
Over the course of the past few months, the regime has abducted several Christian men and clergymen, including two bishops in Aleppo. “The danger today is greater than at any time before,” the former parliamentarian added.
Since the first day of the Syrian revolution, the regime has been trying to depict the opposition as bloodthirsty extremists who are intent on killing and subjugating all who differ from them in faith.
The recent tragedy in Maalula is only part of this strategy, opposition figures say.
A recent report by Syrian rights groups makes the same claim. The report, which accuses the Syrian regime of exploiting the situation of the Christians, was released by the Assyrian Organisation for Human Rights, the Syrian Organisation for Human Rights, the Damascus Centre for Human Rights Studies, and the Syrian Human Rights Network.
While condemning the regime’s attacks on Christians, the report says that some of the abuses were conducted by the opposition. It notes that since the Revolution started, the regime has destroyed 36 churches, while the opposition has only attacked four.
The regime, the report claims, has murdered scores of Christians for failing to do its bidding. More than 100 Christians have been killed by the regime “for refusing to comply with its sectarian designs and for opting instead to stand by the country’s higher interests”, the report says.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and other moderate Islamist groups in the opposition have denounced the attacks on the Christians, saying that the protection of all Syrians is now a top national priority.
Lo Yemen viene spesso accusato di essere un campo di battaglia di guerre “per procura”. A queste accuse non é certamente estraneo l’Iran, che convoglia denaro nel paese per finanziare un gruppo conosciuto come Houthi. Gli Houthi sono Zaidi sciiti che hanno combattuto il governo per il controllo nel governatorato di Saada per quasi un decennio. Nel marzo 2011, durante la rivolta popolare dello Yemen, il governatore di Sa’ada é fuggito e gli Houthi hanno preso il controllo della zona.
The group, often termed ‘rebels’ and ‘militants’, are controversial internationally for their anti-American and anti-Israel slogan.
However, they have growing political clout. The Houthis have made a name for themselves under their political wing called Ansar Allah at Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference (NDC), where their delegates sit side by side with the nation’s major political players, hammering out a plan for Yemen’s future.
While the central government has been relatively welcoming of their presence at the dialogue and in the political scene, they have made it clear that the group’s possible connection to Iran is worrying.
Yemen’s minister of foreign affairs, Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi, interim President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi and Gen. Ali Hassn Al-Ahmadi, the head of Yemen’s national security, have all on separate occasions accused Iran of meddling in Yemeni affairs.
In 2012 and at the beginning of 2013, ships carrying war weapons including guns and missiles were intercepted off the coast of Yemen.
Yemen accused Iran of being behind the multiple shipments, although concrete evidence has never been made public.
The Houthis have been adamant that they are independent of foreign influences. A political analyst, Ahmed Sinan, said there is not enough evidence to prove Iran is funneling money to the Houthis.
He argues the Houthis have enough internal support that they wouldn’t need to seek the financial assistance of outside powers.
“The Houthis amassed weapons from the Sa’ada wars and from open markets where weapons are sold. Some pro-Houthi military leaders help the Houthis and provide weapons for them,” he said.
The Houthis fought six wars with the central government in Sa’ada between 2004 and 2010 under former President Ali Abdualla Saleh, who was ousted following popular protests in 2011.
Ali Al-Bukhaiti, the spokesperson for the Houthis at the NDC, said that accusations of ties to Iran are just a spillover from the former administration of Saleh.
“The former regime aimed to extort and get international and regional support using the claims of ‘Iranian assistance’ as a scarecrow,” he said.
Al-Bukhaiti points out that the transitional government issued an official apology this year for the Sa’ada wars.
“It doesn’t make sense that the government apologizes to the Houthis…and then has doubts about their patriotism,” he said.
In a Wikileaks cable from 2009, Mohammed Naji Al-Shaif, a tribal leader with close ties to Saleh and his former circle, said that Saudi Arabian officials privately speculated that Saleh’s claims of Iran propping up the Houthis were exaggerated to enlist Saudi support for the wars against the Houthis in Sa’ada.
Moreover, the U.S. previously admitted that they have no solid evidence linking Iran to the Houthis.
“Many of our friends and partners have talked to us about the possibility of outside support to the Houthis (rebels) and we have heard the theories about Iranian support to the Houthis,” Reuters quoted then-U.S. Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman as saying at a regional security conference in Bahrain.
