05/30/2007, 00.00
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National unity government, a new president and elections are needed, says Cardinal Sfeir

Maronite patriarch meets Lebanese president who proposes a new six-member cabinet, one for each major religious community. In an interview, patriarch talks about the need to set up the international tribunal despite attempts to prevent it by actions like those in Nahr el-Bared.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – In an interview with French daily La Croix published a day after he met Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, Maronite Patriarch Card Nasrallah Sfeir said that a good solution to the ongoing crisis in Lebanon has to include a new government of national unity, the election of a new president and the adoption of a new electoral law followed by fresh elections.

President Lahoud met the patriarch to discuss a proposal that would include a new ‘national salvation’ cabinet made up of six members, one for each of the country’s main religious communities, which would stay in office to guarantee the election of a new head of state.

“The current government is doing what it can to maintain order. [But] there is need for a government of national unity, one that would allow us to overcome the present difficult period,” the cardinal said.

The present moment is indeed difficult, for it now includes what is going on in Nahr-El-Bared, where extremists belonging to Fatah al-Islam are holding out against the army. For the prelate the members of this group are “outlaws, mercenaries who came to the country in order to destabilise it. Someone is giving them money and weapons and this is simply not tolerable.”

For the patriarch, the creation of an international tribunal to look into the various political murders that plunged the country in its present crisis —beginning with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri—partly explains the situation. Indeed, the issue is expected to be discussed today in the United Nations Security Council.

“There are people and states who do not want it [the tribunal]. The stand-off in Nahar El-Bared was provoked by those who hoped to prevent the creation of the tribunal and stop any national agreement,” he explained.

“In 2005 there were 14 attacks. If those who perpetrated them feel safe, they will continue. The tribunal is all there is to thwart their shady goals. Some say it will provoke disorder in the country, but there is already disorder. Killing continues.”

As for the presidency, a post traditionally reserved to the Christian community, the patriarch said he was still hopeful that, despite being divided between the ruling coalition and the opposition, Maronite leaders might find some common ground “as long as they don’t attack each other, which sadly happens.”

Under the circumstance, the best course of action for Cardinal Sfeir would be to choose someone from neither camp. “Even it is not easy, it would be the best solution.”

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See also
Sfeir: national reconciliation, support for the army, militia disarmament
Welch leaves Beirut confirming US support for Siniora and international tribunal
Maronite bishops urge Christian leaders to reconcile
Maronite bishops want parliament re-convened before crisis turns into popular unrest
Political crisis threatens social peace, says Sfeir


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