BKIRKI: Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir said Tuesday a new president should be elected "as soon as possible," reiterating his support for the head of the Lebanese Armed Forces, General Michel Suleiman. "We support Suleiman because the country needs a president who is for all the Lebanese and who does not distinguish between one party and another," Sfeir said.  "The Lebanese are now divided, some are with the East and some with the West," the patriarch added, urging them to be only Lebanese.

"We are the ones responsible for our country. We have to stand united in order to preserve our country’s past, present and future," he said.  MP Robert Ghanem said after meeting Sfeir: "We hope to put an end to the presidential election because the latter constitute the starting point to ending all other problems." Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani called on the Lebanese on Tuesday to participate "massively" in Thursday’s rally to commemorate the third anniversary of former Premier Rafik Hariri’s killing.

In a statement issued on the occasion, Qabbani said: "The most powerful expression of loyalty to the late premier is to head to Martyrs Square in downtown Beirut on February 14." "The Arab and international communities should work together to allow the international tribunal [investigating Hariri’s assassination] to uncover the criminals and rescue Lebanon from all the crimes that are being committed," he added.
Also Tuesday, the vice president of the Higher Shiite Council, Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan, called on all the Lebanese, particularly the loyalists and opposition, to remember Hariri’s good qualities and to refrain from criticizing him.

"Hariri has offered great services and sacrifices to Lebanon," Qabalan said. "We all have to remember his good qualities."

Qabalan also called on politicians to return to Parliament in a bid to elect a new president "who can rescue Lebanon from its problems."

"A president should be elected prior to the Arab summit to be held in Damascus [in late March] so Lebanon can be represented in the meeting," he said. "If the summit is held without electing a president, then we will not offer Lebanon anything."

Qabalan said politicians should deal with each other in a positive way and reach agreement over the formation of a national unity government and the establishment of a new electoral law. "In this way, our problems will be resolved in institutions away from chaos."