Saudi Arabia and France are exploring the available options in order “not to repeat the experience of President Michel Aoun in the Baabda Palace,” a media report said on Friday.
“Riyadh seems to be interested in looking for a candidate who can be promoted and eventually endorsed by the Western countries, especially Paris and Washington, in order to engage in this juncture with a unified stance,” ad-Diyar newspaper quoted Western diplomatic sources as saying.
This would allow Riyadh, Paris and Washington to “have a single candidate in the face of the candidate that is supposed to be endorsed by Hizbullah and Iran,” the sources added.
Ad-Diyar also noted that Saudi Ambassador Walid Bukhari has discussed the presidential file with French Ambassador Anne Grillo on the sidelines of the meeting that he held with her to tackle the mechanism of Saudi-French humanitarian support for Lebanon.
As Grillo told Bukhari that the new president should be “neutral and unbiased, especially in his foreign ties,” the French ambassador sensed that Saudi Arabia does not want “a repetition of President Aoun’s experience,” the daily quoted visitors of the French embassy as saying.
“This meeting between Grillo and Bukhari will soon be followed by a meeting between Bukhari and U.S. Ambassador Dorothy Shea,” ad-Diyar added, noting that “the U.S. Embassy in Beirut is still cautious in approaching this file with Arab and Western partners because it is still awaiting the crystallization of the May 15 electoral scene.”
“The French are not showing fierce opposition to the possibility of the election of Marada Movement chief Suleiman Franjieh as president and they believe that he currently has no competitors among the ranks of his own camp, seeing as it will be very difficult for Hizbullah to promote Jebran Bassil for the presidency to the latter’s several crises with the various political parties,” ad-Diyar said.