10/01/2008, 00.00
LEBANON
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Those who want to bring evil to Lebanon still active, say Maronite bishops

New electoral law was approved yesterday. It is excluded expats, the 18-to-21 and quotas for women. The Maronite League is sponsoring a meeting this Friday for reconciliation among Christian leaders.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – In a “calm and constructive” atmosphere Lebanon’s parliament adopted a new electoral law late last night, an atmosphere that the Maronite League hopes will prevail in a meeting of Maronite MPs that should prepare for inter-Christian reconciliation, but one that Maronite bishops together for their monthly meeting do not see across the country. In their view the country still lacks the necessary cooperation to lead it out of its current crisis and back to a normal situation where people can live and work in peace, said their press release.

Thus three events marked Lebanon’s political life today, made tense by the arrest and then release of a Lebanese shepherd by Syrian soldiers on the Lebanese side of the border with Syria.

A new electoral was part of the Doha agreement that ended months of political crisis. It redraws electoral districts but does not lower the voting age from 21 to 18 or introduce a quota for women (currently only six out 128). Under the new law Lebanese expatriates will be allowed to vote, but only in 2013, but voting now will be held on a single day. The law also lays down rules about spending, media, ballots and the identity papers voters will need to cast their ballot. Still not every issue has been settled.

In the press release read by Mgr Youssef Tawk at the end of the meeting of the Maronite Bishops Council, no opinion was expressed about the new election law.

The communiqué began by condemning the Tripoli blast that killed seven people. For Lebanon’s Maronite bishops the attack shows that people who want to bring evil to Lebanon are still active.

In this atmosphere politicians of every stripe should encourage calm and strengthen the spirit of reconciliation. They ought to renew their efforts to bring the country back to normalcy, reduce its huge debt and allow people to lead a normal life.

This is also what the Maronite League wants to do by promoting reconciliation among Christian politicians. Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir referred to it at the end of a surprise visit to the Lebanese president (see photo). “We shall not spare our efforts to reach reconciliation," Sfeir said.

Whilst expressing hope that Christians “would sit together because other sects have achieved reconciliation,” he did not underestimate the difficulties ahead.

For his part a Lebanese Forces leader told NOW Lebanon not to expect any major breakthrough in the upcoming meeting. He said that as much as the patriarchate’s action was important, “others” were not yet willing to put aside their partisan and electoral interests in favour of Christian reconciliation. (PD)

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