Aoun says able to talk to everyone

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Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun Thursday said he has the ability to persuade the various political leaders to accept him as a consensus presidential candidate.

“I believe that I can talk to everyone and bring stability back to Lebanon,” Aoun told pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat in response to a question regarding the presidential election crisis and his nomination.

He rejects a president to be appointed and one who has no representation [of the people],” he said in a wide-ranging interview.

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri has said that the solution to ease tensions and help bring stability back to Lebanon is the election of a consensus candidate.

Aoun slammed the government’s failure to appoint military commanders to replace those whose terms would soon expire.

“If the government is unable to appoint military commanders, let it go even if we were in this situation,” he said.

Aoun denied reports he had proposed the appointment of his son-in-law, Brig. Gen. Shamel Roukoz, as head of the Lebanese Army, but added: “This doesn’t mean I won’t nominate him.”

When asked whether he would accept a deal to appoint Roukoz as Army chief in return for his participation in naming a consensus presidential candidate, he said: “I will not voice support for a [new]president as I did when former President Michel Sleiman was elected; and I will not succumb to external pressure.”

Local newspaper As-Safir has quoted Lebanese Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi as saying that he has no intention of extending the term of Roukoz, who heads the Army Commando Unit.

The report came after Defense Minister Samir Moqbel signed a unilateral decree to extend the term of Maj. Gen. Mohammad Khair, the secretary-general of the Higher Defense Council.

In the interview with Al-Hayat, Aoun reiterated his opposition against extending the retirement ages of security and military officials.

On the anticipated dialogue with Christian arch foe Samir Geagea, Aoun said: “so far, things are okay.”

Regarding regional and global developments in Syria, Aoun said he believes Washington “is maneuvering to prepare public opinion to enter into a dialogue with (Syrian President Bashar) Assad.”

“We believe a minimum of national unity [should be secured]to face the upcoming transitions,” he said, adding that Gulf states and Iran should also reach an understanding “because this is in everyone’s interest.”

Aoun said the relationship with Syria “should remain good.”

“But this does not mean that we should be hostile to others,” he said.

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