By a Special Correspondent mARONITE Patriarch Paul Meouchi of Antioch has dismissed rumours that he might serve as interim president of Lebanon until the country decides who its next ruler will he.
The 70-year-old Patriarch, a one time American citizen who was appointed to his present position by Pope Pius XII in 1955. has told newsmen that his advanced age would be sufficient In rule him Out.
"Moreover." he told an interviewer here, -we are Catholic, and no move could be made in a political matter such as this without reference to the Holy See. Perhaps some people have dreamed this up as a possible solution to the impasse caused by the lack of an obvious successor to the present respected president (Foiled Chehab).'
But. he added. "We would never accept such a proposal even if it were offered to us.'
The citizens of Lebanon will go to the polls sometime before September to elect a successor to President Chehab who began his six-year term in 1958 --• a year that saw U.S. Marines storming the beaches of this Mediterranean republic to settle a crisis that began in an argument over the presidential succession.
In 1958: Camille Chamoun, then president. sparked a revolt when he indicated a desire to renew his term of office. Lebanese presidents are restricted to one term by the constitution. 'This year. 79 of the 99 members of parlianint askd for a constitutional amendment to allow President Chehab to serve another term.
The motion was rejected by the Lebanese cabinet headed by Premier Husseini Oueini (June 2). It is not believed that a crisis similar to that of 1958 will occur this year.
Chehab is opposed to a constitutional amendment. Su is Patriarch Meouchi who in 1958 objected to Chamotin succeeding himself. even though Lebanese
presidents are traditionally Maronite Catholics.
The patriarch said he was opposed to the change because "freedom must prevail in this land." He said his own desire was "simply to do our duty as it religious man." Lebanon is governed by a democratic constitution and by a gentleman's agreement. signed ill 1943. whereby it was decided the president would always be a Maronite, the premier is Sunnite Meslem, and the various members of parliament would be apportioned according to religious faith. It has been Patriarch Meouchi's accomplishment here to conciliate Christian and Moslem feelings. directing their attention to the larger task of national unity. He has said in the past that his door is open to all people. "Anyone who cares 10 come, Christian or Moslem. is a son of mine." he