07/05/2005, 00.00
LEBANON
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No more fighting among Christians, says Patriarch Sfeir

by Youssef Hourany
The Cardinal, who met Saad Hariri, said that Lebanese refugees in Israel should not be forgotten.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir said he hoped that incidents like that of Koura in which two Christians were killed in clashes between followers of Suleiman Frangieh and Samir Geagea will be a thing of the past.

Saad Hariri, who recently met Patriarch Sfeir as part of his tour to meet the country's main figures, told AsiaNews after the meeting that the "he [Sfeir] always has ideas for unifying the country. We shall coordinate our actions with everyone else since, after all, Lebanon belongs to all of us, and we must all live together. As Lebanese we can manage our affairs and should not quarrel among ourselves".

For his part, Patriarch Sfeir used the Koura incident to express his hope that "wisdom would prevail over irresponsible behaviour, which threatens people's lives. Instead, a sense of forgiveness should take the place of vengeance."

The Cardinal also said he sent his condolences to the victims' families and a message of well-wishes to the injured.

Suleiman Frangieh also spoke about the killings. In a press conference, he thanked the Lebanese Forces for not making political mileage out of the incident, however serious it might be.

He also stressed that he would not protect any of his followers involved in such deeds.

"We live under the rule of law and justice must follow its course even if the gunman is called Frangieh," he said.

The former minister said that he had been in contact with the gunman's family. Although unaware as to his hiding place, Frangieh said he tried to convince him to surrender to the authorities.

"This incident reminds me of the 1978 Ehden massacre and no one wants that to be repeated," Frangieh said.

Finally, he reiterated his support for the release of Lebanese Forces' leader Samir Geagea. And in response to a reporter's question, he said that he was "out of power" and not interested in any ministries.

He also stressed that the rapprochement between General Michel Aoun and Saad Hariri was a good thing, expressing his appreciation for Hariri's conciliatory politics even if it "does not please Walid Jumblatt who cares only for his personal interests".

In last Sunday mass, Patriarch Sfeir raised the question of the fate of those Lebanese living in Israel, urging the Lebanese authorities not to ignore the issue, "especially now that we are moving towards an overall reconciliation".

"Events pushed these fellow citizens to find refuge in Israel," Sfeir said. "Now there are two possibilities, neither one very good: the refugees either opt for Israeli citizenship and stay in that country or they emigrate to a third country. By refusing both options, they show instead that they want to come home". 

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