Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri has invited General Michel Aoun, an anti-Syrian Christian leader living in exile in France since 1990, to return to Lebanon and guaranteed that he would not be arrested.
"I guarantee that he will not be arrested. We are not considering his arrest. If it was proven that he embezzled public funds, he would have to return them, and perhaps he did not embezzle anything," Hariri said in an interview late Tuesday with the state television Tele-Liban.
Hariri however said it was currently impossible to release Samir Geagea, the former commander of the Christian Lebanese Forces militia who is serving several life sentences since 1994, "even if President Emile Lahoud grants him a special pardon."
"Some issues are still under examination by the justice and nothing can be tangibly done pertaining to this case before the end of lawsuits filed against him," said Hariri.
On December 18, Hariri had already called on Aoun to return home and resume political activities in Lebanon.
On Wednesday, Aoun criticized "some Lebanese officials," without naming them, mainly because they opposed sending the army to the borders with Israel, which pulled out from southern Lebanon in May after 22 years of occupation.
The reasons given by the Lebanese officials "constitute an insult to military thought and military academies from where they have graduated," Aoun said in remarks published by Beirut dailies.
Aoun has repeatedly said that despite the end of his five-year exile he would not return to Lebanon without guarantees that he would not be prosecuted.
Aoun headed a government of Christian military officials between 1988 and 1990 who carried out a "war of liberation against Syria" before being ousted by a Syrian-led military coalition.
He was later accused of "abuse of power" and "wasting state funds."
An examining magistrate is still in charge of Aoun's legal file at the Judicial Council, a court whose verdicts are not subject to appeals -- BEIRUT (AFP)
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