02/07/2007, 00.00
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Incidents were provoked in order to block the Paris conference, say Maronite bishops

by Youssef Hourany
Bishops implicitly but clearly criticise opposition parties for their obstructionism vis-à-vis “those who want to help Lebanon.” United Nations announces that the agreement to set up an international tribunal was signed.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Lebanon’s Maronite bishops had harsh words for those responsible for ‘Black Tuesday’ and ‘Black Thursday’, which in their opinion, were attempts to prevent the Paris donors conference from achieving its goals.

The implicit but obvious criticism came in a statement released at the end of the bishops’ monthly meeting in Bkerke, which usually takes place every first Wednesday of the month, chaired by Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir.

In their press release the bishops renewed their appeal for a dialogue between the various parties to the current crisis, and thanked Christian leaders from both sides of the political divide for accepting the “Bkerke Pact”.

They also expressed their appreciation for the January 25 Paris conference which Lebanon’s opposition parties had attacked. They thanked all those countries that offered their support to Lebanon, which in their view is a reflection of the “interest and privileged place Lebanon has in these countries.” They were particularly grateful to French President Jacques Chirac “who did not spare any effort to help Lebanon overcome its crisis.”

For this reason, the statement, which was released in Bkerke, was critical of those Lebanese politicians who did not want to take advantage of the interest others have shown towards Lebanon.

The bishops’ statement comes on a day that saw more international action in Lebanon’s crisis. On the one hand, the United Nations and Lebanon signed an agreement to set up the international tribunal to prosecute those involved in recent political murders. On the other, the Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa met government officials in Russia to urge them to put pressure on Iran and Syria.

UN sources announced last night that an agreement on the creation of an international tribunal had been reached with the backing of all five permanent members of the Security Council (United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom and France).

The agreement, which was signed by the director general of Lebanon’s Justice Ministry, now must be ratified by the Lebanese National Assembly. However, Lebanese President Émile Lahoud has repeatedly attacked such an agreement, saying that the current government lacked the legitimacy to make any international commitment.

The Siniora government has to get parliament’s approval for its agreement. Despite having the support of a majority of lawmakers, it remains at the mercy of parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri (who heads the Shia Amal movement) who so far has refused to reconvene the assembly.

The problem is that the decision to set up an international tribunal is the mostly likely reason for the current crisis. When the Lebanese cabinet approved the decision its Shia members resigned and President Lahoud opposed it.

The UN inquiry into the wave of political murders, starting with that of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, has pointed the finger at high officials in the secret services of Lebanon and Syria. At the time Syria was still occupying its neighbour.

As part of this international effort at finding a solution, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa traveled to Moscow. His unstated goal is to get Russia to lean on Syria and Iran to sway their allies in Lebanon’s opposition towards greater flexibility to find a way out of the current situation.

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See also
Time is short before situation in Lebanon gets worse, says Moussa
Beirut hopeful following Saudi-Iranian summit
Signs of progress and reconciliation in Lebanon, says Amr Moussa
Doha agreement, a compromise at the right time
Some rays of hope for peace and reconciliation in Beirut


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