“To be frank, we don’t have independent information about this,” said Feltman, who is now the U.N. under secretary general for political affairs.
But the Houthis growing power still leads many to believe that Iran is supporting the group.
Mohammed Al-Amrani, a local researcher concerned with Houthi affairs, said that the Houthis have expanded their presence in Medi Harbor in Hajja governorate. This seaport is strategically important and is where the Houthis are believed to receive weapons shipments. Al-Amrani says weak government oversight in the area, a couple of security boats, has allowed the group to capitalize and take control.
“Lots of land plots and real estate have been bought by the Houthis or others loyal to them [near the port],” Al-Amrani said. “These lands were farms, but have been turned into arsenals.”
Al-Bukhaiti called these claims absurd.
“When we have a presence somewhere, everyone knows it,” he said.
Source Yemen Times
Il leader del Movimento di Liberazione del Sudan, Abdel-Wahid Al-Nur, ha ribadito il suo rifiuto di negoziare un accordo con il governo sudanese affermando che solo il cambiamento di regime può portare la pace. Al-Nur si rifiuta di prendere parte ad un incontro che il mediatore dell’Unione Africana delle Nazioni Unite ha organizzato ad Addis Abeba per discutere tempi e modi per porre fine al conflitto in Darfur che dura ormai da 10 anni .
The ongoing three-day meeting is a follow-up to another workshop held in Arusha, Tanzania, last August that the SLM/AW also boycotted emphasising that such process should be convened with all the rebel groups and their umbrella Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF).
“We are peace lovers but we want a true peace not, a peace of jobs,” Al-Nur told Sudan Tribune asserting that there would not be peace in Sudan unless a regime change is done in the country.
The rebel leader went to add that a true peace can only be achieved when there is an end to the violence against civilians and militias are disarmed, pointing they are ready for talks when such security measures are effectively implemented on the ground.
Nur who is also the SRF deputy chairman for political affairs stressed that political solution proposed by the rebel alliance aims to achieve a regime change, but not to reach a compromise with the government of president Omer Al-Bashir.
“We have the right to establish a democratic state where human rights are respected, and we have the right to have a government better than that of the National Congress Party,” he further said.
The SRF groups recently visited several European countries calling on the international community to support their demand for a comprehensive peace process.
They propose that this process should lead to establish an interim government and to stop hostilities on all fronts. Also, a constitutional conference involving all the political forces should be held to discuss a new constitution and to organise general elections by the end of the transitional period.
The SLM leader however expressed doubts that the regime of president Omer Al-Bashir would accept such prospect.
“The comprehensive political solution should lead to regime change but the NCP cannot accept this option because it implies to hold accountable those who committed atrocities and crimes during the past period”, he said.
He called on the international community to support the aspiration of Sudanese people to achieve change like what it has done in several countries.
“Otherwise they should leave us doing our job”, he added.
The African Union Peace and Security Council (PSC) last month issued a strongly worded call to the rebel groups to negotiate a peaceful settlement and threatened to impose sanctions against the non signatory rebel groups if they persist in their rejection.
But Al-Nur said such threats are worthless and called upon the regional body to bring security to the victims of “the genocidaire regime” in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. He further stressed that the PSC even failed to persuade Khartoum to allow humanitarian access to the affected civilians in these regions.
Source Sudan Tribune
Rischio black-out in Libia: alcune cittadine libiche sono a rischio black-out a causa di un blocco delle forniture di carburante. I manifestanti, tra cui un gruppo della minoranza etnica nera dei Tibu chiedono maggiori diritti politici e scopo della loro protesta è quello di bloccare le forniture di benzina dell’impianto di Sarir, il più grande nella Libia sudorientale.
LANA has quoted the plant manager Hashim Malik saying, that unless the protestors end the road blockade to let badly needed petrol through, within the next 48 hours, the operations at the plant could be halted. As a result, he said that this would plunge many cities in Libya into total darkness.
Due to labour protests and maintenance work, another state power company has shut down its plant in western Libya. According to the news agency, the firm running the plant has put the blame on “irresponsible action” by strikers.
In southwestern Wafa, another minority group, the Amazigh, has stopped shipment of gas supplies from the field for weeks, but one of its leaders said that in order to meet government demands the blockage would be lifted soon thus easing the power outages.
