Syria Welcomes Jumblatt after Two-Month Ban
Lebanon's Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said Monday that he was welcome again in Syria, two months after Damascus revoked his VIP status, following his outspoken comments about the need to correct Lebanese-Syrian relations, according to a report by the Daily Star newspaper.
Jumblatt and officials from his party were declared persona non-grata in Syria on November 7, said AFP.
The Progressive Socialist Party leader said he was happy about the move, which he learned of two days earlier.
But, he remained unapologetic, and said he doubted that top Lebanese officials could do much to achieve serious dialogue on the issue, said the paper.
In November, Jumblatt's allies were informed that they and their standard-bearer were no longer welcome in the country as official guests, after he called for a serious re-appraisal of bilateral relations during a televised debate in Parliament on the government's policy statement, added the paper.
Jumblatt told The Daily Star that "(Syrian) Major General Ghazi Kenaan called me Saturday, saying that Syria is my country, and that we are friends and belong to the same family."
According to the paper, Jumblatt described the phone call, the first from a Syrian official since his VIP status was revoked, as "paving the way for an objective dialogue."
"It was a good sign after the whole row that erupted," he said. "I maintain my position; it was clear enough. I didn't ask for a Syrian withdrawal, but mentioned specific things."
Jumblatt said he had no firm plans to visit Syria, but added he had no objections to meeting with Kenaan or Syrian President Bashar Assad in the near future.
Jumblatt, who made a strong showing in legislative elections in the summer with a block of 17 deputies - three of whom became government ministers, has been keeping a low profile since the Syrian decision, said the agency -- (Several Sources)
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