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French Version

Aoun calls for 'true representation' as rain ruins rally

Mp accuses cabinet of 'neglect'

Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader MP Michel Aoun told an abortive rally on Sunday that Lebanon's future could only be saved by a national unity government and the establishment of "equal and fair" relations with other countries.

Addressing a press conference at a Rabieh hotel after heavy rains washed out a rally scheduled for Michel Murr Stadium in Dora, Aoun said that the "natural course" to "a strong national authority starts by forming a national unity government."

Thousands of supporters braved the wet weather to watch the former general's speech on large-screen televisions set up at the marina in Dbayyeh The FPM and its main ally, Hizbullah, have repeatedly called on the March 14 Forces-led Cabinet to resign, accusing it of corruption and a failure to meet its responsibilities during and after the recent war.

"If we want to get out of the current crisis, we must start by establishing a national authority based on true representation," Aoun said.

The FPM rally officially commemorated the former army commander's war on the Syrian presence in Lebanon, launched on August 13, 1990. The commemoration had been postponed due to the war that ended on August 14.

"The current government ... neglects people's needs ... and spreads corruption in the country," Aoun said. "This government doesn't represent the Lebanese and it doesn't bring them comfort ... It takes critical decisions unilaterally and annuls the role of monitoring institutions.

"They tell you that if the government is changed the country will fall into political void, but in reality you are living this void through a ministerial statement that was not executed."

The MP also dismissed international support extended to the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

"It is in vain that some cling to the legitimacy of this authority by claiming that the world's countries deal with it and recognize it," he said.

"We know that these countries have always dealt and continue to deal with de-facto regimes without being able to give them legitimacy. The legitimacy of authority springs from the people's will.

"I warn them against wasting their last window of opportunity to build this nation, which has to pass through the path of forming a national unity government," he added.

Aoun also reiterated his call for the drafting of a new electoral law to "ensure true representation of powers on the ground" and early elections to form a new Parliament, which would then "elect a president who would form a new government in accordance with the Constitution and customs."

The MP has repeatedly expressed his desire to hold the Lebanese presidency.

"Building the state and its reform," he argued, "occurs by strengthening the rule of the law, through the principle of separation of powers ... It is impossible for a state to be built on corruption and bribery."

Aoun also called for normalized relations with Syria based on mutual respect and equality.

"This calls for emphasizing the Lebanese nationality of Shebaa Farms and a total demarcation of the borders between both countries and monitoring it," he said.

As for the status of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Aoun declared that the "failure of the international community to find a solution allowing the Palestinian refugees to return to their land will not cause Lebanon to transform their temporary status in Lebanon into a permanent one."

He called for the establishment of a "serious and prompt dialogue with the Palestinian Authority and its representatives in Lebanon to find a final and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue."

Any such solution, he continued, must ensure "decent living conditions inside the camps and adopting necessary measures to allow free movement of Palestinians inside and outside of Lebanon" and solve "the issue of Palestinian arms since they are not justified and have actually become a national concern."

Aoun said that Hizbullah's weapons were also "temporary."

"We are looking for a proper frame to end the role of these arms," he said.

"It is Lebanon's right as a sovereign, free and independent state to utilize all means to defend its land and its people against any aggression or interference in its internal affairs," he added.

Aoun also urged his followers to embrace democracy and encourage non-violence.

"The need for reform and change is growing across the country," he said, in reference to the FPM's Reform and Change parliamentary bloc.

"From this point, we believe in democracy as a base for ruling and a lifestyle," he said. "We stress a modern Arabism that is open and interactive with all cultures. And we consider that Lebanon has a role in spreading the culture of peace in its region and the rest of the world."

Beirut 16-10-2006
Jim Quilty
The Daily Star

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