Prime Minister Hassan Diab insisted he would not resign following a meeting with Maronite Patriarch Mar Beshara Boutros Rai Saturday.
“I will not resign because if I resign the alternative will not be found with ease,” Diab said in a televised news conference at the patriarch’s summer residence in Dimane.
Diab stressed that moving to a caretaker government “for a long period of time is a crime against the Lebanese.”
When asked about calls for Lebanon’s neutrality, Diab said that accusations that the government was a “Hezbollah government,” sounded like a “broken record.” However, the premier said that “the issue of neutrality is a political one ... and it needs a deep political dialogue by all political parties.”
“Lebanon is a point of convergence and a bridge between the East and the West,” Diab said, adding that the topic of neutrality “should be the center of dialogue between all political parties.”
“We are governed by the constitution and the sects, and Israel is an enemy and violates Lebanese sovereignty every day. We need to unite the Lebanese and there must be a dialogue in this field so that we are on the same page,” Diab said.
Rai, in comments to LBCI, said that Lebanon is “a neutral country to begin with, and the national charter stipulates neutrality and openness to all countries except Israel.”
“Neutrality is the way to live in happiness again, and we live in one vessel and this is the door to solution and salvation,” he said.
The prime minister's comments came after numerous calls made by Rai for the international community to declare Lebanon’s neutrality toward regional and global conflicts, a sensitive and contentious issue that is likely to cause further political divisions in the crisis-hit country.
Rai’s call for Lebanon’s neutrality has drawn mixed reactions. While former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and politicians from Christian blocs have generally welcomed Rai’s call, the Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, the Amal Movement and their allies have so far refrained from commenting on this call, a clear indication of their disapproval. In the past, Muslim leaders had rejected Christian calls for Lebanon’s neutrality, especially on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
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