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    » 09/30/2010, 00.00

    LEBANON - VATICAN

    Maronite Patriarchate warns of “tension rising” to the point of conflict in Lebanon

    Fady Noun

    There is a growing conflict between Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Hezbollah because the UN tribunal allegations that - they say - condemn Hezbollah for having contributed to the assassination of Rafik Hariri. The bishops are preparing to go to Rome for the Synod of the Middle East, but a war between Sunnis and Shiites is feared.

    Beirut (AsiaNews) - The Maronite Patriarchate has warned the whole country against "rising tension" that rages between the majority and Hezbollah which could erupt into street clashes.

    The Maronite Church warning is contained in the communiqué from the monthly meeting of the Assembly of Maronite Bishops, gathered under the chairmanship of the card. Nasrallah Sfeir.

    "The bishops - says the statement - have reviewed the situation in Lebanon. They are seriously alarmed by the growing tension between the different factions of the country, which threatens to turn into a community war”.

    The alarm comes as the gap between the majority – led of course by Prime Minister Saad Hariri - and Hezbollah widens. Two days ago, on behalf of Hezbollah, Ghaleb Abu Zainab, from the Hezbollah Political Council, said that he opposes Lebanon's financing of the UN tribunal in charge of the investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri, with Beirut covering 49% of its costs.

    His position directly contradicts that of the Prime Minister, who yesterday said that it is important "not to forget the blood of the martyr Rafik Hariri."

    The internal crisis has revolved around the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (TSL) for weeks now. Hezbollah accuses the TSL of being "in the pay of Israel" and fear that the TSL will accuse them of being implicated in the murder, an eventuality that was never openly expressed nor confirmed by the court, which is based in The Hague in the Netherlands.

    This possibility raises fears of the worst. The Maronite MP Sleiman Frangieh, a personal friend of Syrian President Bashar el-Assad last week warned that an indictment of Hezbollah would mean war between Sunnis and Shiites in Lebanon.

    For his part, Walid Mouallem, Syrian Foreign Minister, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal said: "We believe that a condemnation of Hezbollah by the TSL will be a major factor in the problems in Lebanon."

    The tension is rising just as most of the country's Catholic bishops are preparing to travel to Rome to participate in the work of the Synod of the Churches of the Middle East, due to be held at the Vatican October 10 to 24.

    In diplomatic circles it is rumoured that the indictment of the tribunal will be released "later this year." Will peace in Lebanon resist until then? Any conflict would mean that the umbrella policy provided by Syria and Saudi Arabia to Lebanon has been destroyed. Is that possible? Could Hezbollah be bluffing? These are the questions that nearly all Lebanese are asking themselves, but so far no answers have been found.

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    See also

    02/11/2006 LEBANON
    Bishops condemn "confusion" reigning in Lebanon

    There was express reference to Lahoud's statements against the formation of an international tribunal as well as to attempts to topple the government. Cardinal Sfeir pointed at "political leaders" who are seeking to "facilitate international interference and the preservation of regional forces in the country." Hezbollah has rejected UN calls to disarm its militias.



    04/01/2007 LEBANON
    Maronite bishops say new solutions needed to end crisis
    According to the bishops, the “main malady” of the country is the clash over the formation of an international court. Hezbollah representatives have met the Saudi king. The Shia Higher Council has called for a return to dialogue.

    16/05/2007 LEBANON
    Sfeir and the USA strive for a peaceful succession to president Lahoud
    The deputy secretary of state for the Middle East, David Welch, recently at the Vatican, has met with Patriarch Sfeir to speak about elections for the next President of the Republic. The issue, along with the role of the Holy See, had already been discussed by Sfeir during talks with the Head of State.

    03/05/2007 LEBANON – VATICAN
    Sfeir brings concerns about his country’s future to the Vatican
    Maronite Patriarch is increasingly worried about the institutional deadlock caused by the country’s political crisis, but especially by the increasingly bitter divisions within the Christian community. The synod of Maronite bishops will take place in a few weeks.

    12/03/2007 LEBANON
    Patriarch and bishops offer their help to end the political crises
    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.



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