BEIRUT: MP Michel Aoun said President Emile Lahoud would only resign if the former general was chosen as the next president. Speaking in an interview aired by the BBC on Friday, Aoun said persons close to Lahoud told him "if Lahoud was forced to resign he would only do so if I am the next president."

Aoun attributed Lahoud’s stance to "his faith in my fairness, because if there is nothing against the president of the republic there won’t be a future lawsuit against him." 

According to Free Patriotic Movement spokesperson Tony Nasrallah, Aoun meant Lahoud was reassured that as a president Aoun would not allow the parliamentary majority to unfairly file law suits against him once he is out of office and loses his immunity.

Asked about the opposition of the parliamentary majority to his candidacy, Aoun said the issue of presidency was not open for discussion adding "If the parliamentary majority is capable of deciding without Michel Aoun, let them forge ahead."

He said if the majority did not wish to vote for him then he would not vote for the candidate which the majority chooses.

"But basically I don’t see that there is a presidential battle at present and I am not in a hurry for the president’s departure," Aoun said, adding he believed there was no "crisis" in Lebanon requiring urgent negotiation over the issue of the presidency.

Nasrallah explained "for the moment there is no serious dialogue over the presidency" adding that choosing the next president should not be a "challenge" to Christian parties in the framework of Lebanon’s consensual system.

Nasrallah said there were "serious channels" of dialogue between Aoun and the head of the parliamentary majority MP Saad Hariri.

Refusing to hold Lahoud responsible for the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri Aoun praised the statement of the Maronite bishops which demanded on Wednesday that an end be put to the dispute over the presidency.

Concerning the aborted meeting which was supposed to take place a week ago between him and Lahoud, Aoun said Lahoud had planned to tell him "something" at the meeting, refusing to reveal what it was.

Upon meeting with former President Amin Gemayel Saturday, the head of the executive committee of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea announced his agreement with Gemayel to launch "an open gathering" to move out of the current transitional phase.  

"The meeting will gather all the Christian parties first then all the Lebanese," he said.

Gemayel, who described the meeting as "intimate and constructive," said he shared with Geagea a "common vision concerning the need for getting Lebanon out of the current transitional situation."

Describing the declarations of the Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir as "holy," Gemayel said the Maronite Bishops’ call for the respect of the Constitution did not mean a call for Lahoud to remain president for the next two years. 

"It is not acceptable in the name of respecting the Constitution to harm the interests of Lebanon and the Lebanese, who cannot wait for another two years," he said.

Asked about the "qualities" of the next president, Gemayel said the president should be representative of the Christians adding that he should also be open to all the other parties of Lebanese society.

According to regional newspaper Al-Hayat quoting a "French source," France believes Lahoud’s continued stay in power is "isolating Lebanon internationally and impeding economic reforms."

The newspaper also said France was not going to

interfere in the choice of the new president describing it as an issue "concerning the Lebanese only."

The president’s spokesperson, Rafik Shalala, refused

to make any comment on the article in Al-Hayat.  

Meanwhile, MP Bahia Hariri, in an interview with the Voice of Lebanon radio station Sunday, said the president was required to protect the Constitution and not be covered by it and added that the people were the legitimate source of power."