02/11/2008, 00.00
LEBANON
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Sfeir, fears over the increasing opposition to the Sleiman candidacy

The Maronite patriarch asks the United Nations to intervene in the crisis, warns against the danger of increasing emigration, and sounds the alarm: "the return of Syria to Lebanon could be made possible through its allies". Moussa, the new requests from the opposition are positive, but exaggerated.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - Fears over the possibility that General Sleiman will finally be elected president of the republic, a request for United Nations intervention in the country, the warning that "the return of Syria to Lebanon could be made possible through its allies", preoccupation for the increasing numbers of those who decide to emigrate.  Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir is again manifesting his anxiety over the future of Lebanon.

In spite of the attacks brought against him by Christian representatives of the opposition headed by Hezbollah, who have even asked for his resignation, Cardinal Sfeir repeated yesterday, during the Mass, his impartiality toward all, indicating his desire to see all the Lebanese united under the national flag.  He also recalled that throughout history the patriarchate has always been the guarantor of the unity of the Maronites.

The patriarch warned against the danger of the closing off of the Lebanese parliament, which continues to block the presidential elections in the country, now delayed until February 26, and expressed  strong condemnation of the threats arising from both parties.  He renewed his appeal to the leaders to have pity on the Lebanese people who continue to emigrate, above all to the various Gulf countries.

The patriarch then expressed a worried scepticism over the possibility of the election of the commander of the Lebanese army, General Michel Sleiman, as head of state, in the light of the criticisms made against the army.  He nonetheless expressed his hopes that an agreement might be reached on Sleiman, because the army has remained intact in spite of all of the challenges, and he said that the people who are blocking the electoral process are tools in the hands of foreigners who do not want the republic to have a future.

In an interview with Al-Massira on the occasion of the feast of St. Maron, the patron of the Maronite Church, the cardinal asked for an intervention by the United Nations, so that an end can be put to the state of political stagnation that has blocked the country since November 23, the date when the office of the presidency was left vacant, without concealing his sympathy toward the head of government Fouad Siniora, who is "doing his duty of service to the people in a satisfactory way".  He added that Hezbollah is Lebanon's "real problem", because "there cannot be two armies", and he raised an alarm over the possible intention of Damascus to return to Lebanon.  "Well-known personalities", he added, "are seeking to permit Syria to control Lebanon once again".

Meanwhile, after returning from Beirut to Cairo, Arab League secretary Amr Moussa revealed in an interview with Asharq al-Aswat that the Lebanese opposition has presented "new demands" to be met before the presidential election can be held.  Without entering into particulars, he defined them as "positive", but "exaggerated". Moussa announced that he will return to Lebanon on the 24th, to meet again with Michel Aoun, in his role as spokesman for the opposition, on the question of the head of state.  He will also talk with Saad Hariri, leader of the parliamentary majority, and former president Amin Gemayel. (YH)

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