Lebanon’s Christian Parties Call for Anti-Syrian Leaders' Return
Three Christian opposition parties called Thursday for a government of national unity in order to ensure the return from exile of one anti-Syrian Christian leader and the release from jail of another.
A joint committee of the outlawed Lebanese Forces (LF), the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Free National Current (FNC) called in a statement published Thursday for the return of former prime minister Michel Aoun and the release from jail of LF Commander Samir Geagea.
"The best way to achieve this is the formation of a true government of national unity" after the current cabinet resigns at the new parliament's inaugural session next month, the statement said.
Geagea was arrested in 1994 and the LF was broken up after he was accused of ordering an attack on a church, which left 11 dead. The attack was said to have been carried out to trigger a Christian reaction against the authorities in Lebanon, which is dominated by Syria.
Geagea was cleared of responsibility for that attack but was sentenced to death for other charges, including the 1990 murder of former PNL leader Dany Chamoun and his family. His sentences were commuted to life imprisonment.
The other anti-Syrian Christian leader, former prime minister and General Aoun, has been living in exile in Paris since 1991.
Aoun was driven out of the presidential palace in 1990 by combined Syrian-Lebanese forces and "banished" the same year for five years. Since then he has refused to return to Lebanon, for fear of being prosecuted and jailed.
The Progressive Socialist Party, headed by Druze leader and MP Walid Joumblatt, issued a statement Wednesday calling for "a complete reconciliation."
"The return of the exiled from abroad is based on the importance of reconciliation and participation, whatever the nature of the reasons behind their exile or self-exile," said the PSP, which scored a landslide victory in several districts in the parliamentary elections that ended last Sunday.
Former Lebanese president Amin Gemayel also called Wednesday for Aoun's return and Geagea's release, saying he was "the victim of a political sentence."
Gemayel, who was president from 1982 to 1988 at the height of the country's civil war, returned from exile a month ago. His son Pierre has just been elected to parliament – BEIRUT (AFP)
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