03/19/2007, 00.00
LEBANON
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Political crisis threatens social peace, says Sfeir

by Youssef Hourany
Maronite patriarch demands law enforcement agencies be given the means to guarantee citizens’ peace and security. He congratulates police for capturing Aik Alak attackers. No one is injured in clashes in northern Lebanon and the Bekaa.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – In Lebanon’s current “state of chaos”, which is not only affecting political life but is also having “drastic effects” on “the social and intellectual lives of the Lebanese,” the army and the police must be put in a situation whereby they can exercise their responsibilities and guarantee citizens peace and order, this according to Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir who, during Sunday mass, spoke again about the country’s situation.

“Lebanese from all social classes and religions are complaining about the uncertain situation in Lebanon, because they find that their future as well as all their aspirations and dreams are being threatened,” Sfeir said.

For this reason, he made another appeal “to save the country before it is too late, taking it out of the current crisis, which is the most dramatic of the last 30 years.”

Cardinal Sfeir congratulated law enforcement agencies for finding those responsible of the February 13 Ain Alak bus bombing. He added though that internal security forces and the Lebanese Army “ought to be properly funded and equipped” so that they can perform their duties and shed light on all the crimes committed on Lebanese territory.

Related to the Ain Alak case, Shaker Abssi, head of Fatah Islam, the group to which the attackers allegedly belong, denied reports that his group is connected to al-Qaeda or was involved in the attack.

Meanwhile two incidents confirm Cardinal Sfeir’s concerns. Yesterday in the Minieh district in northern Lebanon activists from Saad Hariri's Future Movement blocked roads preventing Lebanese President Émile Lahoud, former minister Yaacoub el-Sarraf, and lawmaker Ali Hassan Khalil (who represented Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri), from attending a rally organised by the opposition in memory of Yahia Skaff, a resistance activist freed by Israel. Scuffles broke out between the two sides who also traded gunfire. No casualties were reported in the shootout.

In a separate incident, clashes erupted in the Eastern town of Bar Elias, near the Bekaa. Angry crowds, armed with stones, besieged the Omar Bin Khattab religious centre in Bar Elias after news filtered to the area that Sheikh Abdul Naser al-Jabri, a Hezbollah supporter, was among several officials invited to a wedding ceremony. The stone-throwers broke the windows of the centre and destroyed several cars.

On the political front, talks between National Assembly Speaker Nabih Berri and parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri were suspended because of the latter’s trip to Paris where he received the Legion of Honour from French President Jacques Chirac.

During the ceremony, Mr Chirac renewed his country’s commitment to Lebanon’s unity, freedom and sovereignty.

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