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French Version

Fadlallah, Qabalan demand army inquiry into Sunday's shootings

Sfeir, Qabbani warn problems cannot be solved through protests

Senior Shiite cleric Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah demanded Monday that the Lebanese Army launch an inquiry into Sunday's riots which left eight people dead and 28 others wounded. The Lebanese Army "must clarify as soon as possible" the events of Sunday "so that matters will not escalate as a result of the state of political turmoil and public discontent," Fadlallah said in a statement.

"We fear that matters might spin out of control because of the state of political and security chaos."

Even though the violence evolved from a protest against electricity rationing, tensions have been rising within Lebanon's Shiite community against the backdrop of a domestic political crisis and regional tensions between Sunnis and Shiites stemming from sectarian conflict in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003.

Fadlallah on Sunday said US President George W. Bush should go on trial for lying to the world about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.

"President Bush ... should be seen by the world as an apostle of lies and a preacher of destruction and terrorism," said a statement from Fadlallah.

Sunday's was the highest death toll for a street disturbance since the country plunged into a crisis three years ago with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a turning point in Lebanese politics that sparked local and international outrage and forced the Syrian Army to withdraw from the country after 29 years.

Meanwhile, the vice president of the Higher Shiite Council, Shekih Abdel-Amir Qabalan, urged the army to conduct a "quick but not hasty investigation into Sunday's riots."

"Perpetrators ought to be uncovered so as to ease tensions," Qabbani said in a statement Monday.

The Higher Shiite Council is expected to hold an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday to discuss the events on Sunday.

He also called on the Lebanese "to exercise self-restraint and not be carried away by strong emotions."

"Let us all be patient and realistic," he said.

Qabalan also urged feuding groups to reach a solution to the political standoff, saying: "Only the election of a new head of state and the formation of a national unity government will defuse tensions and talk some sense into angry Lebanese."

Also commenting on Sunday's riots, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir said Monday that riots and street protests were a mistake.

"Problems cannot be solved through street [protests], but rather inside constitutional institutions," he said.

Sfeir also stressed the need to speed up presidential election to be followed by the formation of a national unity government.

His remarks came after a meeting with a delegation of lawyers representing the ruling March 14 coalition.

The delegation quoted Sfeir as condemning the riots and asking "the Lord" not to allow chaos to spread in Lebanon.

Sfeir was also quoted as stressing the need to restore unity among the Lebanese.

Echoing Sfeir, Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani said the Lebanese should resort to constitutional institutions rather than the street to demand their rights.

"Street protests and the burning of tires only led to death and chaos," he added. "Resorting to the street will lead us nowhere. Only constitutional institutions guarantee that our rights and demands are heard."

The mufti urged all political groups to reach an agreement to end the 14-month-old impasse and elect the head of the Lebanese Armed Forces, General Michel Suleiman as president.

"An immediate solution to the crisis and the election of General Suleiman are likely to save Lebanon from plunging into further chaos," Qabbani added.

Beirut 29-01-2008
The Daily Star

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