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French Version

March 14 accuses rivals of trying to block Suleiman

Fneish reiterates need for probe into shootings

March 14 politicians lashed out at the opposition on Thursday for criticizing Lebanese Armed Forces commander General Michel Suleiman , accusing their rivals of engineering recent events in a bid to discredit Suleiman and pave the way for introducing an alternative candidate for the presidency.

Meanwhile, the exact date of Arab League chief Amr Moussa's return to Lebanon to resume his mediation efforts toward resolving the presidential crisis remains unclear.

Abdel-Rahman al-Solh, the Arab League ambassador in Beirut, told The Daily Star that "nothing is certain yet, no date has been set for his return," but added that it was very likely Moussa would return before February 11, the scheduled date for a parliamentary session to elect a new president.

Youth and Sports Minister Ahmad Fatfat, in an interview with Kuwaiti newspaper As-Siyassa, accused the opposition of plunging the army into the midst of internal strife to justify their opposition to Suleiman's candidacy.

"The opposition succeeded in plunging the army into internal strife so it could claim the army was taking sides and General Suleiman was no longer suitable as a compromise candidate," Fatfat said.

Fatfat said from that time the opposition began its attacks against the government.

In a statement Thursday, Democratic Gathering MP Antoine Saad lambasted some Hizbullah MPs and their allies, whom he called "tools of the Syrian regime" for assailing the army and its commander.

"The systematic attack against the army command not only targets the army's commander as a candidate for the presidency but targets the military establishment as a whole. Those who have forces trained in Iran and possess rockets and the latest weaponry have no need for a national army," Saad said in reference to Hizbullah.

He added that the attacks against Suleiman and the army were a continuation of attacks against the Maronite Patriarchate and the Maronite presidency. "One way or the other they want to topple the presidency, take away its powers, topple Bkirki's role and in turn topple the Christian role in Lebanon to enforce Wilayat al-Faqih," Saad said.

The Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation reported on Thursday that Politburo member Ghaleb Abu Zeinab had said there was no link between the results of investigations into Sunday's riots and Suleiman's candidacy for president.

Resigned Energy Minister Mohammad Fneish told The Daily Star Thursday that the blood of the victims who fell last Sunday must not be treated lightly nor exploited for political gain. "Suleiman has a mission today ... to have an unambiguous, serious and transparent investigation to determine culpability and refer the guilty to the judiciary, for the country's sake and for the army's sake," Fneish said. He said there is a group that continues to try and show that the army is in a confrontation with some of its people, which was not the case.

On Thursday, Suleiman met at his office in Yarze with French Army Chief of Staff Jean-Louis Georgelin, and the two discussed ways of improving cooperation between the Lebanese and French armies. Suleiman later received Egyptian Ambassador Ahmad al-Bidyawi.

Italian Foreign Ministry envoy Cesare Ragaglini met Thursday with former President Amin Gemayel at his home in Sin al-Fil. Discussions focused on the Arab foreign ministers meetings and the constant delays in electing a new president.

Ragaglini stressed the need to elect a president, announcing that "Italian dialogue with Syria and Iran is continuing, but not at Lebanon's expense," and adding that the results of such dialogue need to "have an impact on the situation in Lebanon for such dialogue to have a future."

Ragaglini later met Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea at his home in Maarab, withChange and Reform Bloc leader MP Michel Aoun in Rabieh and parliamentary majority leader MP Saad HaririSaad-Hariri-Profile Sep-07 in Qoreitem. Hariri also met French Charge d'Affaires Andre Parant.

On Thursday Democratic Gathering leader MP Walid Jumblatt telephoned the vice president of the Higher Shiite Council, Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan, to offer his condolences for the civilian victims who fell in last Sunday's riots.

An Iranian official said Thursday that Iran and Egypt would work together to resolve the Middle East's top crises including Lebanon's.

"It has been decided that we and Egypt will work together for more coordination on regional issues such Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine," said Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri, a top adviser to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Beirut 01-02-2008
The Daily Star

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