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French Version

Siniora : Bickering making Lebanon a battlefield for regional conflicts

Siniora was speaking during an iftar held at the Grand Serail and attended by Speaker Nabih Berri, Grand Mufti Abdel-Amir Qabalan and Free Patriotic Movement leader, MP Michel Aoun, an outspoken critic of Siniora who repeatedly calls for Cabinet's resignation and for the formation of a national unity government.

It was also attended by Energy and Water Minister Mohammad Fneish and Labor Minister Tarrad Hamade, both Hizbullah representatives in Siniora's Cabinet.

Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has also been calling upon Siniora to resign and to form a national unity government to straighten political representation in the decision-making process.

"There are huge responsibilities in front of us: The first is to end political bickering and to try to avoid turning Lebanon into a battleground for external conflicts," Siniora said, adding: "At the same time we have to start building a strong, capable and democratic country ... capable of protecting the Lebanese on its own and to defend sovereignty, citizenship and dignity."

He said Lebanon is plagued with tormenting problems and conflicts, and urged politicians to respect democratic practices and exchange view points in what guarantees and ensures Lebanon's best interest.

"I am not undermining the importance or the right to express different political points of view in a democratic country where freedom of expression, especially political freedom of expression, is a sacred right," he said. "But I don't understand why these differences are expressed so harshly, in a tone that only worries the Lebanese people and does not provide them with any help or safety."

He said that what unites the Lebanese is bigger and more important than what sets them apart, mainly their love for their country, their commitment to coexistence, their commitment to their Arab identity and to the

democratic system that translates their will through free and fair democratic elections.

"This was all expressed in the Taif Accord and we should all work to implement the remaining clauses of it. There should be no conditions imposed on the country or on the democratic system," he said.

The Taif Accord is the agreement that ended Lebanon's Civil War and which calls for disarmament of all Lebanese parties.

He said the difference in opinions between politicians is mainly on the mechanism that should be adopted to ensure fair and equal participation in decision making. "I am sure we can realize the fair participation once we implement the remaining clauses of the Taif Accord and when we respect constitutional institutions," he said.

He said Lebanon is not only exposed to external dangers but also to internal ones caused by internal conflicts.

"Our country needs reconstruction of houses, lives, businesses and sources of income. It needs reconstruction of its infrastructure, of its economy. There is ahead of us a long and exhausting journey we have to go through before we become a normal country," he said.

Beirut 01-10-2006
The Daily Star

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