Bishops to re-launch their initiative for an agreement between Maronite leaders
by Youssef Hourany
Patriarch Sfeir holds talks with the ambassadors of Iran and France. Tehran’s envoy reassures his government support for Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. French envoy calls on Christian politicians to choose dialogue.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – As he waits for the re-launching of the initiative undertaken by Maronite bishops to organise a meeting between Lebanon’s various Christian leaders, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir continues to meet envoys from those countries that can play a role in the future of the country. Today he met the heads of the diplomatic missions of Iran and France, both involved in guaranteeing their interest in a peaceful future for the country.

After last week’s clashes halted the bishops’ attempt to bring together Christian leaders from both the government and opposition camps (General Michel Aoun, Samir Geagea, former President Amin Gemayel and former Minister Suleiman Frangieh) in order to end their divisions, Cardinal Sfeir remains pivotal for all the parties and powers involved in the search for a solution. The prelate in fact today met Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Reza Sheibani and his French colleague Bernard Emié, in Bkerke.

Sources close to the Patriarchate informed AsiaNews that the Iranian ambassador told the cardinal that Iranian President Ahmadinejad supported Lebanon’s sovereignty and hoped for a renewed dialogue between Lebanese leaders. He reiterated his government’s support for any initiative that would lead to peace and the resumption of normal life in Lebanon.

For his part, France’s ambassador reassured the patriarch that the pledges made last week by donors will be respected. He also renewed French President Jacques Chirac’s support for the initiative taken by Lebanon’s Maronite bishops despite the setback caused by last Tuesday’s incidents.

The French diplomat appealed to Maronite leaders to talk to each other under the auspices of the Patriarch who “is the only impartial point of reference in Lebanon”.

Mgr Samir Mazloum, the Patriarchate’s vicar general, spoke to AsiaNews about the obstacles on the way to implementing the fundamental principles for a lasting peace in Lebanon as laid down in the bishops’ statement of December 6, 2006. He lamented that last week’s clashes stopped the efforts made by the commission made up by bishops Matar, Bechara and himself.

He warned that the political situation remained extremely fragile, that violence might explode again, and deplored the fact that outside powers “are fuelling [Lebanon’s] political disagreements”.

Mgr Mazloum said that the Maronite bishops’ initiative could be re-launched but he did not set a date. He did however say that there is “good will on all parts.”