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French Version

Hizbullah MP pays rare visit to Maronite patriarch

Hizbullah MP Mohammad Raad said on Friday that the solution to the sit-in and demonstrations in central Beirut was a proposal that corresponds with the democratic system upon which Lebanon's political structure is based.

Speaking after a rare meeting with Lebanon's influential Maronite patriarch, the head of the resistance group's bloc in Parliament said any solution "should be based on the principle of true partnership provided by the blocking minority, which each government normally includes."

The Council of Maronite Bishops, headed by Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, issued a conciliatory statement Wednesday in which it provided a "declaration of principles" for the divided Lebanese groups to follow to end the political crisis.

In his speech Thursday, Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah hailed the bishops' initiative as "positive elements that are worth considering."

Raad said the delegation's meeting with Sfeir at his residence in Bkirki "very beneficial and important."

The Loyalty to the Resistance bloc delegation included MP Hassan Fadlallah and Hizbullah politburo member Ghaleb Abu Zeinab.

Addressing reporters, Raad said Hizbullah had never said "the solution lies in the streets ... Streets merely exert pressure on the ruling class so it stops monopolizing power."

"The Lebanese opposition was seeking the salvation of the Lebanese people by calling for the creation of a national unity government, which guarantees true participation of all of the country's parties," he added.

The bishops' declaration included the implementation of "a code of honor" that would apply to all parties, the creation of an international tribunal to try former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's killers, a new electoral law, and the formation of a "reconciliation" government that would hold early presidential elections.

Sfeir also met with a delegation from March 14 Forces MP Walid Jumblatt's parliamentary bloc, who came to show support for the prelate's "declaration of principles."

The Democratic Gathering delegation included MPs Henri Helou, Antoine Andraos and Fouad Saad.

"Our priority is to elect a new president, and then the establishment of a national unity government can follow," Saad said.

"Then, parliamentary elections can be held on the basis of a new electoral law agreed upon by all parties," he added.

Speaking of the opposition's call for early parliamentary elections, Saad asked: "Why do they want to go to the polls early?"

"Hizbullah agreed to conduct the 2005 elections on the basis of the 2000 electoral law ... Why ask for new elections?" he asked. "Does the party's ally, MP Michel Aoun, believe that he will once again get the number of MPs that he has today? ... I personally doubt it."

The prelate later met with MP Wael Bou Faour, also a member of Jumblatt's Democratic Gathering bloc.

"The visit was aimed at showing our full support for the patriarch's stands," Bou Faour told reporters following the meeting.

"I hope that the agreement over Bkirki's declaration will be practical rather than theoretical," he added.

The March 14 Forces MP stressed the need to return to the national dialogue, calling on politicians to stop insulting and accusing each other of betrayal.

"If they describe each other as traitors and criminals, how can they be partners in the country or in a national unity government?" he asked.

The March 14 Forces issued a statement on Thursday hailing Bkirki's declaration.

"The agreement over the declaration needs an honest dialogue among all of the country's parties," the statement said.

The statement also called on the March 8 coalition to leave the streets and stop delivering inflammatory speeches and return to dialogue within Parliament and government.

Beirut 09-12-2006
The Daily Star

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