Franjiyya, Sulayman (1910–1992)

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FRANJIYYA, SULAYMAN (1910–1992)

Lebanese Maronite political figure, president of the republic from 1970 to 1976. Sulayman Franjiyyaa was born in Zgharta and studied with the Marist Brothers and in the College of Antoura. He embarked in the silk business and entered politics in 1959, after his elder brother, Hamid, suffered a stroke and was unable to continue a promising career. In 1960 he was elected to parliament for the first time, and he became one of the leaders of the center bloc. On 1 August 1960 he was appointed minister of communications in the government of Saib Salem. In May 1961 he was given the additional portfolio of agriculture. In 1964 he was reelected deputy. In 1968, after having been again elected to parliament, he became minister of the interior. In the course of the year, the portfolio of the economy was also given to him. On 17 August 1970 he was chosen president of the Lebanese Republic, by a one-vote margin, over his rival, Elias Sarkis. Between 1970 and 1973, Franjiyya strove to solve Lebanon's internal problems and come to the aid of the Palestinian movement. He backed the creation of the al-Marada militia to defend his fief of Zgharta against the attacks of the Lebanese Phalangists.

On 10 April an Israeli operation in central Beirut against three Palestinian leaders brought about a break between the Lebanese president and the Palestinian leadership, which reproached him for not having prevented the action. In November 1974 Franjiyya was mandated by the Arab countries to speak for the Palestinian cause at the United Nations. On 13 April 1975 an incident involving Palestinians and Christians led to the start of a civil war in Lebanon. Judging that only the Syrian army could reestablish order, he supported the appeal that was made to Syria. In September 1976, Sarkis succeeded him to the presidency of the republic. Having returned to his constituency at Zgharta he found himself at odds with other Maronite leaders of the Lebanese Forces. In June 1978 his son, Tony, and his son's family were assassinated by the Phalangists. Franjiyya broke with the Maronite leaders to join with Walid Jumblatt, head of the Progressive Socialist Party and of the National Movement. In July 1983, along with Jumblatt and Rashid Karame, he helped found the National Salvation Front, formed to oppose the policies of Amin Jumayyil.

SEE ALSO Jumayyil, Amin; Jumblatt, Walid Kamal; Karame, Rashid; Lebanese Forces; Phalange.

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