05/07/2007, 00.00
LEBANON
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Constitution cannot be changed to elect president, says Sfeir

by Yousef Hourany
During celebrations for Our Lady of Lebanon, Maronite patriarch demands respect for the state’s basic law. He says he is ready to announce a ‘consensus-based’ choice for president if there are guarantees that his choice “is taken into account.” Aoun confirms his candidacy, adds: “I will not support any other person. I will not agree on anyone.”

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Every first Sunday in May for the past 103 years, thousands of Lebanese of different religion have celebrated Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa. Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir called on Her to intercede on behalf of the country in this difficult time of its history.

In an unusually hot day for the season, the patriarch during the homily stressed the high regards Lebanon has in the heart of the Pope and all his aides. He urged his fellow countrymen and women to follow the path of reason and overcome divisions that represent the real danger that can destroy hope in people’s hearts.

Cardinal Sfeir also spoke about the upcoming presidential election, a post the constitution has reserved for the country’s Christian community.

The cardinal yesterday reiterated the need to organise presidential elections within the timeframe defined by the constitution with a two thirds quorum. At the same time, he repeated his total rejection of any constitutional amendment.

The prelate had already talked about his opposition to constitutional change last week on his return from the Vatican.

On that occasion he told journalists, who had asked what he thought of General Michel Aoun’s proposal that “this time” the president be elected by the people, that “any constitutional change must be done following the constitution.”

Addressing the media yesterday, Cardinal Sfeir said he was ready to name a ‘consensus’ candidate for the presidency “if they guarantee us that our choice will be taken into account.” The patriarch made the statement in response to a statement made by Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Nerri who, in an interview with the daily As-Safir, said that the choice for president had to be “consensus-based” and to the liking of the Maronite patriarch.

For his part, in an interview with the al-Arabiya TV network, General Aoun confirmed he was a candidate to be president, adding that Christians would be in "shock" if he was not elected as the country’s next head of state.

"I will not back off from nominating myself. I will not support any other person. I will not agree on anyone," he said.

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