05/20/2013, 00.00
LEBANON

Maronite patriarch slams Lebanese politicians who "don't deserve to rule"

Bisharah Al-Rahi attacks the government's action during a trip to South America. The electoral law and poverty top the list of problems. However, Syria's civil war continues to be the main concern. Lebanon should not "interfere in the conflict in Syria".

Beirut (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Maronite Patriarch Mar Bisharah Al Rahi used extremely strong language to criticise Lebanese politicians during a tour of Latin America. Speaking at a meeting with the Maronite community in Colombia, he said it was unacceptable that "after six years of discussions and wasting time," they have not been able "to reach common ground over an electoral law." The patriarch also raised the issue of poverty in the country, noting that one third of the population survives because of US$ 8 billion in annual remittances from relatives living abroad.

Bisharah Al-Rahi replaced Card Nasrallah Sfeir, who promoted national unity during Syria's occupation of Lebanon. Now that Syria is in crisis, al-Rahi spoke at the meeting in Colombia about his strong concern over the evolution of the crisis in Syria and its possible repercussions on Lebanon.

"We have always demanded others not to meddle in our local affairs and it's not acceptable for us to interfere in the conflict in Syria," a worried cardinal said.

The Maronite patriarch's statement echoes rising tensions along the Lebanese-Syrian border.

Hizbollah, a Shia-based party, is pro-Assad and has provided Damascus with men to fight the widespread opposition. At the same time, a growing number of Lebanese Sunnis have joined the fight against the Syrian regime.

In recent days, fighting at al-Qusayr, near the Lebanese border saw the participation of Lebanese Sunnis. Media reports indicate that Hizbollah lost about 20 fighters.

Lebanon has always been an example of Christian-Muslim social and political coexistence. However, between 1975 and the 1990, the country was torn apart by a bloody civil war between sectarian factions, fuelled by outside forces like Syria and Israel.

Should Syria's civil war spill over into Lebanon, it might reignite sectarian rivalry among the most extremist groups in the country's various religious communities.

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