Lebanese Government Calls for Dialogue to Resolve Tension over Syrian Presence
The Lebanese government said Thursday dialogue was the only way to resolve the "extreme tension" in the country, mainly stemming from a heated debate over Syria's military presence.
"Undoubtedly, the situation in the country in the last few days has reached the limits of extreme tension," Information Minister Ghazi Aridi was quoted by AFP after a weekly cabinet session attended by President Emile Lahoud.
"Everybody is now convinced that the right way is dialogue among all parties in a calm, rational manner and through the adequate channels, and chiefly through the president," Aridi said.
"This has been witnessed in the last few days and hours, and this is why there is optimism," he added.
Tensions have been high on the eve of the 26th anniversary Friday of Lebanon's devastating 1975-1990 sectarian civil war.
Aridi said "channels were open" with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, since September the main voice behind rising calls for Syria to withdraw its 35,000 troops from Lebanon.
Such calls have been countered by angry responses from the heads of Lebanon's Muslim communities, mainly by Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, chief of Hizbollah, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, head of Amal Shiite movement and Sunni Mufti Mohammad Kabbani.
A group of extremist pro-government Sunni Muslims, Al Ahbash, took to the streets Wednesday with batons and other light weapons to protest the anti-Syrian campaign.
Aridi said Lahoud met earlier Thursday with prominent Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a former close ally of Syria who has since called for more balanced relations with Damascus.
He said the two "agreed that problems can only be resolved through dialogue."
Aridi said Lahoud called at the cabinet session for "dismissing divisions and tensions" and "national unity and cooperation to resolve the socioeconomic problem."
Sfeir is due to deliver a speech Friday on the occasion of Easter, expected to have a moderate tone, analysts have said.
Sfeir met Thursday with pro-Syrian Christian minister of heath Suleiman Franjeyyeh, who is mediating between the government and Sfeir – Albawaba.com
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