2014-02-06 13:01:37

Lebanon: Maronite Patriarch urges resumption of national dialogue, neutrality towards Syria conflict

(Vatican Radio) Maronite Catholic Patriarch Beshara Rai is warning that his country, Lebanon, may fall into “an abyss” if people and politicians fail to work together to build coexistence and a strong government. In a National Charter issued Wednesday after a meeting of the Council of Maronite Bishops, the Patriarch addressed the rising tensions and political deadlock which have gripped Lebanon in recent months. The Lebanese cardinal said the Church cannot merely stand by and watch as the country nears an “existential crisis.”
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In the memorandum, described as a “road map” forward, Patriarch Rai called for the election “within the constitutional deadline” of May of a new President to replace Michel Suleiman as a prerequisite for a strong and credible state.

The Patriarch said the paralysis of state institutions has prevented the smooth transition of power, and pointed in particular to the failure to agree on a fair electoral law, to hold timely parliamentary elections, and to the inability to form governments.

Parliament extended its term for 17 months last June after rival parties failed to agree on the new election law.

He also warned that power-hungry politicians are implicating Lebanon in regional conflicts and reiterated his call to adopt “positive neutrality” toward the turmoil.

This, against a backdrop of rising Sunni-Shia tensions and terrorist attacks as each community takes sides over Syria’s conflict next door. The Shia militant group Hezbollah, also part of the Lebanese government, has sent its own fighters to support Syrian President Bashar Assad’s war against the mostly Sunni opposition.

The Patriarch urged a resumption of national dialogue to resolve the current crisis and called for a “speedy resolution to the crisis” in Syria, saying this, and the return of more the more than one million Syrian refugees to their homes, are “vital Lebanese interests.”

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