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  • » 02/25/2008, 00.00

    LEBANON

    Today's meeting in Beirut could seal the failure of the Arab initiative

    Paul Dakiki

    The second day of meetings between Moussa, Gemayel, Hariri, and Aoun appears to be crucial. Patriarch Sfeir invokes God, that "he may spare us the worst". Yesterday, a meeting between Saudi Arabia and Egypt to apply pressure to Syria.

    Beirut (AsiaNews) - The anguished invocation addressed to God yesterday by Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, that "he may spare us the worst", came on the eve of a day that could be particularly important, because it could be the day on which the secretary of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, declares the failure of the Arab initiative for a solution of the Lebanese crisis.

    Today, in fact, the second - and perhaps the last - part of the four party dialogue is scheduled to take place.  At yesterday's meeting (in the photo),  together with Moussa were former president Amin Gemayel, majority leader Saad Hariri, and Michael Aoun, representing the opposition led by Hezbollah.  At the end of yesterday's meeting, various sources indicated that a solution "is far off", although the meeting was judged as positive.

    The meeting of Lebanese leaders today, moreover, follows a summit in Riyadh that saw Saudi king Abdullah and Egyptian president Mubarak meet to examine the Lebanese crisis.  Their intention is clearly to apply pressure to Syria, so that it will convince its Lebanese allies in the parliamentary minority to accept the plan of the Arab League.  This provides for the election of army commander Michel Sleiman as president of the republic, the formation of a national unity government, and political elections under a new electoral law.  Syria attaches particular importance to the summit of the Arab League, which will open in Damascus on March 29, at which it expects substantial support for an eventual peace between Arabs and Israelis over the restitution of the Golan Heights, which it lost in the war of 1967.  The thinly veiled threat - King Abdullah said some time ago that he will come if he can meet with the Lebanese president - is that at least Saudi Arabia and Egypt may boycott the summit.

    In this situation, special meaning is taken on by the words of Cardinal Sfeir: "In these somber times, let us invoke the help of the Lord, whom we fervently ask to spare us, in Lebanon, the catastrophes that we fear and that we must avoid at all costs.  What we see and hear promises nothing good.  Tongues have begun to wag, and the comments no longer adhere to any rule.  Apocalyptic threats are made, and this is not reassuring in the least, not to mention that it is disconcerting and frightening".

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    See also

    30/04/2008 LEBANON
    Sfeir: the election of the president is "paved with bad intentions"
    Concerned statements from the Maronite patriarch, according to whom "some" are preoccupied with realising their own interests "at Lebanon's expense". A reminder to parliamentarians of their responsibility, and criticism of the "parallel state" of Hezbollah.

    18/02/2008 LEBANON
    Arab pressure on Syria over the election of the Lebanese president
    Egypt and Saudi Arabia are threatening to boycott the Arab League summit in Damascus. Patriarch Sfeir highlights the need for the factions to overcome the distance that divides them.

    05/03/2007 LEBANON
    Beirut hopeful following Saudi-Iranian summit
    More and more people expect a solution to the political crisis. Saudis “guarantee” Syria that the international tribunal examining the Hariri assassination will only consider the criminal, not the political aspects of the case. Patriarch Sfeir calls on Christians not to create contrasts and divisions in vote to the Maronite League.

    11/02/2008 LEBANON
    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.

    26/02/2008 LEBANON
    Moussa returns from Beirut empty-handed
    Although no one is admitting it formally, the Arab initiative has failed. The possibility of reviving it depends on political pressure from Saudi Arabia and Egypt. For the 15th time, the parliamentary session to elect the republic's president has been delayed.



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