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French Version

MPs settle in for second night of protest against Israeli siege

Qatar Airways vows to run blockade with flight on Monday

Lebanese MPs continued an open-ended sit-in Sunday for the second day in a row to protest Israel's seven-week blockade, which is still in place almost three weeks after a UN-brokered cease-fire.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who arranged for the sit-in, told local daily An-Nahar Sunday the "protest will continue day and night and I will personally sleep in Parliament until the sea and air blockade is lifted off Lebanon."

Berri launched his call for a sit-in on Thursday, inviting 128 deputies from all sides to take part in the protest at the Parliament building in Nijmeh Square until the siege is lifted.

In a letter to Arab governments Berri also "asked and insisted that all Arab planes and ships defy and break the blockade without seeking any permission from Israel."

Responding to his call, Qatar Airways announced Sunday that it will resume direct flights to Beirut Monday.

A spokeswoman from Qatar Airways said "we have asked for authorization from the Lebanese authorities and they have given it. Therefore flight QR 422 is going to go to Beirut."

The three-hour flight from Doha should therefore land in Beirut Monday at 3:30 pm.

It will make Qatar Airways "the first international carrier to make a commercial flight into Beirut since the war ended," the spokeswoman said.

The only two companies which have since the blockade been authorized to operate commercial flights to Beirut, via Amman, are Lebanon's Middle East Airlines and Royal Jordanian.

Israel imposed an air and sea blockade on Lebanon after Hizbullah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12. It has since maintained the siege despite UN and international condemnation and efforts to break it.

The Jewish state has demanded that international forces and Lebanese Army troops deploy in South Lebanon to prevent more weapons from reaching Hizbullah, which has not disarmed despite the terms of the UN text which established a truce after 34 days of fighting.

Ten MPs or so at a time will stay overnight in the building.

Berri spent Saturday night in Parliament with two ministers, Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamade and Minister of State for Administrative Development Jean Hogassapian.

Nine MPs also remained overnight from every parliamentary bloc; MP Walid Jumblatt sent MPs Akram Chehayeb and Henry Helou; Amal sent MP Nawar Sahili, MP Michel Aoun sent representatives MP Ibrahim Kenaan and MP Abdullah Farhat; MP Butros Harb represented the March 14 Forces; MP Atef Majdalani the Future Movement and MP George Adwan the Lebanese Forces. Independent MP Pierre Dakkash was also present.

"The continuation of the siege will stifle Resolution 1701 and lead to its violation. It will also have negative repercussions on the rebuilding process," Berri said.

UN Security Council Resolution 1701 called for a cease-fire between Israel and Hizbullah which took place on August 14 after 34 days of fighting.

During Sunday's sit-in session Berri briefed MPs on the outcome of a series of suggestions he had proposed during Saturday's opening session of the protest to pressure Israel.

He said heads of parliamentary unions reacted positively to letters he sent them and there will be an urgent meeting in Jordan in the coming few days.

He also dispatched parliamentary delegations to meet with the Beirut ambassadors of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the envoys of Arab countries that have relations with Israel to use their influence to end the siege.

Berri said that all ambassadors condemned the blockade as a violation of Resolution 1701 and supported Lebanese calls to end it.

Another proposal was to urge representatives of Arab countries at the Security Council to call for an immediate session to demand lifting the blockade.

Premier Fouad Siniora also participated Saturday in the sit-in and informed US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a telephone conversation that "the Israeli blockade of Lebanon is no longer acceptable."

Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh said Lebanon was taking steps to lift the blockade, adding it would take escalatory measures until the goal is achieved.

"The blockade is in violation of Resolution 1701, and we have taken steps to make sure it is lifted," Salloukh said in a statement on Sunday.

Beirut 04-09-2006
Nada Bakri
The Daily Star

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