Suleiman to Chair Last Session before End of his Term

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President Michel Suleiman is scheduled on Monday to chair a largely-boycotted national dialogue session, the last before his term expires on May 25.

Several officials will not attend the all-party talks, including Hizbullah MP Mohammed Raad, Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, Marada movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh, the head of the Syrian Social National Party MP Assaad Hardan and MP Talal Arslan, who heads the Lebanese Democratic Party.

March 8 officials considered the dialogue “useless,” telling As Safir daily that Suleiman’s tenure was over.

“It would have been better for him not to hold this session,” the officials, who were not identified, said.

Hizbullah’s ties with Suleiman reached the lowest point earlier this year when the president urged the party to avoid inflexible equations that hindered the birth of the government’s policy statement.

Suleiman’s criticism drew a sharp retort from Hizbullah, which said the president needed “specialized care.”

Al-Joumhouria newspaper said Suleiman will brief the parties that will attend Monday’s talks on the achievements made through the national dialogue sessions that he had chaired.

Among the achievements is the Baabda Declaration, which was approved by the rival March 8 and 14 alliances in 2012 in an effort to distance Lebanon from the region’s crises.

Despite the approval, Hizbullah sent its fighters to Syria to help the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad against rebels seeking to topple him.

As Safir said that Speaker Nabih Berri could take over the initiative to chair the national dialogue sessions if there was a presidential vacuum over the failure of lawmakers to elect a new head of state.

A possible vacuum would impose a new agenda that would include the presidential crisis and the electoral draft-law, it said.

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