Maronite Leader Sfeir Weighing Candidates
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ The Maronite Christian spiritual leader is making a list of up to seven candidates in hopes of getting U.S. and Syrian support for a presidential election, several Beirut newspapers reported Wednesday.
″He hopes the United States will use its good offices to persuade Syria to approve two or three of them so the election can be held,″ the independent daily An-Nahar said.
Michel Abu Jawdeh, its leading columnist, urged Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, the 65-year-old Maronite leader, to run for the presidency himself.
″The qualifications of the president needed to save Lebanon from its crisis fit only you and your friend Raymond Edde,″ he wrote. ″It’s a fateful responsibility which you will have to shoulder. Otherwise there will be no Lebanon.″
Edde, 75, is a veteran politician who moved to Paris in 1976 after surviving three assassination attempts.
He has announced his candidacy for president and said he would seek a commitment from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - the United States, the Soviet Union, China, Britain and France - to make Israel leave its self-proclaimed ″security zone″ in south Lebanon.
Edde says that would prompt the withdrawal of Syrian and other foreign forces from Lebanon. Syria has 40,000 soldiers stationed in eastern and northern Lebanon and in Moslem west Beirut.
Twenty-nine Christian members of Parliament have authorized Sfeir to consult with Moslem factions, the United States and Syria about presidential elections.
By unwritten agreement among Lebanese religious groups, the president is a Christian, the prime minister Sunni Moslem and the Parliament speaker a Shiite Moslem. Christians also have controlled the army and judiciary since independence from France in 1943.
Christians were the majority in 1943, but Moslems now make up an estimated 55 percent of the 4 million people and want an equal share of power.
The Christian bloc supporting Sfeir’s effort and 16 Moslem and leftist deputies issued separate identical statements this week rejecting partition of Lebanon on sectarian lines and calling for a speedy election. Both groups said it should occur before Parliament speaker Hussein Husseini’s term ends Oct. 18.
Moslems have rejected the interim government headed by the Christian army commander, Gen. Michel Aoun, that was appointed by President Amin Gemayel as his 6-year term ended Sept. 23. They back the incumbent Cabinet headed by Salim Hoss, a Sunni who is acting prime minister.
Syria, the main power broker in Lebanon after 13 years of civil war here, has pressed for election of either former President Suleiman Franjieh, 78, or Parliament member Mikhail Daher, 58. Daher was a compromise candidate who emerged from Syrian and U.S. talks after a Christian boycott of Parliament blocked Franjieh’s candidacy.
Christians who oppose Syria’s military presence in Lebanon claim both are too close to the Syrians.