Saad Hariri gestures in Beirut, Lebanon AFP Image Credit: EPA

Beirut: The pro-Syrian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) has embarked on a media campaign aimed at forcing Future Movement leader Sa‘ad Hariri to back presidential hopeful and FPM founder Michel Aoun.

On Saturday, Ammar Houri denied media reports that alleged a “concealed agreement” was reached between Hariri and Aoun, which might see the latter become president of the republic and Hariri return to the premiership. Houri, a leading Future parliamentarian, affirmed that “news circulating in some media outlets about a secret agreement between Hariri and Aoun are totally untrue”.

He emphasised this carefully orchestrated campaign was meant to “sabotage the consultations that Hariri is carrying out”.

According to unconfirmed reports, an initial agreement was reached on four specific items — the appointment of a new commander for the Lebanese Army who would not be an anti-Hezbollah figure; a deliberate omission of Hezbollah’s arms in any public pronouncement since this was allegedly under discussion on the national dialogue table; the selection of several senior officials including a replacement for Riad Salameh, the Governor of the Central Bank; and an agreement over the ministerial statement that would be the same as the one under which the government of Prime Minister Tammam Salam operated and that granted Hezbollah specific privileges.

These unfounded rumours were promoted by March 8 sources. March 8 is an alliance of pro-Syrian parties, including FPM and Hezbollah.

Hezbollah leaders want Hariri to publicly and unconditionally back Aoun, and commit the Future Movement’s 26 parliamentary votes to vote for him.

In exchange, Hariri would become prime minster, a post he’s held before, but only if he backed the Syrian regime of Bashar Al Assad and pledged not to oppose him as premier.

Lebanon has been without a president after Michel Sulaiman completed his six-year term in office on May 24, 2014.

Since then, Hezbollah, the FPM and various allies boycotted 45 sessions of parliament which failed to elect a head of state for lack of a quorum.

Meanwhile, the Saudi daily Okaz reported on Saturday that Hezbollah’s conditions remained unchanged and Hariri was free to reach any decision he wished.

It added that Riyadh would not be held responsible for a putative Aoun selection.