Aoun cements his electoral alliance with Suleiman Franjieh

Posted in Other | 14-Jun-05 | Author: Nicolas Tohme| Source: The Daily Star (Lebanon Edition)

Former Premier Karami describes FPM leader as 'the sheikh of decent people'

NORTH LEBANON: Ahead of the final round of the country's parliamentary elections, Free Patriotic Movement leader and MP-elect Michel Aoun consolidated his alliance with Zghorta MP Suleiman Franjieh, bringing him together with former Prime Minister Omar Karami. Aoun and Franjieh visited Karami at his home in Tripoli, one month after Franjieh split with Karami in a quarrel that weakened the chances of Franjieh's 11-member list in the North.

Karami welcomed and praised Aoun, describing him as "the sheikh of decent people," agreeing with the general on his calls to reform the state and promote accountability.

Karami said his quarrel with Franjieh was a "passing summer cloud," adding "we have agreed today to meet again and cooperate to rebuild Lebanon."

Aoun said he expects northern residents to vote freely but that they may face financial temptations from other candidates, referring to reports of votes being purchased in some parts of the country.

"I urge the Lebanese to refuse the money that corrupts their conscience and will. The results will be determined by the voters' resistance to that temptation," Aoun said.

The former general said he plans to form a parliamentary bloc with old allies and those made during the election, which will issue a unified position after the elections.

Franjieh said his relationship with Karami was "historic" and will be maintained in the future.

He said he expected Tripoli to remain loyal to those who have always supported it, saying he believed Tripoli "holds a good surprise for us."

Franjieh described Aoun's victory as a victory for the unity of the country and for all honest people.

"I believe the public has voted for those who stand by their principles, against those who change their positions," he said, in reference to Chouf MP Walid Jumblatt who is often accused of changing his standpoints.

Earlier, Aoun met with Franjieh at the mansion of his late grandfather former President Suleiman Franjieh in the presence of Franjieh's uncle, Robert, and FPM candidates Gebran Bassil and Fayez Karam.

Bassil and Karam are both on the ticket headed by Franjieh.

Franjieh, who held a joint news conference with Aoun after their meeting, said "Aoun's visit has turned today into a joyful day."

On June 13 1978, Franjieh's father Tony was assassinated at his home in Ehden by the Lebanese Forces.

Franjieh said he maintains a friendly personal relationship with Aoun and pledged to remain his ally.

"We are proud to be General Aoun's friends, we consider him a brother" he said, "hopefully, we will begin a phase of sincere politics; the Lebanese will see that there won't be any changing of positions."

Aoun was equally optimistic, insisting his alliance with Franjieh will "establish a future relationship that will serve to build a new Lebanon with a new mentality, a reformist mentality."

Aoun denounced the state of politics in the country, saying his political opponents insist on returning to the past instead of discussing new political programs.

"What does the unity of the opposition mean? It was all hollow, it had no program. When we came up with one, they were not willing to discuss it."

"This is a country that should be built on solid foundations, the first thing we need to do is combat corruption in the state. But then this was what turned everyone against us," Aoun added.

Aoun rejected charges made by Jumblatt that he was a tool of Syria used to undermine the opposition, and a promoter of extremism.

"Jumblatt has lost his nerve," he said, "I am an extremist when it comes to defending Lebanon, defending justice and the rights of the people."

Aoun said the Mount Lebanon results will impact on the elections in the North, adding that results could work in his favor.

Aoun also denied using sectarian language, saying: "I use national language that encompasses all Lebanese."

"In Kesrouan-Jbeil, all Shiite voters cast their ballots in my favor, not because I am Maronite but rather because I speak for the nation," he explained.

Asked about his relationship with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, Aoun denied having disagreements with the prelate, and accused some parties of spreading rumors about tensions between him and Sfeir.

Meanwhile, administrative departments in the North completed election preparations.

With 678, 891 voters, the North is divided into two electoral districts, the first comprising Akkar, Bsharri and Dinnieh, and the second comprising Tripoli, Minyeh, Zghorta, Koura and Batroun.