Power failures have worsened in the past few days as temperatures fell to lows of around 12 degrees C and household demand for heat kept rising. As a result, the Libyan capital, Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi experienced power failure for a number of hours.
Last week the government said power production had fallen to 4,600 megawatts, less than the summer level of almost 6,000 megawatts, when demand rises for air-conditioning.
Meanwhile, recent strike action, widespread protests at oilfields and ports over higher pay and political rights have halted most exports and dried up state revenues.
Source Tripoli Post
L’“eccessiva” polarizzazione politica della Libia sarà risolta solo attraverso il dialogo nazionale, ha sostenuto l’inviato delle Nazioni Unite in Libia, Tarek Mitri, al Consiglio di Sicurezza a New York
Detailing the continuing downward security spiral in his latest briefing on Libya today, the Special Representative of the Secretary General said that although the new Transitional Justice Law approved last week by Congress and yesterday’s freeing of four Bani Walid leaders by Zawia were positive contributions to the process of establishing the rule of law and achieving national reconciliation, there had to be a single reconciliation process to defuse the polarisation that was so damaging to the country.
Dialogue had to involve all the parties and the main armed groups, Mitri stated, especially given that there were doubts “about how comprehensive or lasting” the decisions of some militias to quit Tripoli would be.
For its part, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) was actively helping facilitate a number of national dialogue initiatives, he said.
One major difficulty he noted was the ability of some groups in Libyan to misunderstand events, pointing the problems following the announcement that the UN was sending a 235-strong to provide protection for its staff in Libya.
It had been presented in some quarters as evidence of international intervention, he said, and both the UN and the Libyan authorities had been forced to explain and “ state the obvious”. It would not be the last time this happened, he suggested to Security Council members.
“We will have to spare no effort in dispelling misinterpretations and suspicions, no matter how unjustified they may seem, and reaffirming the role of the UN support mission in Libya, committed to the full respect of its national sovereignty.”
On the issues of arms control and the elimination of supplies of mustard gas and uranium fissile material, known as yellowcake, Mitri announced that an inspection team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would be visiting Libya this month” to verify existing stockpiles and conditions of storage”.
He indicated ongoing concerns about the yellowcake, 6,400 barrels of which were stored “in a non-functional former military facility close to Sebha”.
A team from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was also expected this month to observe the destruction of the mustard gas “in line with Libya’s obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention”.
As for man-portable surface-to-air missiles (MANPADS), the UN envoy said that UNSMIL had asked the Libyan authorities for more documentation on those under their control.
Source Libya Herald
Nonostante le cupe prospettive politiche e le profonde differenze tra i leader rivali del paese, gli analisti si aspettano un accordo “last-minute” a livello regionale e internazionale per favorire l’elezione di un nuovo capo di Stato nel prossimo maggio 2014.
Altri esperti invece escludono qualsiasi intervento straniero nel voto presidenziale, affermando che le potenze regionali e internazionali sono troppo occupate con le turbolenze nella guerra in Siria per far fronte alla crisi libanese.
Il Libano è entrato così nell’anno elettorale presidenziale, tra avvertimenti di gravi conseguenze per la stabilità del Paese, se un nuovo presidente non venisse eletto in tempo.
Next year’s presidential battle is deemed crucial for the country’s stability, as Lebanon faces tough security challenges and deep national divisions threatening its unity caused by the ramifications of the 32-month war in Syria.
The presidential vote comes as the country has been left without a functioning government for over eight months and a paralyzed Parliament has been unable to meet due to a lack of quorum.
The latest warning was issued Tuesday by Speaker Nabih Berri, who said that failure to elect a new president would destroy Lebanon given the paralysis in the Cabinet and Parliament.
“All lawmakers must attend the [Parliament] session to elect a new president, even those traveling abroad,” Berri said in remarks published by Al-Joumhouria newspaper. “In light of the vacuum in government and a crippled Parliament, if we fail to elect a new president we would be destroying the country.”
Hisham Jaber, a retired Lebanese Army general, ruled out the possibility of the country falling into a presidential vacuum, predicting a deal between regional and international powers just in time to facilitate the election of a new president.
“I don’t see the country slipping into a constitutional vacuum because I expect a last-minute regional and international deal to facilitate the election of a new president,” Jaber, director of the Middle East Center for Political Studies and Research, a Beirut-based think tank, told The Daily Star.
