12/09/2005, 00.00
LEBANON
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Sfeir meets Khatami and Jumblatt

by Youssef Hourani
Maronite patriarch remains a reference point for the Lebanese. He agrees with former Iranian president Khatami on the importance of inter-faith dialogue to counter fundamentalism and terrorism. In his meeting with Druze leader Jumblatt he discusses Lebanon's independence and security, and the creation of an international tribunal.  Former head of Syrian secret services in Lebanon goes home after being interrogated in Vienna.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said that he and Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir agreed that Lebanon's priorities involve consolidating the country's independence and security and pursuing the United Nations investigation into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which should lead to the creation of an international tribunal that would inquiry into the killing of Lebanese political leaders during the 30 years of Syrian occupation.

The Maronite patriarch is proving these days that he is a reference point for all Lebanese. So much so that since his return on Saturday from Jordan, where he took part in the 15th  Assembly of eastern Catholic patriarchs, he has received Lebanese and foreign political leaders, including Iran's former president, Mohammad Khatami, who on Sunday went to the patriarch's residence in Bkerke, on the last leg of an official visit to Lebanon.

The two men discussed reviving inter-faith dialogue to counter fundamentalism and fight terrorism.

Jumblatt, who also visited the patriarch in Bkerke, invited him to next Sunday's ceremony near Rafik Hariri's burial place, to commemorate the death of his father Kamal, who was killed in 1977.

After the visit, the Druze leader said he was prepared to co-operate with his political allies in order to find the truth about the murders of Lebanese political leaders during Syria's 30-year occupation of Lebanon.

Jumblatt expressed high regard for the patriarch, who is considered one of the country's most important voices. He also said he backed the request made by Maronite bishops asking the Lebanese government to have the United Nations create an international tribunal to find the truth not only about the Hariri assassination but also about the deaths of those whose bodies were found at Angar, in the Bek'aa Valley, near the local headquarters of Syria's secret services.

Sources close to the patriarch said that the briefness of the meeting (20 minutes) was a sign of a certain coolness. The meeting itself "did not add anything and did not change the position" of the cardinal, they said.

By contrast, the patriarch and Jumblatt "found themselves on the same wavelength despite some differences", this according to the influential newspaper L'Orient Le jour.

Meanwhile, two of the five Syrian officials who were called to testify in the Hariri investigation by the international commission of inquiry have gone back to Damascus. One of the two was the former head of Syrian secret services in Lebanon, General Rostom Ghazale, who said he was satisfied with the atmosphere that prevailed during his stay in Vienna and who insisted he had nothing to do with the Hariri assassination.

The issue has continued to be an important topic in the Syrian press. Syrian papers remain critical of the position adopted by the Lebanese government vis-à-vis Syria, which according to an editorial in the newspaper October, "did not spare the blood of many of its sons to defend the territorial integrity of Lebanon."

The same paper accuses the Lebanese for the mass graves found in some areas of the country.

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