11/27/2006, 00.00
LEBANON
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Patriarch Sfeir's pain over Christian divisions

by Paul Dakiki
Bringing together Gemayel, Franjieh, Geagea, and Aoun is impossible for the time being. Cabinet gives the go-ahead to the UN-backed international tribunal, but the path is blocked by Lebanon's president and Hezbollah. The danger of civil looms again over the country.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – "If Christians fail to join hands and hearts to make Lebanon get out of its [current] crisis, the situation will remain difficult," said Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir as he commented on how hard it is to get Christian political leaders together. At present the Christian leadership is divided: Gemayel and Geagea are in the anti-Syrian front; Aoun and Franjieh, in the pro-Syrian camp.

In meeting some leaders of the Lebanese Forces, Cardinal Sfeir—who celebrated 20 years as cardinal—said that Lebanon is going through "dark times".

Last Friday, he sent his vicar generals, Mgr Abou Jaoude and Mgr Mazloum, to Rabieh to convince Michel Aoun to go to Bikfaya, Gemayel clan's fief, to express his condolences for the death of Pierre Gemayel, killed in an attack on November 21. Former General Aoun could not attend the funeral, which turned into an openly anti-Syrian rally, for fear of incidents.

At the national level, the stalemate between government, president and Hezbollah continues.

On Saturday Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and his cabinet approved an UN-backed international tribunal which would investigate who was responsible for the murder of Rafik Hariri, this despite the resignation of Hezbollah ministers and the refusal of parliamentary speaker, Shia politician Nabih Berri, to endorse the decision.

Under Lebanese law, the cabinet decision has to be ratified by the president, but current President Émile Lahoud has already said he won't sign. 

Under UN rules however, the Security Council has the right to set up the court for prosecuting the killers of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri without getting the approval of the Lebanese government.

For Hezbollah, which is rearming in southern Lebanon thanks to Syria, the Siniora government is too "pro-Western, [too] pro-American and [too] pro-Israel" and has threatened several times to bring it down if it does not get more power.

Hezbollah has also pledged to take to the streets in demonstrations to bring the country to a standstill threatening renewed violence and fighting.

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