Pro-Damascus Lebanese Christians to Form New Front amid Heated Debate over Syrian Presence
Efforts are underway to form a Christian front that would group MPs and ministers loyal to the political establishment and try to serve as a link between the state and Maronite Patriarchs who are campaigning against the Syrian presence in Lebanon, reported the Daily Star on Friday.
The paper said that ministers Elias Murr, Suleiman Franjieh, and Jean-Louis Qordahi and western Bekaa MP Robert Ghanem met earlier this week to discuss the issue, with a second session expected next week. They will later ask other Christian politicians to join them.
Government sources involved in the project told the paper that the front would likely see the light of day by the beginning of May. As a first step, it would mainly be constituted of MPs who received backing from the authorities during last year’s parliamentary elections, having contested them on lists backed by the state.
The politicians are also on good terms with Bkirki, east Beirut where the Maronite church headquarters are located, as they share some, but not all, opinions voiced by the Maronite patriarch, Nasrallah Sfeir. Therefore, as one source put it, “the front will work under the (political) ‘ceiling of Bkirki’ but not commit itself to all of the patriarch’s points of view.”
Meanwhile, Sfeir continued with his heated statements against pro-Syrians in the country, amid a debate that has taken a sectarian shape.
The government, Hizbollah and Amal movements insist that the 35,000 Syrian troops stationed in the country are necessary to curb Israeli aggression against Lebanon, meanwhile Christian groups argue that the Syrian presence should have ended with the Israeli withdrawal from the occupied zone in the south in May, 2000.
The Daily Star quoted Sfeir in a separate story as saying that Lebanon has always lived in danger and that he advocated friendship with all people, “if they want to
Apparently, the Maronite leader was responding to remarks by Hizbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah and other advocates of Syria who have said that Lebanon will be in danger under a vacuum left behind the Syrians in case of their withdrawal.
In Syria, the ruling Baath party newspaper on Friday recalled Damascus' role in ending the 1975-1990 war in Lebanon, and stressed the importance of solidarity against Israel.
"The world has witnessed how Syria succeeded with the skill and courage of president Hafez al-Assad to foil the plot that targeted Lebanon as well as the Arabs as a whole," wrote al-Baath -- Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)