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French Version

Geagea apologizes for LF's wartime 'mistakes'

But 'only god can judge us'

Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea apologized on Sunday for "mistakes" committed by members of his party during the 1975-1990 Civil War.

"I fully apologize for all the mistakes that we committed when we were carrying out our national duties during past Civil War years," he said.

"I ask God to forgive and so I ask the people whom we hurt in the past," he added.

Speaking before tens of thousands of his supporters who gathered in Jounieh, north of Beirut, for a memorial ceremony for LF members killed during political violence in Jounieh, Geagea accused his political rivals of "exploiting past mistakes" that were committed by the LF.

"I want to tell those who are exploiting our past mistakes to stop doing so because only God can judge us," he said.

Geagea said that Christian unity was not possible in light of sharp differences over political principles and values among Christian leaders, hinting at his main rival, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun.

"I know that every one of you is longing to see Christian unity and reconciliation," he said. "This is also our aim, but the question: Over what values shall we unite?"

"Shall we unite over Hizbullah's possession of arms at the expense of the Lebanese state?"

"Shall we unite over investigating the Lebanese Army command for sending the helicopter in which First Lieutenant Samer Hanna was shot in the Sejod Hills?"

"Shall we unite over changing Lebanon into the only battlefield in the Arab-Israeli conflict while many others are negotiating with Israel?" Geagea asked as the crowd chanted anti-Aoun, anti-Hizbullah, and anti-Syrian slogans.

However, the LF chief added that Christian unity was the key to saving Lebanon, urging all Christians to take the right decision in next year's parliamentary elections.

"I call on the Christians who are against the Lebanese Forces or against me personally, to put Lebanon's interests ahead of personal interests," he said. "We can only save Lebanon when the people of Lebanon as a whole and Christians in particular unite over the historic principles of Christians in Lebanon."

He accused Christian members of the March 8 alliance of dropping the slogan, "my nation is always right" and replacing it with a slogan that says "Syria and Hizbullah are always right."

Geagea said that both the Doha Accord and the ministerial statement of the new government stipulate that the state was the sole authority on defense issues. "We cannot accept that Hizbullah wants to maintain its arms until the liberation of Palestine and the resolution of the Middle East conflict," he said.

Geagea also argued against Hizbullah's claim that it should maintain its arms until the state acquires the necessary capabilities to defend Lebanon.

The event was attended by several senior officials, including Finance Minister Mohammad Shatah, representing Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, and former President Amin Gemayel.

President Michel Sleiman, who left for New York Sunday, contacted Geagea to offer his condolences. Parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri also congratulated him for the "success" of the memorial ceremony.

Beirut 22-09-2008
The Daily Star

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