01/11/2007, 00.00
LEBANON
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Bishops act to end divisions between Maronite political leaders

by Yousef Hourany
The initiative comes following the release of a statement last month highlighting the crisis within the Maronite community and offering some suggestions as to how to solve it. A bishops’ commission met Michel Aoun this morning and will meet Suleiman Frangieh and Samir Geagea later in the day.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Lebanon’s Maronite bishops have begun an attempt to bridge the gap between Maronite political leaders. They first saw this morning General Michel Aoun, and will meet later in the day former minister Suleiman Frangieh and Samir Geagea, head of the Lebanese Forces movement.

The prelates’ action comes following the publication last month of a set of “principles for reconciliation and accord” that Maronite bishops had announced at the end of a meeting presided by Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir.

The bishops’ statement called for a new electoral law; the creation of a national unity government or, failing that, a government made up of technical experts; the establishment of an international tribunal to judge the political crimes that have taken place in the country since 2004; the protection of Lebanon’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; and the rejection of Palestinians’ permanent settlement in the country.

Meetings with political leaders are handled by a tripartite commission that includes Mgr Samir Mazloum, the Maronite Patriarchate’s Vicar General; Mgr Yousef Bechara, archbishop of Antelias; and  Mgr Paul Matar, Maronite archbishop of Beirut.

This morning the commission had a long meeting with General Michel Aoun at his home in Rabieh. They discussed how to get an agreement among Maronite leaders and overcoming divisions between the sons of the Maronite Church.

Bishop Mazloum, in answering AsiaNews’s questions, praised Aoun’s attitude. The general, he said, showed that he understood how critical the moment was. Aoun reiterated his willingness to participate to any initiative or respond to any invitation the Patriarch might make, asserting his full support for the bishops’ action.

In the afternoon the delegation of bishops will meet former minister Suleiman Frangieh, who according to some Church sources broke the ice in his relationship with Mgr Yousef Bechara, the Maronite archbishop of Antelias, who heads the Kornet Chehwan movement.

During the summer the archbishop had been very critical of Frangieh, but now sources close to him told AsiaNews that he is fully open to any initiative designed to bring about Maronite reconciliation.

In the evening the delegation is also scheduled to meet Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea in the village of Zoummar.

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