10/24/2007, 00.00
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Papal nuncio trying to get an agreement between Lebanese Christians

Vatican representative is meeting Maronite leaders to insist on the basic principles that should inform the election of the new president. A committee with members from both majority and opposition set up under the aegis of Patriarch Sfeir continues to meet to find common solutions.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – The Papal Nuncio Luigi Gatti for the past two days has been trying to bring together the leaders of the six major Christian parties in order to find a common ground to elect the new Lebanese president, a crucial step in the future of the country, local sources said. His initiative parallels what a committee (see photo) set up under the aegis of Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir has been doing. In a statement released at the end of its third meeting, the committee stressed that the qualities of the next president should match those called for by Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir and the Council of Maronite Bishops.

Quoting committee sources, the An-Nahar newspaper described the meetings, which continue today and tomorrow, as “crucial.” For L’Orient Le Jour the committee’s task is to reduce the 12-candidate list down to those who do not have the requisites that were decided yesterday.

Monsignor Gatti has already met with Samir Geagea, Michel Aoun and Amin Gemayel, and is scheduled to meet Soleiman Franjieh shortly.

He wants to quickly put an end to the unbearable media campaign that is dividing Christian leaders and add moral pressures on the various factions to agree in accordance with the constitution and democratic principles on the name of a president who will be strong and capable of maintaining national unity and committed to implementing UN Security Council resolutions.

The latter include disarming all militias, Hizbollah included, and setting up an international tribunal to judge those responsible for the country’s recent spate of political murders which began with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In addition to the committee, Christian leaders are meeting directly to work out a deal. Under Lebanese law, the president must be Christian and chosen from their ranks.

The Daily Star reports that expectations are high that a meeting between Aoun and parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri might be held in the next few days.

Hariri met with Speaker Nabih Berri for a second time late Monday night.

“We have 20 important, pivotal days and we have to succeed, we must succeed,” Berri told the As-Safir newspaper.

There is also movement at the international level following an appeal by the United Nations secretary general for a democratic election in Lebanon.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Gheit, who just met some of his European counterparts, is set to visit Beirut to offer some ideas.

The Arab League announced that it too will dispatch a high-level delegation to Lebanon next month. (PD)

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