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Lebanese lawyer in for top job

LEBANESE lawyer and intellectual Chibli Mallat, has entered the race for the country’s presidency and secured the backing of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora, Arabian Business can reveal.

LEBANESE lawyer and intellectual Chibli Mallat, has entered the race for the country’s presidency and secured the backing of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora, Arabian Business can reveal.

Political bickering between various leaders in the Christian community has diminished Lebanon’s top position, reserved for a Maronite Christian in line with the country’s constitution.

However, Mallat, who spoke exclusively to Arabian Business said: “The risks of the deadlock developing into violence are high especially in Lebanon, especially in the Middle East region.” He added that running for office would allow an independent alternative to diffuse the situation.

“My bid for the presidency will help chart a new course, open new hopes in the right direction, that would partly solve the immediate crisis and partly offer the Lebanese people a different type of standing in the world,” explained the 45-year-old respected lawyer.

Mallat has taken on high-profile cases that resulted in the indictment of Muammar Qaddafi of Libya in a Lebanese court for the disappearance of Musa Sadr. Sadr, a charismatic Iranian-born Shiite cleric in Lebanon, disappeared and is assumed to have been murdered while in Libya for talks with the Libyan leader.

He also brought a case against Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon for his involvement in the massacre of 2000 Palestinians in the camps of Sabra and Shatilla in Lebanon during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

Mallat has also assisted with the simulation of the Iraqi opposition strategy for ending Saddam’s dictatorship.

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt who has been at the centre of the Lebanese opposition to the Syrian presence in Lebanon and to Lahoud’s term extension is supportive of Mallat's candidature.

“Anybody from the Maronite Christian community is entitled to run for the presidency because of our confessional system, but the question is how long Mr. Emile Lahoud will stay in office?” Jumblatt told Arabian Business.

“Chibli is a good friend and a very distinguished intellectual, we might have had our differences [in the past] and we might not agree on some issues, but in the end it is up to the Lebanese parliament to decide,” Jumblatt added.

Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora has called Mallat, the lawyer informed Arabian Business, and expressed his support as has the deputy head of the French parliament, Christian Philip.

Jamil Mroue the publisher of the Lebanese Daily Star told Arabian Business as far as he was concerned, he doesn’t “see anyone who is more qualified. He is a Maronite, who has been teaching Islamic law and in the case of Lebanon more interestingly Shiite law".

“He is more qualified than almost all the Shiite community, bar three or four individuals, in the affairs of their sect and religion. He is a Maronite with all the credentials that Maronites would have in terms of heritage and family. He is a secular person and that is a wider sect that is unregistered in Lebanon, probably bigger than all the sects — a very substantial minority,” Mroue added.

Lahoud’s term as president was set to expire a year ago, but Syria, which has had up to 40,000 troops in Lebanon throughout the country’s 15-year civil war, pressured the Lebanese parliament under the leadership of then prime minister, Rafik Hariri, to amend the constitution and extending Lahoud’s term.

Retired army general Michel Aoun, who returned to the country after 15 years of civil war, said in interviews with the BBC and the Lebanese As Safir daily, that he is the “the most legitimate candidate” for the presidency and that Lahoud would only resign only if he assumed the presidency after him.

The remarks by the head of the Free Patriotic Movement have accentuated the divisions of the Christian community, to say the least.

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