British Ambassador to Lebanon Hugo Shorter has warned that the country “can’t afford” further presidential vacuum while denying recent claims by Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq about an alleged British role in the nomination of Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh for the presidency.
“I don’t have a favorite candidate. There’s no candidate I particularly support and no candidate I particularly oppose. This is clearly a decision for the Lebanese themselves, in accordance with their Constitution,” Shorter told MTV in an interview that was aired Thursday.
“I personally think that Lebanon can’t afford to wait any longer” to elect a new president, he added, warning that “the State is being weakened by the absence of a president.”
The ambassador also noted that Britain had recently communicated with Iran and Saudi Arabia over the issue of Lebanon’s presidency and would continue these contacts.
Mashnouq had on June 2 announced that “Franjieh’s nomination did not come from (al-Mustaqbal Movement leader ex-PM) Saad Hariri but rather from the British foreign ministry and later the Americans and Saudi Arabia.”
Lebanon has been without a president since the term of Michel Suleiman ended in May 2014 and Hizbullah, MP Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc and some of their allies have been boycotting the parliament’s electoral sessions, stripping them of the needed quorum.
Artillery shelling by the Lebanese army had on Tuesday destroyed al-Nusra’s posts in the Wadi al-Khayl and Khirbet Younin areas amid army shelling of the outskirts of Arsal, Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa.
The army has been shelling the outskirts of the three towns for several days now.
Troops have been on high alert since the unprecedented suicide bombings that hit the Christian border town of al-Qaa in late June.
Militants from IS and al-Nusra are entrenched in rugged areas along the undemarcated Lebanese-Syrian border and the army regularly shells their posts while Hizbullah and the Syrian army have engaged in clashes with them on the Syrian side of the border.
The two groups briefly overran the town of Arsal in August 2014 before being ousted by the army after days of deadly battles.