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Lebanon's Suleiman Franjieh Announces Candidacy for President

Suleiman Franjieh officially announced his candidacy for president of Lebanon on Dec. 17, 2015.

Suleiman Franjieh made a long-expected announcement late Thursday that he will run for president of Lebanon.

He says he had delayed his official candidacy to allow Christian leader Michel Aoun, a retired general and former army commander, the opportunity to withdraw from contention.

Aoun is supported by the powerful pro-Iranian Hezbollah group.

Lebanon's two most powerful political blocs — the pro-Syrian, pro-Iranian March 8th alliance and the pro-Saudi, pro-Western March 14th alliance — have been locked for months in a power struggle, creating a stalemate that has left the country without a president.

Franjieh’s name was first floated in a compromise initiative by rival Sunni leader Saad al-Hariri several weeks ago. Hariri offered to support Franjieh if the latter would appoint him to head a new government.

Franjieh told journalists recently that he is seeking what is best for Lebanon. He says that he is not in a rush to solve the political crisis, and his main goal is not to become president, but to build a national consensus.

Lebanon has been without a top leader since former President Michel Suleiman's term ended in May 2014. Franjieh told LBC-TV that Aoun, whom he met privately several weeks ago, was "insisting that either he would get the post or no one else would."

Franjieh added that Aoun "should have a cup of coffee and a cigarette," and then "reach a decision which is in everyone's interest."

Franjieh is the grandson of former President Suleiman Franjieh, who led the country when civil war broke out in 1975. He is reputed to be a close friend of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and was Lebanon's interior minister when Syria was forced to withdraw from the country in 2005, following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri.