Iran urges Lebanon to end its six-month presidential vacuum

Tehran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian made the comments on a visit to Beirut

Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, right, meets Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian in Beirut. EPA
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Iran’s Foreign Minister has called on Lebanon’s bitterly divided politicians to come together and end the country’s six-month presidential vacuum and elect a successor to Michel Aoun.

The Lebanese parliament, where no faction holds a majority, has failed to come close to agreeing on the next president in 11 sessions. No presidential sessions have been held since January amid the impasse.

“We encourage all sides in Lebanon to expedite the election of a president,” Hossein Amirabdollahian said on a visit to Beirut.

“We will support any election and agreement reached between all Lebanese sides … and we call on other foreign parties to respect the choice of the Lebanese without interfering in the country's affairs,” he said.

Iran’s chief ally in Lebanon is Hezbollah, the Shiite political party and armed group that holds significant sway in the country.

Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah has publicly declared his support for Suleiman Frangieh, a close friend of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

But while Hezbollah’s Shiite ally the Amal Movement has also backed Mr Frangieh, the two parties’ support for the latter is not enough to propel him to the presidency.

Among Mr Frangieh’s detractors are parliament’s two largest Christian parties, the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement — although they themselves back differing candidates.

In Lebanon’s confessional system, the presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian.

The vacuum comes at an acutely difficult time for Lebanon, which is entrenched in one of the worst economic downturns in modern history.

Meanwhile, the cabinet of Prime Minister Najib Mikati is in caretaker status and thus severely stripped of its powers.

Mr Amirabdollahian’s visit is his first to Lebanon since Saudi Arabia, which also holds significant influence in Lebanon, and Iran agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations and reopen embassies after years of tensions.

“I am optimistic that every regional agreement and any deal between regional countries is good for Lebanon,” said Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib during the visit of his Iranian counterpart.

“The agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia is important for peace in the region,” he added.

The Iranian Foreign Minister also met Mr Mikati and parliament speaker Nabih Berri.

Updated: April 27, 2023, 1:14 PM