03/08/2007, 00.00
LEBANON
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Sfeir: we need a “Lebanese solution” to crises that has gone on for too long

Maronite bishops “attest” an “ongoing divergence” between the points of view in Damascus and Beirut. A United Nations’ imposed international tribunal would be evidence of national incompetence.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – The search for a “Lebanese solution” to the country’s ongoing political crises, and the “realization” that Damascus and Beirut “remain divided” in their approach to the situation are the central points of a statement issued by the Maronite bishops at the end of their monthly meeting held in Bkerke, under the guidance of the Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir. In the document the bishops state that it would be an expression of national incompetence should the United Nations be forced to impose the structure of the international tribunal for the assassination of the ex premier Rafic Hariri.

The document read by msgr Youssef Tawk maintains that “the stand off between the ruling party and the opposition has gone on too long, marked by government crises, demonstrations and a sit-in now in it’s third”. All of this “has caused considerable human and material loss, stimulating a brain drain as numerous Lebanese intellectuals chose the road of emigration, while countless other workers are made redundant”. “The question of forming a new government in which the ruling party and opposition have a share in governing responsibilities has gone on far too long without arriving at an acceptable solution – reaffirm the bishops – This proves that both sides are immoveable in their positions which is not a good sign”.

Yesterday evening, at the forefront of efforts to find a solution to the political crises, the Saudi ambassador Abdel Aziz Khoja – who met separately yesterday with Parliament President Nabih Berri, and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora – expressed his hope that a meeting would soon take place between Berri – leader of the Shiite opposition movement Amal – and leader of the ruling majority Saad Hariri.

The bishop’s examination of the situation also touched on relations with Syria.  The bishops note that the proposal “put forward by some parties to send international observers to monitor the Syrian – Lebanese boarder not only met with a stout refusal but also the threat to close the border”.

The idea of an international monitoring team on the boarder was put forward most recently by the German vice Minister for Foreign affairs August Hanning. However the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, defined the idea as a “sign that the west wants a state of war” between the two countries and should the UN deploy observers Damascus would respond by closing down the borders.

The last issue touched on by the bishops is the formation of an international tribunal which should try those responsible for the assassination of the former premier Rafic Hariri. “Recourse to chapter VII of the UN charter [which allows for coercive measures should peace be threatened] for the creation of the international tribunal would only demonstrate that our small nation is divided and thus incapable of resolving it’s own issues.  This would represent a blow capable of further undermining our already paralyzed nation”.

Confirming the gravity of Patriarch Sfeirs concerns for the country’s situation, the President of the Assembly of Patriarchs and Catholic bishops in Lebanon has convoked assembly members for an extraordinary meeting, due to be held in Bkerke Monday March 12th and Tuesday March 13th.

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