Patriarch and bishops offer their help to end the political crises
by Youssef Hourany
All members of the Catholic Church gather today for an extraordinary assembly. Solana arrives in Beirut, first stop on a tour which will also bring him to Damascus, where he will attempt to convince Syria to accept the formation of an International tribunal on Hariri’s assassination.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – The Lebanese situation is in ferment: today the EU minister for Foreign Affairs, Javier Solana arrives – he will travel on to Riyadh and Damascus – and the extraordinary Assembly of Lebanon’s Patriarchs and Catholic bishops opens, while Parliament President  Nabih Berri and leader of the opposition Saad Hariri express their optimism, ahead of announcing a third bilateral meeting. 

On the eve of the meeting between the patriarchs and Catholic bishops, called by Assembly president Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, Sfeir himself launched a new appeal to all political leaders.  “As long as these leaders fail to seek what’s in the best interest of the citizens   – he said – without exceptions, our problems will remain unresolved, and our hopes that this country can emerge from the current political crises will remain distant”. “A solution to the problem exists – he added – but only if all debate is based on what is in the nation’s best interest. That presupposes that all personal objectives, private interests and sectarian aims are put aside”.  Sources closet o the Maronite Patriarch revealed to AsiaNews the Patriarchs serious concerns should the Saudi initiative, which has the backing of Iran and foresees the foundation of a new political circle, fail.   It should represent a catalyst between the Christian political groups; patriarchal vicar msgr Guy-Paul Noujeim will take part, as a guide to its members devoid of any political association.  The Maronite bishop confirmed this to AsiaNews, the same bishop the late John Paul II appointed as special secretary to the Assembly of the Synod of bishops on Lebanon in 1994.  More than 50 members will take part in the extraordinary Assembly of Lebanon’s Patriarchs and Catholic bishops. Among them the patriarchs of the four Catholic Churches, all Catholic bishops, the superior general s of all 8 male religious orders, of the Latin rite orders and of the female orders.  Msgr Bechara Rahi, Maronite bishop of Jbeil, defined the convocation of the Assembly as “the Lebanese Catholic Churches expression of solidarity with citizens” and “a fresh initiative to find common round between the different groups”.

On the international stage, Solana’s three day visit to the Middle East will be centred on finding a solution to the Lebanese crises and encouraging reconciliation between the Palestinian factions.  Following his stay in Beirut – where he is due to meet with Berri and Premier Fouad Siniora – Solana will travel on to Riyadh and Damascus. This last stop is an official sign renewed relations between the EU and Syria, severed on February 14 2005, following the murder of the ex prime minister Rafic Hariri.  According to official Lebanese sources quoted in today’s edition of An Nahar, Solana hopes to pressure Syria into accepting the terms of an International Tribunal to try those responsible for the Harir’s assassination. Opposed by the Syrian regime- they fear accusations of involvement – the international tribunal is the principal cause of the current Lebanese political crises.   Recently it was reported that in attempts to reassure Syria, Saudi Arabia guaranteed that the tribunal will not seek to attest political responsibility for the Hariri assassination or for the other political murders which have taken place in Lebanon.

 

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