01/03/2008, 00.00
LEBANON
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A “hateful political climate” prevails as paralysis encourages emigration, say Maronite bishops

by Paul Dakiki
Patriarch Sfeir and other prelates accuse “nations and individuals” as well as “Lebanese and foreign leaders” of trying to prolong the country’s stalemate, which is causing greater poverty and boosting emigration.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – The Assembly of Maronite Bishops slammed a “hateful political atmosphere” that has spread across Lebanon following repeated delays in electing a president due to a tug-of-war between the pro-Western government and the pro-Syrian opposition.

In a statement released yesterday after the assembly chaired by Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir was held in Bkerke, the bishops noted that the situation is pushing many Lebanese “to leave the country for places where they can work and apply their talents in an atmosphere of tranquility.” All this, the bishops say, means “an impoverishment of the country.”

The prelates noted that this power vacuum is unprecedented in the history of Lebanon and reflects “the extent of the disagreement between the members of the political leadership in which some pursue their personal interests before those of the country.”

In the meantime as parliament continues to put off the presidential vote, deadly attacks against anti-Syrian lawmakers continue.

In recent weeks politicians from all sides decided to back the candidacy of General Michel Sulaiman, going as far as agreeing to amend the constitution to allow a military to become president.

However, the Hizbollah-led opposition has called for a government of national unity demanding 11 ministers and a veto right.

The international community has accused Syria of pushing Hizbollah to destroy the Lebanese experiment. Hizbollah for its part has accused the government of being a minion of the United States. And Maronite bishops point the finger “at those who are deliberately thwarting plans to settle the issue, whether they are nations or individuals, Lebanese or foreign leaders.”

Noting that the current stalemate is causing greater poverty, they said that “the paralysis is affecting various economic sectors and that the rising cost of living that comes with is a heavy burden to bear, especially for the neediest social strata. This is clear evidence of the state of deterioration that we are witnessing.”

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