02/27/2005, 00.00
LEBANON - SYRIA
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Dialogue between opposition and pro-Syrian faction urgent, says Maronite Patriarch

US envoy reiterates his government's support for UN resolution calling on Syria to pullout from Lebanon.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – As pro- and anti-Syrian factions engage in a power struggle, the Patriarch of the Maronite Church, Card Nassrallah Sfeir, warns the Lebanese against division.

Tensions are in fact running high. Two rallies are scheduled for tomorrow—one pro- and one anti-Syrian—to coincide with the Lebanese National Assembly reconvening. The atmosphere is one of foreboding as the opposition tries to defeat Prime Minister Rachid Karame's government for its pro-Syrian positions.

Speaking during Sunday mass in Bkerke, Patriarch Sfeir cautioned his fellow Lebanese against the danger of "division which could lead the country to ruin".

Whilst repeating his demand that  Lebanon's sovereignty be fully restored, he exhorted them to be calm for "things can get worse if dialogue among the different components [of Lebanese society] is not allowed to take place."

The Patriarch later met for an hour David Satterfield, US deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs.

After the meeting, Mr Satterfield reiterated US support for the people of Lebanon and its "liberation from Syrian troops and secret services".

He said the US supported the implementation of UN Resolution 1559, adopted on October 13, 2004, that calls on Syrian troops to pull out of Lebanon.

Answering a reporter's question concerning Monday's rallies, Mr Satterfild said his government supported democratic demonstrations and respected freedom of expression.

Tonight he is scheduled to meet opposition groups and tomorrow he will meet Lebanese Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud.

Ever since former Prime Minister Rafik Habibi was assassinated on February 14, hundreds of thousands of  Lebanese have rallied against Syria's presence in Lebanon.

The Lebanese opposition and many countries accuse Syria of having instigated the assassination. (YH)

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Anti-Syrian demonstration defies government ban
28/02/2005
Russia and US press Syria to pull its troops out of Lebanon
03/03/2005
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Patriarch Sfeir slams Syrian influence on constitutional changes
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