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French Version

Lebanese spiritual summit yields joint call for peace

Sleiman urges 'national dialogue aimed at consolidating the unity of the country'

President Michel Sleiman and Lebanese spiritual leaders sent a message of peace on Tuesday after several days of violence in the country.

Leaders of Lebanon's religious groups met at the Presidential Palace to try to boost national reconciliation after dozens died in sectarian fighting last month and fresh clashes this week.

"You are meeting here to tell everybody that this nation is based on peace," Sleiman told Muslim and Christian dignitaries at Baabda Palace.

"We all have to worry because Lebanon is under threat of losing its message in the world ... Lebanese politicians must be encouraged to become messengers of peace," he said.

"I hope this summit will lay down the basis of a national dialogue aimed at consolidating the unity of the country," the president added.

Fierce clashes in Beirut and other parts of the country in May that killed 65 people raised fears of all-out conflict in Lebanon.

Sleiman, who organized the meeting, told delegates that "differences between Lebanese have led them to the brink of suicide" and called for dialogue "before it is too late."

This week in the Northern city of Tripoli, sectarian fighting killed eight people and wounded 45, threatening to derail an accord to end a protracted political crisis in Lebanon.

The agreement, reached in Qatar in May, led to Sleiman's election as president, ending a six-month period when the country had no head of state.

The accord also called for the formation of a unity government to end 18 months of political paralysis.

This, however, has been delayed because of squabbles in sharing out ministries between the parliamentary majority and the opposition.

Sleiman said the country's political and religious leaders must not turn a blind eye to the problem but instead find a starting point to solve the crisis and heal the wounds.

"Politicians must assume their national responsibility in this critical period which the country is going through, even if that demands sacrifices and concessions," he added.

Those attending the meeting represented most of Lebanon's 18 religious communities.

The meeting's final statement condemned the violence which rocked the country and stressed the need to adhere to the Doha accord, which "prohibits recourse to weapons to achieve political objectives and encourages the rival parties to settle their differences within the constitutional institutions of the Lebanese state."

"All parties should settle their disputes through dialogue, keeping in mind that national interests should take priority to all other secondary interests."

The statement highlighted the role of the military and other security forces in preserving security and stability in the country, adding that there cannot be any economic progress in the absence of stability.

The statement also stressed the importance of preserving civil peace and enhancing the state's authority and sovereignty over all Lebanese territories.

"Diversity is Lebanon's special trait and should be respected by all parties," it said.

The statement called on all parties to cooperate with Sleiman to help him unify national ranks and emphasized the roles of the Parliament and the potential government, adding that any delay in forming the unity government would slow down the pace of the new mandate.

The statement also called on all media "to stay away from all forms of sectarian incitement, which contradicts religious and ethical values."

"Like the media, politicians should also abide to ethical principles in their rhetoric," it said.

The spiritual leaders thanked all friendly states that stood by Lebanon during its recent political crisis and praised the different parties engaged in the efforts that paved the way for the Doha accord on May 21.

They also called for the liberation of remaining Israel-occupied territories, referring in particular to the Shebaa Farms, an area where the borders of Lebanon, Syria and Israel meet.

Israel seized the Farms at the same time it captured the adjoining Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 war.

Beirut claims the territory with the consent of Damascus, but determining the territory's official identity requires a border demarcation between Lebanon and Syria.

Who was there for baabda gathering

Following is a list of clerics at Tuesday's spiritual summit:

Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir; Greek Orthodox Patriarch Igantius IV; Melchite Patriarch Gregorios III; Armenian Orthodox Catholicos Aram Kichichian; Patriarch of the Catholic Armenians and Katholikos of Cilicia Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni; Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Zakka Iwas; guardian of the Syriac Catholic Archdiocese in Lebanon Matti Mattoka; Chaldean Monsignor Michel Kassarji; Paul Dahdah, bishop of the Latin rite in Lebanon; Assyrian Archbishop Narsai Debaz; head of Coptic Church in Lebanon and Syria Metropolitan Philopateer Ava Bishoy; Reverend Selim Sehiun,head of the Evangelical Church in Syria and Lebanon; Sunni Grand Mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani; vice president of the Higher Shiite Council Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan; and Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Naim Hassan.

The following figures represented the Christian-Islamic Dialogue Committee at the same summit:

Committee secretary general and Maronite Patriarchate representative Hareth Chehab; Dar al-Fatwa representative Mohammad al-Sammak; Higher Shiite Council representative Ali al-Hassan; the chancellor of the Armenian Prelacy of Lebanon, Jean Salmanian; Greek Orthodox Patriarchate representative Michel Abs; and Greek Catholic Patriarchate representative Camille Menassa.

Beirut 25-06-2008
The Daily Star

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