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Hezbollah-allied media attacks new president

Veiled threat to make newly-elected president fulfil his pledges

Gulf News

Beirut: One of Hezbollah’s daily mouthpiece in Lebanon, Al Safir, published on its front page an unprecedented assault on the Minister of Foreign Affairs Jibran Bassil, in an essay titled: “Is this loyalty Jibran?”

The vociferous attack targeted the president of the republic even if the blatantly worded essay, signed by the “Political Editor,” was interpreted as a direct challenge to Michel Aoun whose post-election declarations displeased Hezbollah officials.

It reminded Aoun that he was chosen to fill the post of the presidency by Hezbollah and that the party intended to collect all of the chips that were sealed in the 2006 Memorandum of Understanding with the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). The writer further called on Aoun to remember that it pushed Bassil to become a minister in the first Hariri government back in 2009 and repeatedly backed his son-in-law to run for office as a deputy even if every attempt resulted in failure.

The choicest criticisms were reserved to the FPM reconciliation with the Lebanese Forces, whose leader Samir Geagea plotted the current outcome by withdrawing his own candidacy, reconciling with and backing Aoun, and forcing Sa‘ad Hariri to abandon the candidacy of the Marada leader, Sulaiman Franjieh, all of which created a fait accompli in front of Hezbollah to finally end its two-and-a-half-year-long parliamentary boycotts.

Al Safir blamed Bassil for aligning himself with Geagea in a “Christian Coalition” at the expense of the party that “stood steadfast with Aoun” that, it say the least, was interpreted as nothing less than insult added to injury.

Unhappy with Aoun’s commitment to visit Riyadh as soon as the Hariri cabinet is composed, the daily’s political editor reminded the head-of-state that such a decision — to embark on his first official visit abroad — should not have been announced by the Governor of Makkah, Prince Khalid Al Faisal on November 21. That was, apparently, a sign of Saudi interference in Lebanese internal affairs though reminding Aoun of his decade-old pledges to Hezbollah were not signs of prying.

Amid ongoing negotiations over the next government, rumours circulating that the infamous veto power must be brought back led Hezbollah to warn that the Marada Movement must be assigned a key ministerial portfolio before anything else. Aoun, increasingly a hostage held in a golden cage, is seemingly livid that Hezbollah would use this tactic — which ended the first Hariri Government in 2011, ironically when Bassil announced the resignation of FPM and Hezbollah ministers — against him too.