02/25/2008, 00.00
LEBANON

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

by 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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