French Ambassador to Lebanon Patrice Paoli ruled out on Friday any foreign intervention in the presidential elections, saying there is no “veto” on any candidate.”
“The Lebanese should agree on a new head of state… Which is a necessity in order to rebuild the state institutions and revive them,” Paoli said in an interview published in al-Joumhouria newspaper.
He called on the Lebanese to elect a new president away from any foreign pressure.
The French diplomat refused to hold any party responsible for the presidential deadlock, saying: “I think if the Lebanese had a strong will then they would elect a new head of state.”
Lebanon has been without a president since May when Michel Suleiman’s six-year term ended with MPs unable to find a successor over their differences on a compromise candidate.
Concerning the $3 billion arms deal for the Lebanese military, Paoli said that Saudi Arabia and France “renewed recently their will to implement the decision to arm the Lebanese military.”
He considered the matter “complicated.”
A $3 billion Saudi grant to the Lebanese army was announced under Suleiman’s tenure in December.
“It seems that implementing such deals requires a time longer than we had hoped… We reached an advanced stage,” Paoli told al-Joumhouria.
The diplomat said that his country is dealing with the matter in a “transparent” way.
Asked if Israel is pressing France not to offer Lebanon advanced weapons, Poali said: “We reject to discuss the deal with other than the concerned parties.”
Last month, French diplomats said Saudi red tape had delayed the Lebanese army’s purchase of the French weapons under the $3 billion deal financed by Riyadh.
Asked if Hizbullah’s arms are behind destabilization of the local situation in Lebanon, Paoli stressed that weapons should be controlled by the state and the Lebanese army.
He revealed that France is holding direct contacts with Hizbullah and the remaining Lebanese parties, pointing out that his country doesn’t consider Hizbullah a terrorist organization as there is a difference between the party and its armed wing.