Lebanon's Patriarch Rai calls for closer ties with Iran
Lebanon is home to 900,000 Maronite Christians, making Cardinal Rai Bechara an influential figure in the country (File/AFP)
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The spiritual leader of the Maronite Christian community in Lebanon has called for the enhancement of friendly ties with Iran in line with the interests of both countries.
In a meeting with Iranian Ambassador to Beirut Ghazanfar Roknabadi on Monday, Bechara Boutros al-Rai, the head of Lebanon’s Maronite Church, underlined the Islamic Republic’s significant role in the Middle East, and said that Lebanon seeks to build the best level of ties with the Islamic Republic, as a friendly state, in line with the interests of the two countries.
He also described the presidential election in Lebanon as sensitive and important, stressing the need for different political currents in the country to reach a consensus on choosing a new president as soon as possible.
On May 15, Lebanese parliamentarians failed for a fourth time to elect a new president for the country three days before President Michel Sleiman’s term expired. The divided lawmakers agreed to make yet another effort to choose the nation’s president in a week’s time.
Under the country’s traditional religion-based power-sharing system, the president must be a Maronite Christian, a sect that is itself divided on its support for the March 8 and March 14 political groups.
Maronites number about 900,000 in Lebanon, around a quarter of the country’s population.
During his Monday meeting with al-Rai, the Iranian ambassador to Beirut, for his part, hailed the peaceful coexistence among all Lebanese groups, reaffirming Iran’s firm stance on preserving stability in the Arab country.
“What ranks first in terms of importance for the Islamic Republic of Iran is the maintenance of unity among the Lebanese people in resistance against the Zionist regime (Israel)’s occupation,” Roknabadi said.
The Iranian envoy to Beirut further stressed that Iran would spare no effort to help promote convergence among different political groups in Lebanon.