Jaber said last month’s deal between Iran and Western powers over Tehran’s nuclear program would definitely help in facilitating the presidential election in Lebanon despite Saudi rage over the deal.
“Certainly, Saudi Arabia, which felt disappointed with the Iran nuclear deal, is capable of obstructing the presidential vote in Lebanon through its [March 14]. But the Americans would intervene to exert pressure on the Saudis to prevent any obstruction,” he said.
“Logic says that an American-Iranian rapprochement will serve stability in the Gulf region, something which Saudi Arabia has been working for. But Saudi Arabia feels that its influence in the Gulf region and the Middle East will recede in favor of Iran as a result of the nuclear deal,” Jaber added.
Abdallah Bou Habib, Lebanon’s former ambassador to the U.S., disagreed, ruling out any regional or international intervention in the presidential vote.
“The presidential election is becoming more a Lebanese decision than a regional and international deal. Regional and international powers are too busy with more important issues than the Lebanese presidential election,” Bou Habib told The Daily Star.
Bou Habib, director of the Issam Fares Center for Lebanon, a Beirut-based think tank, said the Big Powers and Saudi Arabia are “indifferent” to the situation in Lebanon.
“The U.S. would like to see stability and a new government formed in Lebanon. This means that they accept any joint Lebanese decision,” he said.
Bou Habib said Lebanon was heading for a presidential vacuum if the four top Maronite leaders – former President Amin Gemayel, MP Michel Aoun, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh – did not convince their Muslim allies to attend a Parliament session to elect a new head of state.
The four, who belong to the rival March 8 and March 14 camps, have long been presidential hopefuls.
“If the four leaders did not act to convince their allies to participate in a Parliament session to elect a new president, we will be going to a presidential vacuum,” Bou Habib said.
The influential Catholic Maronite Church, which had played a key role in the past in supporting candidates to the country’s top post customarily held by a Maronite, has voiced concerns over the possibility of Parliament failing to elect a new head of state.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai has repeatedly called for a new president to be elected on time.
President Michel Sleiman’s six-year-term in office expires on May 25. The two-month constitutional period for Parliament to meet to elect a new head of state begins on March 25.
“Patriarch Rai is demanding a president who can salvage Lebanon and who possesses a vision to keep Lebanon away from the fires raging in the region,” Hares Chehab, secretary-general of the Islamic-Christian National Dialogue Committee, told The Daily Star.
Chehab, who represents the Maronite patriarch on the Dialogue Committee, said next year’s presidential election gained special significance “because the country is in a state of stagnation, the future outlook is gloomy and the Lebanese are sharply divided.”
“If the Lebanese fail to unite, the country is heading for ruin,” he said.
He said if a new president was not elected on time, “the country would plunge into a vacuum for a short period during which rival political leaders would act to remedy the situation.”
“A presidential vacuum would cause a very strong shock to the political leaders, who would feel the gravity of the situation, prompting them to act,” Chehab said.
He added that he believed rival political leaders were destined to reach agreement on the presidential election “once they feel that they are in the circle of danger.”
Talal Atrissi, a Lebanese University lecturer with expertise on Iran and the Middle East, said the presidential race had overshadowed divisions over the conflict in Syria and attempts to form a new Cabinet.
“The presidential election is gaining priority these days in light of growing fears that the country might plunge into full vacuum in all constitutional institutions if a new president was not elected on time,” Atrissi told The Daily Star.
With the chances of extending Sleiman’s mandate being ruled out, Atrissi said, Lebanon was faced with two choices: “Either the election of a new president or a constitutional vacuum that would have grave consequences on the already complicated situation under a resigned Cabinet.”
Atrissi said if Lebanese leaders and regional and international powers failed to reach a consensus on the election of a new president, the only option left was for the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance along with MP Walid Jumblatt to nominate a candidate to the country’s top post who would not provoke the rival March 14 camp.
“This option is possible if the Americans exert pressure on Jumblatt,” he said.
Atrissi warned that if for some reason a new president is not elected on time, “ Lebanon is heading for further deterioration at the security, political and economic levels under a resigned Cabinet which is unable to meet.”
Sleiman, who has repeatedly voiced opposition to an extension of his term, said Monday he was confident that a new head of state would be elected on time despite fears that Parliament might not be able to meet to choose a successor to him.
“A strong president is the one who tells the truth, does not appease anyone and is impartial and transparent,” Sleiman said.