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» 02/21/2005
Maronite Patriarch says Syria should withdraw in a situation of calm and dialogue
Christian demonstrators shout that today the revolt for independence has begun

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir today renewed his appeal to all Lebanese to stay calm after last week's attack that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Speaking before hundreds of people gathered in front of the Patriarch' residence in Bkerke, he repeated his invitation to all sectors of Lebanese society to engage in an open and honest dialogue. He also reiterated his full support for UN resolutions.

Among those present, many chanted anti-Syrian slogans such as 'Syria, out!" or "We want freedom, sovereignty and independence". Others shouted "We don't want Syrian Occupation" and "Today the revolt for independence has begun". Still others carried large photos of the late leader who was murdered last Monday in an attack that killed another 15 people.

In his speech to the crowd, Patriarch Sfeir stressed the need to enforce UN Resolution 1559 which calls for the withdrawal of foreign (i.e. Syrian) troops. He did so by telling his audience that reason must prevail since the country's problems "cannot be resolved by reactions and counter-reactions".  At the end, he raised a prayer to God so that "Good may triumph over evil."

In Beirut, in the meantime, thousands of demonstrators marched through downtown streets to honour the late leader. "We want to know the truth," they shouted in front of the UN offices.

Pierre Gemayel, a member of Lebanon's Parliament, said that "today a new Lebanon was born. We tell the international community that Lebanon cannot die. We are ready to renew direct talks between the opposition and Syria".

The demonstrators made their way to the Mouhamad el-Amin mosque where Hariri is buried. At the rally, which had been called by the leaders of the opposition, people expressed their sympathy to the family of the murdered Prime Minister. They protested against current Prime Minister Omar Karame and the Syrian presence in Lebanon demanding Hezbollah disarm and the 14,000 Syrian troops withdraw in accordance to the UN resolution.

At the reopening of parliament, many members arrived with a red band on an arm, the sign chosen by the opposition that met at the Bristol Hotel when Kornet Chehwan, Walid Jumblatt, followers of the late Rafik Hariri and those of General Michel Aoun, currently in exile in Paris, got together to plan their strategy.

Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri presided over the session which had only one topic: the political situation after Hariri's death.

Interior Minister Sleiman Franjiyeh told AsiaNews's correspondent in Beirut that that the authorities fully respect the right of citizens to demonstrate "without causing disorder". He confirmed his government's total willingness to collaborate with UN investigators as Speaker Berri had stated earlier. (YH)

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See also
03/09/2005 LEBANON - SYRIA
New government caught between opposing demonstrations
04/27/2005 LEBANON - SYRIA
Najib Mikati's government goes ahead
03/31/2005 SYRIA - LEBANON
Assad pledges pullout from Lebanon and reforms in 2005
by Jihad Issa
03/03/2005 SYRIA - LEBANON
Russia and US press Syria to pull its troops out of Lebanon
03/26/2005 LEBANON
Lebanese government dismisses UN report on Hariri killing
lebanon - syria
Dozens of Lebanese political prisoners still held in Syrian jails
Decisive next 48 hours
Lebanese government dismisses UN report on Hariri killing
Sfeir calls for a government that would prepare the elections and work for reconciliation
We want a free, independent and sovereign Lebanon, says Patriarch Sfeir
Cardinal Sfeir: full sovereignty for Beirut, but demonstrations are worrisome
Christian-Sunni opposition rejects new pro-Syrian government
Opposition backed by Patriarch Sfeir meets
New government caught between opposing demonstrations
Lebanon has a right to sovereignty, says Patriarch Sfeir
Syria is to start redeploying its troops in Lebanon today, not to withdraw
Lebanon becomes once again a model for the Middle East
Russia and US press Syria to pull its troops out of Lebanon
Lebanese bishops call for interim government, urge unity
People power sinks Karami government
Syria out, say Lebanese Christians and Muslims
Anti-Syrian demonstration defies government ban
Dialogue between opposition and pro-Syrian faction urgent, says Maronite Patriarch
Papal telegram to Patriarch Sfeir for Rafik Hariri's death
After Hariri's death, US official invites Patriarch Sfeir to the US
A freedom-crushing regime behind Hariri's assassination, Lebanese Bishops say
Patriarch and Vatican's nuncio offer their condolences to Hariri's family
Car bomb kills Lebanon's former Prime Minister

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