Sat, Nov 06, 2010 | The Daily Star
Lebanese Christians Warn Against Attempts To Thwart the Country’s Democratic System
Christian March 14 Alliance leaders gathered on friday under the auspices of the Maronite Patriarchate and issued a statement after the meeting which said that Lebanon was in “grave danger” and warned against attempts to thwart the country’s democratic system in the wake of threats to abolish the Special Tribunal for Lebanon or of civil strife.
The meeting was held at Bkirki, the residence of Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) was established to try all those who are alleged responsible for the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, father of the current Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, [14 February 2005 in Beirut] and for the dead of 22 others as result of the attack.
The statement which was read by Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel said:
“We declare here that Lebanon’s entity, democratic system and openness to the world is today in grave danger. We are aware of the dangers of imposing on the Lebanese an impossible and unjust formula – deny justice in order to preserve civil peace, or sacrifice civil peace for the sake of justice – and their being invited, under the threat of arms, to work toward abolishing the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.”
The attendees expressed their concerns about internal and regional forces seeking to separate Lebanon from its Arab environs, which is an implied reference to Hizbullah’s ties to Iran and called on the Lebanese to rally in defense of Lebanon’s diversity and sovereignty against plans to establish “a state within a state” and “turn Lebanon into a spearhead in attacks against the Arab world.”
They also urged Arab states [such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt] to protect the country against “an assault” with repercussions that would destabilize the entire Arab region. The leaders said Lebanon was facing a national crisis that extended beyond political disagreements into attempts to shake Lebanon’s core foundations by overthrowing its constitutional institutions.
“We call on the president … to work to put an end to the duality of weapons and restrict the responsibility of defending Lebanon to legitimate forces by supporting the Lebanese people’s right to a country that is not a theater of war for foreign parties [Iran] or that does not serve the interests of a domestic party.”
Hizbullah is the strongest armed force in Lebanon despite the UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which calls on the disarmament of all armed groups (including Hizbullah) in Lebanon, and that there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, who attended the meeting, said Hizbullah’s threats and intimidation had failed to pressure March 14 parties to relinquish their position.
The Statement also urged the international community to implement its commitments toward Lebanon, particularly UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the July 2006 war with Israel, as well as Resolution 1757, which led to the establishment of the STL.
The gathering expressed concerns by the Lebanese people, particularly Christians, of facing the same fate as their “brothers in the Arab world where states collapsed and religious extremism took over.” They also said that many Sunni Muslims in Lebanon share Christian concerns that sectarian strife in some Arab states may spread to Lebanon.
The pro-Syrian March 8 Alliance [with Hizbullah] forms the opposition against the government of the March 14 Alliance. Some Christian parties, such as the Free Patriotic Movement (led by MP Michel Aoun), the El Marada Movement (led by MP Sleiman Franjieh), the Solidarity Party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, have joined the March 8 Alliance. Geagea said, when asked whether it would have been more advantageous to invite Christian leaders of the March 8 coalition to participate in the friday meeting, that he doubted whether the other side was capable of taking independent decisions.
“It is clear that some are assigned a mission contrary to their convictions, beliefs and that of their popular base,” Samir Geagea said.
Some view the meeting as a message to Saad Hariri that he can not make unilateral decisions without his March 14 Christian allies rather than a warning to Hizbullah.