05/28/2007, 00.00
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Sfeir: national reconciliation, support for the army, militia disarmament

by Youssef Hourani
The Maronite Patriarch describes the soldiers killed in clashes with Fatah al Islam as “martyrs”. Al Qaeda threatens the cardinal: a blood bath if the Christian commander of the army does not stop the attack on Nahr el Bared refugee camp.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – National reconciliation, support for the army, disarmament of all militias, including Hezbollah: AsiaNews has learned that those were the demands of the Maronite Patriarch following his meeting with 10 Maronite deputies, members of the parliamentary group “Reform and Change” headed by general Michel Aoun.

According to the same sources, the Patriarch also reaffirmed “his position in favour of national unity, based on consensus between all of the political parties and on the disarmament of all non governmental forces, starting with the Palestinians through to the warriors of God’s Party”.

In Sunday mass in Bkerke the cardinal also expressed his concerns regarding the country’s development and his support for the Lebanese army. The patriarch appealed that the current ceasefire between the army and Fatah al Islam rebels holed up in the camp of Nahr el Bared, northern Lebanon, be respected.  Moreover he spoke of his hopes for a return to order, asking authorities to support the military’s decisions, adding that the people of Lebanon are untied with the army and the families of the 33 “military martyrs, who died so that the nation may live”.

He made no mention, however, of the latest threats to arrive from yet another group claiming to have links with Al Qaeda. In a statement posted on the internet and addressed directly to the patriarch, a man who says he is the representative of Al Qaeda in Cham (Lebanon, Palestine, Syria) demanded the patriarch order the army commander, who is a Christian, to withdraw troops from the besieged camp, threatening otherwise a “blood bath”.

At a political level, today in Paris Aoun is due to meet with the French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, who during his visit to Beirut last week met with members of Lebanon’s other political factions, from religious leaders to heads of government, Fouad Siniora, and Speaker Nabih Berri. His trip concluded with talks with the President of the Republic Emile Lahoud, on the basis, confirmed Kouchner, of a common accord with EU member states.


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National unity government, a new president and elections are needed, says Cardinal Sfeir
New charges against Syria, Fatah al-Islam’s real master
Army enters Nahr el-Bared, first terrorists surrender
Bishops act to end divisions between Maronite political leaders
Army “tightens its grip” on Fatah al Islam, while Christians pray for peace