December 13, 2015 / 8:04 PM / in 2 years

Lebanon's Hariri says to pursue power-sharing plan for presidency

Saad al-Hariri waves during a rally in Martyrs' Square in Beirut March 13, 2011. REUTERS/Dalati Nohra/Handout

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Former Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri said on Sunday he would continue to pursue a power-sharing solution to the country’s 18-month presidential vacuum with politician Suleiman Franjieh, a Maronite Christian he backs for the role.

The proposal, widely discussed by politicians in Lebanon but not formally outlined in detail, would make Franjieh president and Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, prime minister.

In recent days momentum toward such a solution has slowed, according to local media, with other Maronite contenders still to be won over.

In a phone call, Hariri and Franjieh agreed to “proceed on the joint path for the election of the president,” a statement from Hariri’s office said.

The power-sharing plan could revive government institutions paralyzed by political rivalries that have been heightened by the war in neighboring Syria. Under Lebanon’s political system, the presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian.

Saudi Arabia, which backs Hariri, has lent its support to the deal, while regional rival Iran has said it hopes to see the election of a Lebanese president soon. Franjieh is a family friend and close ally of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

But local rivalries could prove a problem for a plan which requires winning over other Maronite politicians who are seeking the presidency, such as Michel Aoun, an ally of the Iran-backed Shi‘ite movement Hezbollah, and Samir Geagea.

Reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Ros Russell

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