01/18/2007, 00.00
lebanon
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Bishops seek common guidelines for all Christian political leaders

by Paul Dakiki
Prelates, who met Gemayel yesterday, want to organise a meeting of all leaders chaired by Patriarch Sfeir to come up with a common statement. A week from the Paris conference, opposition threatens an escalation in street protest.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – As part of their initiative, Lebanon’s Maronite bishops want to promote a meeting, chaired by Patriarch Prom Nasrallah Sfeir, that would bring together all Maronite political leaders, currently split between the ruling majority and the opposition, in order to reach an agreement that would lay down common guidelines based on the key principles the bishops put forward in December. With this purpose in mind, the bishops continue their series of meetings with Christian political leaders.

Yesterday they saw Amin Gemayel, at his residence in Sin el-Fil. This, Mgr Samir Mazloum, vicar general of Maronite Patriarchate, was the fifth such meetings. In the past few days the bishops’ delegation had already met, among others, Michel Aoun, Samir Geagea and Suleiman Frangieh.

With Gemayel, “we discussed the overall situation and what could be done to make it evolve,” he said. “We will continue our meetings until a positive outcome is achieved. It is the Church’s duty to reconcile its faithful and, God willing, we’ll do it.”

Answering a question about the seeming reluctance shown by some Christian leaders towards their initiative as reported in some papers, Mgr Mazloum said that “the media have greater means to survey the opinions of politicians, but so far we have had only positive responses.”

Meanwhile the approaching January 25 donors’ conference in Paris and the threat of further escalation in street protests continue to dominate Lebanese politics.

An-Nahar’s front page titles read: “Donor states work to end Lebanese crisis” and “Opposition threatens to block streets before Paris Conference” titles. L’Orient Le Jour writes: “A week from Paris III, opposition’s ultimatums start again”.

Whatever the impact of the protest movement, the Paris conference has provided an opportunity to reflect upon the Lebanese crisis.

Yesterday UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern that Lebanon has not given final approval to an international tribunal to prosecute the suspected killers of its former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, adding that the issue will be raised at the Paris conference.

In Qatar, seventh stop on his regional tour, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora said Wednesday that an initiative launched by Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa last December to broker an agreement between Lebanon's divided political camps was "the only credible initiative," adding that several parties were "trying to reactivate it."

According to reports from Egypt, Moussa, too, is waiting for the outcomes of the Paris conference before going back to Beirut.

 

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