08/31/2020, 13.14
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Hezbollah open to Aoun’s call for a 'secular' Lebanon

On the eve of Greater Lebanon’s centennial, the president calls for change to transcend the existing ethnoreligious balance. Religious and political leaders should find a formula that is acceptable to everyone. Nasrallah says he is ready to discuss a new political pact and division of powers.

Beirut (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Lebanese President Michel Aoun spoke on the eve of celebrations to mark Greater Lebanon’s centennial. In his address he proposed that Lebanon go from a nation based on a (fragile) ethnoreligious balance to a secular state. To this end, the various parties should engage in intense talks to establish a new form of governance for the country.

"In order for 1st September 2020 to be a completion of 1st September 1920, and since I am convinced that only a secular state can protect pluralism, and transform it into a real unity, I ask that Lebanon be declared a secular state.”

In his speech, the president urged spiritual and political leaders to find "a formula acceptable to everyone" that can be implemented "through appropriate constitutional amendments".

Speaking about events and celebrations associated with the centennial of Greater Lebanon, President Aoun noted that the people of Lebanon "went through many crises and wars,” never knowing "lasting stability and security". In his view, the Taif agreement, which ended the Lebanese civil war in 1989, has "strengths and weaknesses".

The president’s address and the country’s centennial celebrations come at a time of profound instability. Lebanon continues to sink as a result of four crises, the "four pillars" of Lebanon’s collapse of Lebanon, namely an unprecedented economic crisis, the COVID-19 crisis, the Port of Beirut explosions, and the endless political crises exemplified by the recent resignation of the cabinet.

It is time, Aoun warned, to "improve, amend or change the Lebanese system" to better manage affairs, basing it "on citizenship and a secular state" because existing "communal rights and quotas" are “an obstacle to progress, reforms and the fight against corruption.”

Lebanon’s unity and salvation at a time of profound crisis tops the agenda and involves all political, social and confessional groups and factions in a country based on a fragile balance.

Maronite Patriarch Card Beshara al-Rahi spoke about the matter several times in the recent past, reiterating the principle of active neutrality to counter divisions and factional interests that have regional and international sponsors.

The cardinal’s statements and homilies have led to an unusual clash with Lebanese Shias and their main political parties, Hezbollah and Amal.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was one of the first to react to the president’s speech. In a statement, he expressed his party’s willingness to discuss a new political pact, one that could include a new division of powers between religious communities and benefit Shias.

"We are open to any kind of constructive discussions on the matter, on condition that all Lebanese parties be open to them,” said Nasrallah.

In the past, “I have not advocated a new political pact, but only an improvement on the existing Taif accord, a Constituent Assembly. In the face of criticism, I chose to let it go.”

The Shia leader criticised French President Macron for interfering in the country’s internal affairs, wondering what reactions and charges would have been made if “other states” (i.e. Iran) had called for reform. For Nasrallsh, this is problem in terms of political life and practices.

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