Lebanon has a right to sovereignty, says Patriarch Sfeir
On the eve of his departure to Washington Patriarch Sfeir demands respect for United Nations resolutions. Armenian bishops call for a government of national unity to implement agreements.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – For Maronite Patriarch Card Nassrallah Sfeir Syria has an obligation to implement the Taef Agreement and respect United Nations Resolution 1559, which is based on it. At the same time, the country's Armenian bishops call for the formation of a government of national unity.

The Patriarch spoke to AsiaNews on the eve of his departure for Washington. He refused to give an opinion on the speech delivered by Syrian President Bachar al-Asad, in which a redeployment of Syrian troops was announced, but reiterated the principle that Lebanon has the right to "independence, sovereignty and freedom so that its people might live like other peoples".

Cardinal Sfeir denied having said that his country might reach a bilateral agreement with Israel. Instead, "Lebanon," he said, "will be last Arab country to sign [a deal] with Israel".

Speaking about his coming meeting with US President George W. Bush, the Patriarch noted that it was at the President's invitation.

And as for Hezbollah disarming, he insisted that it was not up to him but to those involved.

Yesterday, Patriarch Sfeir received a delegation from the OPDS charitable organisation at the Bkerke shrine. The delegation was headed by Fr Elie Madi, who was accompanied by its general director Ms Faten Nseir.

They illustrated the results of their organisation's campaign in favour of tsunami victims in Asia and told the Patriarch that they were devolving € 20,000 (US$ 27,000) to the cause through the United Nations.

Armenian bishops, but also Catholic and Orthodox bishops, appealed to political leaders to form a government of national unity capable of restarting economic development and respecting agreements, especially the Taef Agreement.

At the end of their meeting on Saturday at the Orthodox eparchy (diocese) in Zkak el-Blat (Beirut), the bishops released a statement on the Lebanese situation. They reiterated that only peace, concord and dialogue can lead the county out of the current crisis. They urged all Lebanese and all people of good will to join together to reach the much desired peace.

Former Foreign Minister Fares Boueiz, who is a member of the opposition, told AsiaNews that Patriarch Nassrallah Sfeir's visit to the United States was an historic event, similar to that of Patriarch Elias Houeik to France in 1920, which founded Lebanon. He is convinced that the Patriarch's visit to Washington will lead to the birth of a new Lebanon, one that is sovereign, independent and free from foreign interference. (Y.H)