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French Version

March 14 forces rekindle call for Lahoud's resignation

In the face of the "Syrian regime's war on Lebanon," the forces of March 14 have rekindled their demands for the resignation of President Emile Lahoud, in addition to the removal of all members of the former security regime.

After a meeting on Monday at the Bristol Hotel, the forces once known as the Bristol Gathering issued a statement titled "The Freedom Intifada."

The statement called on the government "to quickly make new security appointments and remove all the security officers who served under the old security regime, and who are still in their positions ... in addition to all the investigating magistrates and public prosecutors who formed the former regime's judiciary system."

The participants in the meeting, which included MPs and ministers from the Future Movement, Progressive Socialist Party, Lebanese Forces and Phalange Party, insisted the "Taif Accord should be the only reference to reflect the agreement of the Lebanese over building their national government."

The statement also called for dialogue with Hizbullah and Amal, as well as the Free Patriotic Movement, which was noticeably absent from the meeting.

In response to the latest internal row in the Cabinet, in which the Shiite bloc suspended their participation in the government, MP Samir Franjieh said "the Taif Accord should be applied," which stipulates the government subject critical decisions to a vote when a unanimous agreement can not be reached.

"We should engage in a dialogue with the other parties over how to interpret the Taif Accord," Franjieh added.

Asked about the conditions for the dialogue, particularly as both Amal and Hizbullah refuse to blame Syria for the assassinations, Franjieh said "the points of accord are numerous."

However, the MP noted the UN probe into the assassination of Premier Rafik Hariri, for which the Shiite parties have expressed support, has presented several indications of the involvement of Syrian security officers in that assassination.

"We have done a lot of things to dissipate the fears of the Shiite parties" he said.

In a statement, the forces of March 14 said dialogue with the Shiite parties should lead "to an agreement on a common Lebanese strategy to protect Lebanon and face the Israeli threat."

The group also announced the establishment of a legal committee to find the constitutional means to remove President Emile Lahoud from office.

In response to accusations the parliamentary majority is responsible for the lack of security in the country, MP Atef Majdalani, a member of the Future bloc, said the Executive is "crippled because part of this power is loyal to the old regime."

"Lahoud continues to hamper the necessary security appointments," he said.

The Freedom Intifada statement accused Acting Defense Minister and Lahoud ally Yaacoub Sarraf of providing gun licenses to "those who work with the Syrian Intelligence."

Franjieh said the meeting supported the Cabinet, but urged it to end to the current situation.

Noting the "delay" in calling for the measures announced at the meeting, the MP said the group's renewed vigor was due to the assassination of MP Gebran Tueni.

The group also called for investigating corruption allegations, most notably the Al-Madina Bank scandal that has been directly linked by the UN probe to the Hariri assassination, and speeding up investigations into reported phone tapping at the Presidential Palace.

In separate developments, the Free Patriotic Movement held the government responsible for "the lack of security measures taken to protect targeted figures and citizens," and called on officials to come up with "a clear, fast and efficient" plan to address the issue.

The FPM also called for a roundtable discussion involving all parties to engage in national dialogue.

However, FPM leader Michel Aoun threatened his party would call for the government's resignation if it failed to hold such a dialogue.

FPM MP Ibrahim Kenaan said the dialogue should not only be "formal," but should be carried out in the spirit of reaching a solution to the current crisis.

"What's more important than dialogue is for each political entity to recognize other political parties as active on the ground," he added.

Beirut 20-12-2005
Raed El Rafei
The Daily Star

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