01/29/2014, 00.00
LEBANON

Maronite Patriarch: Lebanon needs a president

Fearful of political chaos and critical of those who want a divided Lebanon and are working against the country's unity, Card Beshara Al-Rahi calls for a speedy election. For him, "the Arab Spring will blossom only through Lebanon."

Beirut (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Card Beshara Al-Rahi, Patriarch of the Maronite Church, in an interview yesterday with Lebanese daily As Safir, said that the election of a new president, national unity and respect for the constitution are some of some of the urgent issues the country must address. Attempts to "postpone the presidential elections", in his view, would be like "death."

Deadlocked for the past eight months because of intra-Muslim divisions between Shias and Sunnis over the war in Syria, the country has seen its political divisions spill over into acts of violence in Tripoli (northern Lebanon) and the capital Beirut.

"The problem is that everyone wants to divide the country according to his perspective instead of becoming as one," Card al-Rahi said.

The cardinal's appeal is first and foremost for his fellow Christians, who represent about 40 per cent of the population, many of them living and still moving abroad as a result of extremism and political crisis at home.

"Christians should play their important role in Lebanon and the Arab world," he explained for the "Arab spring will only bloom through Lebanon."

In addition, he warns that the Arab world is fragmenting and Christians are in danger of slipping into a "sectarian trap," which he believes would mean their "end."

Set for May 2013, Lebanon's parliamentary and presidential elections were postponed several times because of the war in Syria and mutual vetoes by the country's two main political blocs: the 8 March coalition, led by the Shia-dominated Hizbollah (in alliance with the Free Patriotic Movement of Maronite General Michel Aoun); and the predominant Sunni and Christian Maronite 14 March movement.

Michel Suleiman is the outgoing president. He was elected in 2008 after a compromise deal between the country's various political and religious factions.

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