12/18/2006, 00.00
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Sfeir: time to end Hezbollah sit-in in Beirut

Assad’s visit to Moscow has come under the spotlight: he and Putin will discuss ways out of the Middle East crisis and the international court set to try the murder of Hariri.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – It is time to put a stop to the opposition sit-in that has blocked the centre of Beirut since 1 December, because it is harming the economy. “Unchecked” gatherings taking place throughout the sit-in should also be stopped because “they could endanger the family”. On the eve of the return of the Secretary of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, to Beirut, the Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir expressed his opposition to the continuation of a protest that is damaging the nation’s already sorely tried economy.

Apart from internal developments of the situation – yesterday two pro-government rallies were held in Chouf – attention today focused on the visit of the Syrian President Bashar al Assad to Moscow. Lebanese dailies devoted their front pages to the trip, emphasizing that Assad’s visit to Putin came three days after the Russian president met the head of the Lebanese government Fouad Siniora. Officially dedicated to the “difficult situation in the Middle East and ways to overcome the crisis”, the meeting between Assad and Putin has political rather than economic aims, according to Evgeny Posukhov, a Russian diplomat in Damascus. Lebanese sources said one item on the agenda will be the international tribunal – backed by Russia at the UN headquarters – to try those responsible for the murder of ex-Lebanese premier, Rafic Hariri, and other political crimes perpetrated in the country of the cedars since 2004. Pro-Syrian groups in Beirut, including the President of the Republic, Emile Lahoud, have expressed several reservations about the formation of such a tribunal. Lahoud yesterday voiced his support for the candidature of Michel Aoun, a Christian leader allied with Hezbollah, for the highest position in the State. Lahoud exhorted Aoun to remain “steadfast” in his stands.  “I support the opposition because it has the political values in which I believe,” Lahoud told Al-Aalam television.

As for Cardinal Sfeir, at the end of yesterday’s Sunday mass, which was dedicated to the family, he warned against “unchecked mixed gatherings” that were taking place during the sit-in. “We have been told that some participants of the sit-in have forbidden their children to spend the night in the centre: they are wise,” he said. “In any case, it is time to put an end to this harmful situation, which is especially damaging to the economy of the country. Have the leaders of these manifestations forgotten that families have come to the point of a very big crisis? We pray for the success of the mediators and a return to normality.”

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See also
UN renews calls for militia disarmament in tormented Lebanon
Decision to set up international tribunal greeted with fireworks and bombs
Time is short before situation in Lebanon gets worse, says Moussa
Bishops condemn "confusion" reigning in Lebanon
Fear and disappointment in Lebanon over Assad's bitter words


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