President Michel Sleiman urged Tuesday Lebanese political rivals to attend the National Dialogue session scheduled for early January and called for the release of the nine Lebanese pilgrims who are being held in Syria.
“All relevant participants must come to the [National] Dialogue session on Jan. 7… If they don’t, let them offer me alternatives,” said Sleiman, following a closed meeting with Cardinal Beshara Rai in Bkirki.
Stressing the need for the all-party talks, Sleiman cited what he described as the major achievements of previous Dialogue sessions, including the “Baabda Declaration.”
“Dialogue resulted in Baadba Declaration, even those [this agreement] was violated at times. It also led to talks on the country’s defense strategy and the issue of the regulation of arms,” said the president.
Sleiman added that National Dialogue benefited the country through helping political parties overcome their differences.
The head of the state added that there was no justification for boycotting the all-party-talks by any of the rival March 8 and March 14 camps.
“Last time, boycotting dialogue was under the pretext of the false witnesses file and that didn’t make any sense,” said Sleiman. “Now, the boycott aims at toppling the Cabinet and I can’t see the link between the two issues,” he added.
Sleiman’s efforts earlier this year paved the way for the relaunch of National Dialogue which was later boycotted by the opposition in October following the assassination of a top security official.
The March 14 alliance has also called for the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government and for the formation of a neutral Cabinet to oversee the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Sleiman also said Tuesday that the elections must be held on time and voiced support for the electoral draft law of proportional representation endorsed by the Cabinet.
“The constitution and international charters stipulate elections must be held on time and I prefer the proportional representation draft law suggested by the Cabinet,” said Sleiman.
However, the president said the elections should not be held on time even if the law endorsed by the Cabinet doesn’t get approved.
“If the electoral law endorsed by the Cabinet doesn’t get adopted, that shouldn’t mean we should evade adopting a new law to abolish elections,” he said. “Power rotation, within any law, would be better than not holding the elections,” added the president.