National Welcome for Lebanon’s Maronite Cardinal
Lebanese Christian movements opposing Syria's military presence in the country have called for a huge "national" welcome home for Christian Maronite Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir on his return Tuesday from a five-week trip to the United States and Canada, said reports.
"The positions spelt out by Monseigneur Sfeir during his tour were on behalf of all of Lebanon, with its Christians and its Muslims, and we insist the welcome prepared for him should be overwhelmingly national in character," said a statement from the coordination council which groups these movements.
"We call on all other political movements favoring Lebanon's independence and sovereignty to stick to nationalist slogans with no sign of differences between them," the statement said, cited by the Daily Star newspaper Monday.
During his trip, Sfeir, patriarch of the largest Christian community in Lebanon, called repeatedly for "the recovery of the independence and sovereignty" of Lebanon, calling in particular for the departure of the 35,000 Syrian troops.
Sfeir was quoted by the Arabic daily As-Safier as taking a moderate stand.
“Differences cannot be settled by swords and artillery,” he said, calling for non-violent protests against the Syrian presence which he described as a “mandate.”
On Saturday, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri urged that the issue of Syria's military presence not be discussed in a tense atmosphere, referring to the calls by anti-Syrian Christian parties to welcome Sfeir on his return Tuesday, according to AFP.
"The Syrian army will leave Lebanon eventually ... but the question cannot be discussed in the tense atmosphere it has generated in the country, which is hostile to the Syrian army and also to the Syrian people", he said in an interview with the private TV network Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBCI).
"We need a bit of time for things to come back to normal and to find a common ground, because I don't think that what is happening now can have positive results", he was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, Labor Minister Ali Qanso called on the Maronite Church to “remain in the current of (national) unification,” and not turn the arrival of Sfeir into an event that could be “exploited for sectarian interests,” the Daily Star quoted him as saying.
The Patriarchate said Sunday that the prelate he would arrive at the airport at 4pm before going to Bkirki 30 minutes later.
It urged well-wishers to bring only national flags and portraits of Sfeir to the occasion, said the paper.
Jbeil MPs Fares Soueid and Nazem Khoury called for the participation of all parties, said the paper.
Soueid stressed the importance of seeing well-wishers maintain order, adding that Lebanese wanted ties with Syria to be based on mutual respect – Albawaba.com
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