March 14 Officials Criticize al-Rahi's Remarks on Syria, Hizbullah
A number of March 14 MPs and officials on Friday criticized the latest stances voiced by Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi about the Syrian crisis and Hizbullah’s arms.
“To give or not to give Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a chance is something to be decided by the Syrian people, not anyone else,” Lebanese Forces bloc MP Antoine Zahra told MTV.
On Wednesday al-Rahi said “Assad must be given a chance because he is implementing reforms in Syria.”
Zahra also said the patriarch’s remarks on Hizbullah’s weapons “contradict with the principle of keenness on building the State and its authority, as liberating Lebanon and supporting the Palestinian rights should be done by the State, not by an armed party that is breaching the State’s jurisdiction and contesting its authority over the Lebanese territory.”
For his part, Zahra’s colleague in the LF bloc MP George Adwan told LBC television: “All of our sacrifices are for the sake of the rise of a strong State that should be in charge of liberating and defending Lebanese land and supporting the Palestinian right to return through its capabilities and international relations.”
“So we can’t now justify the rise of a mini-state outside state control and provide cover for the presence of weapons other than those of the army and security forces,” Adwan added.
“Approaching the issue of weapons in this manner undermines all the foundations of the Lebanese state,” Adwan noted, stressing that the LF will remain committed to “Bkirki’s historic principles” and that it will “always distinguish between its stance and its relation with Bkirki.”
Al-Rahi told Al-Arabiya television on Thursday that sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shiites may emerge if the Syrian government is overthrown.
“If the regime changes in Syria, and the Sunnis take over, they will form an alliance with the Sunnis in Lebanon, which will worsen the situation between the Shiites and the Sunnis,” al-Rahi said.
He warned that the Christians will pay the price if the Muslim Brotherhood succeeded Syrian President Assad.
Asked about Hizbullah’s arms, he responded: “The international community must pressure Israel to withdraw from the occupied Lebanese territories … and fulfill the Palestinians’ right of return, and consequently Hizbullah will have to lay down its arms.”
March 14 General-Secretariat Coordinator Fares Soaid told MTV that al-Rahi’s remarks “contradict with all of the church’s historic principles, especially that he took part in drafting the text of the Synod for the Middle East which only mentions the support of the State.”
“Linking the Palestinians’ arms to Hizbullah’s arms is usually something done by Syria’s allies in Lebanon, not the patriarch,” Soaid noted.
Meanwhile, Mustaqbal bloc MP Khaled al-Daher claimed that the Syrian president “has dispatched envoys to meet with al-Rahi in Lebanon in order to rally the support of Lebanese minorities for his regime.”
He accused the Syrian regime of “intimidating minorities in a bid to remain in power.”
Daher voiced surprise over the patriarch’s statements, saying they “contradict with the history of Christians and Bkirki, which has always supported freedom and stood by people and their rights.”
He also lamented “the remarks in which he (al-Rahi) called for giving a chance to the regime that has left no less than 3,000 people dead, according to the International Red Cross, and more than 70,000 jailed or missing.”
Al-Rahi’s stances “stem from fear of the practices of the (Syrian) regime, which has sent the minorities in Lebanon bloody messages containing a carrot-and-stick approach,” Daher charged.
Daher’s colleague in the Mustaqbal bloc, MP Nidal Tohme, for his part stressed “the need that Christians support the will of the neighboring peoples … and overcome the complex of the minority that is in constant need of protection,” noting that “a strong, just State is the solution.”