10/27/2005, 00.00
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Lahoud to confer with Sfeir about future of the presidency

by Youssef Hourany

The meeting is set to take place within the next 48 hours; the patriarch does not want a "political synod" but he is ready to bless any agreement among Christians about how to reach a solution. According to sources close to the patriarchate, the cardinal "will not hold back from helping President Lahoud towards a clearer vision of reality".

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Emile Lahoud is set to discuss his future as President of the Republic with the Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir in a meeting to be held within the next 48 hours. According to some rumours, Lahoud has been implicated by the Mehlis report in accusations against Syria. Another item on the agenda of his meeting with the patriarch is prevalent "confusion" among the Lebanese people. "People are living in great confusion and they do not know where they are headed," the patriarch told AsiaNews. "People ask themselves who are the criminals and who are the innocent ones: it's true that probably the Mehlis report left some grey areas. Some say there is another report, let's wait and see!" The cardinal asked that the "office of the president" remain surrounded by an aura of respect "because the question does not depend on me, nor does it depend on others, but on the general climate of the country".

The confirmation given by Detlev Mehlis – head of the international commission of inquiry set up to look into the assassination of Rafic Hariri – that the Lebanese president does not feature on the list of suspects (according to some sources), should put an end to a campaign implying Lahoud's involvement in the plot. In a court of law, responsibility must be direct. The charge of "moral responsibility" could be used only in political and diplomatic spheres, but never in the legal sphere.

Well informed sources note that "with the wisdom and moderation which he is known for, Patriarch Sfeir will block the schemes of those hoping for the premature launch of a presidential campaign which risks regional and international interference and political changes wrought by demographic factors". Cardinal Sfeir, for his part, does not wish to hold a "political synod" with leaders in Bkerke to discuss the developing situation and Lahoud's future. He does not want to take this type of initiative, but he is ready to bless any agreement between Christians about how to attain a solution. Sources close to the patriarchate say the cardinal "will not hold back from helping President Lahoud towards a clearer vision of reality".

In the light of this situation, today the Orient Le Jour wondered "how President Lahoud can carry the two remaining years of his mandate to term in a regular manner without a minimum of national consensus about his role. If the man in question – whitewashed once again in the murder of Rafic Hariri by some passages of the Mehlis report – responds in the affirmative, the general political climate would take on another direction". According to the daily the matter will surely be at the heart of the meeting between the same president Lahoud and the patriarch.

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See also
Lebanon looks to Patriarch Sfeir during rough patch
Cardinal Sfeir says Mehlis report an important step towards truth
Lahoud under pressure to step down as inter-Lebanese meeting is set
Assad contradicts minister: Damascus "doors open" to Siniora and Hariri
National dialogue begins as bishops distance themselves from Lahoud


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